WINTER CYCLING GUIDE: HOW TO RIDE A BIKE IN THE WINTER, AND ENJOY IT!
December 11, 2018
Winter cycling can be a lot of fun, though, it does require a bit of preparation and planning, but trust us: it’s worth it.
No other season offers the same kind of scenic beauty, and it is much easier to commute to your desired location without getting all sweaty and gross, which is especially helpful if you’re accustomed to cycling to work or around town.
However, cycling in the winter can also be horrible, especially if you take off unprepared, since it’s cold, wet, windy, and much more dangerous.
But never fear! Sena doesn’t want you to miss out on all that winter cycling can provide, which is why we’ve put together this great list of winter cycling tips that will help you conquer the elements and get you where you need to go in one piece.
Winter Cycling Gear
Having the right winter cycling gear can make all the difference: after all, if you plan on braving the elements in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, you’re going to have a difficult time staying dry, warm, and comfortable.
Additionally, cycling in adverse weather conditions can be downright dangerous: for example, while forgetting to bring a spare tire on your ride usually isn’t a big deal, forgetting a spare tire while it’s freezing cold out can end up being a very big deal, especially if you’re headed somewhere remote.
Before you hit the road, make sure to read the entirety of this post, and to also check out our related Winter Cycling Gear Guide to learn how to protect yourself from whatever Mother Nature decides to throw your way!
For many cyclists, staying warm is sometimes a lot harder than it seems: sure, you have all the right gear, but for whatever reason, your “core” still feels cold for the first 15 or so minutes of your ride.
While not a huge deal, those first 15 minutes can be enough to convince even the most hardened cyclists to turn around and head back home. After all, who needs all that awfulness when you can be at home, bundled up on the couch and watching Netflix?
Luckily, there are some ways around this initial uncomfortableness: for example, many cyclists like to warm up on a dedicated exercise bike or bike trainer while wearing their cold weather cycling gear, which helps make facing the cold a little easier.
Additionally, you can always consume a hot beverage like coffee, tea, or hot water with a slice of lemon before going out as this is another effective method of warming up your core in advance of hitting the cold.
Dealing with Ice
Ice isn’t just something that cars have to worry about: cyclists have to be ready to deal with slippery surfaces as well.
As a general rule, cyclists should remember to stick to paved roads, especially if their bike is a road bike and equipped with 700c tires.
While swapping tires for something with a little bit more tread can definitely help, we still recommend proceeding with caution; road bikes are naturally less stable than mountain bikes and even cruisers, so if you have the option of swapping your road bike for a better alternative, we definitely suggest that you do so.
And while sticking to paved roads may sound like a no-brainer, it’s truly surprising how often cyclists venture off-road without even noticing: for example, how often have you biked over a patch of grass or dirt while turning a tight corner on a city street?
During normal weather conditions, this type of maneuver is generally not a big deal; however, throw in some rain or snow and such a turn can cause you to lose control of your bike and crash into a tree, bush, or whatever else is sitting alongside side the road.
Therefore, it’s important that cyclists pick their line early while remembering to stay clear of gutters, puddles, or anything else that might cause the bike to lose traction.
Additionally, cyclists can also try lowering the height of their saddle to provide a lower center of gravity, which should help increase stability and control while cycling around town.
If you do find yourself in a complete slide due to icy conditions, do not slam on your brakes, as this will result in a complete loss of traction. Instead, gently tap the brakes, or better yet, don’t brake at all and attempt to smoothly pedal out of the slide.
During rain, snow, or fog, visibility becomes a major issue for cyclists, which is why we definitely recommend investing in reflective vests, bags, and accessories like front and rear facing lights.
Cyclists should also consider installing some wheel/spoke lights on their bike, like this offering from Monkey Light, as this sort of setup will definitely make you hard to miss during adverse weather conditions!
As a last line of defense, cyclists should also consider investing in a horn of some sort, as this could certainly help grab the attention of careless drivers, pedestrians, and other cyclists who may be distracted by either something on the road or by their smartphones.
Plan Your Route in Advance
Familiarizing yourself with your route is one of the winter biking tips for ensuring that you avoid any road hazards like potholes or uneven asphalt.
While this isn’t necessarily an issue for serious cyclists who travel the same route day in and day out, novice cyclists or cyclists who will be commuting to a different part of town during the winter should make an effort to do some reconnaissance on the route’s condition.
If the route is short, consider walking it and taking notes of all the hazards you encounter along the way.
If the route is long, you’re going to have to explore it by car first, and just like before, make note of where you think any potential hazards or dangerous intersections might be.
Ride with Friends
When it comes down to it, riding with friends is some of the best winter cycling advice one can receive.
By riding with your buddies, you’re more likely to have what you need in case of emergency and you’ll also have a few extra hands if, for whatever reason, you’re unable to change that tire yourself in the event of a puncture or other problem.
Interestingly, friends can also be helpful for improving both performance and endurance, as their presence can sometimes provide that extra “push” needed to set a new PR or keep your heart rate elevated for a longer period than what you may be accustomed to.
Maintaining Your Bike
Winter can wreak havoc on your bike, so it’s vital to take the proper precautions to ensure that your bike remains in good shape for the duration of the season.
First, we recommend giving your bike a good old-fashioned tune-up, as starting off with a “clean slate” will help make new wear and tear more manageable.
Important to note about tune-ups: make sure to check your brake and shifter cables, especially if you live in an area that gets a lot of rain throughout the year, as water can get into the cable housing and drastically reduce braking power and shifting performance, which, as you might’ve guessed, is exactly what you don’t want to happen during your ride.
If the cables need to be replaced, remember to cover your cable housing with some grease to prevent water, grime, and other gunk from finding its way in.
Second, we definitely recommend that winter cyclists clean their bike chain with some solvent and a scrubber, at least once a week.
Riding in the winter means that your bike will be exposed to all sorts of terrible things like snow, water, ice, mud, salt, and anything else might’ve fallen from a tree or been dislodged from the ground. If the chain is really bad, you can also completely remove it from the bike and let it soak overnight in some solvent, but with regular cleaning, you should be able to avoid removing it from the bike entirely.
Finally, we also recommended investing in some decent fenders and a mud flap for your bike, as this will help prevent dirt from ruining your clothes and muddying up your bike’s other components.
Ride with Sena!
As the industry leader in Bluetooth accessories for powersport activities like motorcycling, atving, climbing, skiing, and more, we pride ourselves in our dedication to providing customers the most innovative and technologically advanced products on the market—and we’re always looking to do more!
Take our latest and greatest Smart Cycling Helmets: with their sleek design and top of the line features like fitness monitoring, Bluetooth intercom, and HD video recording, cyclists will wonder how they ever got along without it!