Top 5: Tips For Riding Through Your First Winter

Five tips to help you navigate winter by bike.

Tips For Riding Through Your First Winter

1. Slow down

Wet conditions can mean unpredictable traction. Ride slower and before stops slow down sooner to keep from sliding.

2. Get lit

Dependable bike lights that will keep running when wet and cold are a must. USB-rechargeable models can be plugged into your computer at work for a boost.

3. Get covered

Winter streets are dirty streets. Even if they’re not wet there’s salt, sand, and general grime that will be kicked up by your tires. Get full coverage with fenders.

4. Dress your way

A versatile wardrobe will let you transition from your bike to your destination quickly. A water and wind-resistant jacket in natural fibers like cotton or wool will cut the cold and keep you dry.

5. Embrace the elements

Riding with a chilly winter wind and the soft caress of a morning drizzle on your face and warming up after your ride are lovely experiences; enjoy them.

9 Comments

  • kristin

    agreed with others, cotton is laughable as a winter choice. not to mention even organic cotton is environmentally unsound. buy vintage pendelton wool shirts at thrift shops and wear them under a waterproof windbreaker. army surplus stores are great for wool too!

    my best tip is to invest in a neck gaiter. for less than $20 nothing keeps me warmer. it stops the wind from getting into your chest through your neck (which jackets on their own often don’t accomplish) and you can also pull it over your face when the wind is extra brutal. the days I leave that small piece of fabric at home i really regret it!!!

  • Charlie

    In Canada, I wear a North Face windsuit over a polar fleece jacket. I wear a fluorescent yellow windbreaker over my North Face, mainly to increase visibility for drivers. I don’t even need a winter coat. I live in a snow belt, and it was -26C this morning. I wear runners gloves under wool mitts and my shoes are insulated (Salomon trail shoes – awesome!!). I wrap a polar fleece scarf around my head and I always use a helmet. I am an instructor at a College and when I peel off my outerwear, I am professionally dressed. It’s tough in these winter conditions, but it’s so satisfying and it’s a completely different cycling experience. I do embrace it! I love the sound of my wheels crunching through the snow.
    PS forget about cotton :)

  • Phil Lindsay

    If you’re alergic to wool you’re alergic to your own hair, but that doesn’t mean you might not scratch or itch due to the coarser fibers rubbing your skin. Also the dye or chemical treatment might be your problem. Cotton however has no redeeming characteristics to keep you warm especially when it is wet. Wool can absorb 16X its weight before feeling wet while cotton doesn’t absorb moisture just lets it go right onto your skin. No insular qualities either. Love the #5 embracing the experience. Humans spend so little time outside as a group, the hour per day I’m riding puts me way up on the scale of time folks are outside. I think one benefit is that I catch a lot fewer colds as a daily rider and outside person than I did as a car driver.

  • Duncan Hurd

    Waxed cotton provides excellent wind and water resistance and a lined version will help retain heat.

  • Duncan Hurd

    Toronto, too, has been experiencing the rare phenomenon that is the Polar Vortex. On even the most freezing days, I’ve been fine while running errands and traveling around the city in a lined cotton jacket worn over two to three layers often including a merino sweater or merino t-shirt. That’s not to say that my nose hasn’t been a problem and my hands and feet still get cold, though hardly unexpected when it is that cold out.

  • Shannon

    Any ideas for dressing in actual REAL cold weather here in Mn. It’s been zero to minus 50 here. Cotton won’t cut it.

  • Maru

    I wish I didn’t live in a city where there wasn’t a necessary #6: grow a second head, so that you can look behind you at all times to not get murdered by careless drivers who also don’t know how to travel in winter weather. I really miss biking around in the winter, but no matter how well prepared you are, there’s just no doing anything about other people, and the prospect is way too dicey.

  • Sara Young

    As a person who has been riding in the winter for many years, I would have to say that advising people to wear cotton is not the best idea. Wool or silk will keep you the warmest and will not be adversely affected by wetness, which inevitably happens, one way or another. wet cotton pulls the heat out of your body, and, over time, is a great way to cause sickness.

    • geonz

      Good point, but while I *lurv* the technofabrics I’ve found on sale, I don’t buy “cotton is rotten.” It’s affordable and doesn’t make me sick as wool does (allergies). I put it where it won’t get wet. (It’s also honestly *cold* here – so if I work just hard enough to stay warm and not hard enough to get wet, I’m fine.)

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