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.