How to Weatherize your Body and Bike for Cold Weather Commutes


Com­mut­ing by bicy­cle is a great way to reduce your car­bon foot­print, stay healthy, and well, get to your des­ti­na­tion. But how are you sup­posed to con­tin­ue this great habit dur­ing the bone-chill­ing win­ter months? Or even the not-so-warm, or rainy sum­mer ones?

With these inex­pen­sive bike-improv­ing items, you’ll be well on your way to rid­ing com­fort­ably all win­ter long.

Gear up Your Ride
Fend­ers are cru­cial. With­out fend­ers in both the front and rear you’ll end up with what stu­dents at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton call the “Fresh­man Stripe.” This is of course in ref­er­ence to the giant wet mark that will annoy­ing­ly be past­ed onto the victim’s shirt from their butt all the way to their shoul­ders. That’s the issue with­out a back fend­er. The front one will help stop a freez­ing water/sludge stream from ruin­ing your socks and pant bottoms.

Tires should not be rac­ing slicks. Get some cyclocross tires for your road bike. The skin­ny road bike tires actu­al­ly do fair­ly well in win­ter because of the small con­tact patch. They sink down through snow with a lot of weight on a small area to gain fric­tion. Or, if you’re going to be romp­ing around on a moun­tain bike, pick up a pair of some stud­ded snow tires (yep they make those for bikes, too). Those bad boys will stop on a dime even in icy con­di­tions. It’s a nice feel­ing when you know you can stop before careen­ing down a hill into and intersection.

Lights will come in handy dur­ing both the night and dur­ing the day. On those cold cloudy days or when it’s actu­al­ly snow­ing, being vis­i­ble could save you from get­ting in an acci­dent with a car.

Gear for your Body
Gloves, gloves, gloves; you’ll need a good pair because touch­ing the cold met­al of your brakes cou­pled with the wind from rid­ing at speed will turn your hands into five-fin­gered ici­cles. Make sure they are gloves though; mit­tens, while warm, pre­vent you from oper­at­ing the brake and shift levers.

Bal­a­cla­va, scarf or oth­er forms of face cov­er­ings are com­mon­ly for­got­ten, yet impor­tant. The winds cre­at­ed from mov­ing at speed will turn your nose nice and red. Plus wind shoot­ing down your neck and into your jack­et will steal pre­cious body heat.

Pant leg straps are nice. You don’t want your right pant leg to get caught up in your chain­ring. Either just strap it down or risk expos­ing your­self to the ele­ments by rolling it up.

Skull caps are great for keep­ing your head warm and are slim enough to fit under your hel­met. And prop­er lay­er is key. We rec­om­mend a Meri­no wool cycling jer­sey beneath a Meri­no wool mid-lay­er, beneath a light wind-proof jack­et. Be sure not to dress too warm as your body will warm up as you pedal.

Extra Care for your Ride
Cor­ro­sion hap­pens. Dur­ing the win­ter, keep your dri­ve train nice and lubed; don’t just go throw the bike in the garage to dry day-in and day-out. If you live in an area where salt is poured on the streets, be extra care­ful with clean­ing and lub­ing your machine. Salt and your bicy­cle do not work well together.