101 Winter Riding Tips

winter biking tips

This is a list of winter riding tips and favorite products compiled by our staff here at Village Cycle Center. Most of us ride everyday of the year, and the winter is no exception. Each person donated some of their knowledge, experience, and in some cases humor to help you through the cold days ahead. They are in no specific order of importance. They are all just there for you to use as you will. Or don’t use. It is a free internets and you can do what you like. You can tell your friends to use them. Or not. You could not use them and tell your friends to use them. But that would be up to you. What ever you do, just keep riding your bike.

1. Gore-Tex Socks. Waterproof and windproof happiness for your feet. For the years before I got winter specific footwear, Gore-Tex socks were an everyday item.
2. Keep a journal. Not sure what to wear with the ever changing weather? Keep track of what you wear each day, what the weather is like, and how you felt riding. Cold, warm, too hot, just right. Then when you can’t figure out what to wear, look back to your own data based on how you like to ride.
3. Maintain your bike. The winter is extremely tough on your bike commuting in the city. Road grime, water, salt, and all sorts of nasty builds up on your bike quick. A daily wipe off of the frame and parts followed up with some lubrication will save you loads of money in prematurely worn and/or rusted out parts.
4. Give yourself extra time. Almost everywhere you go will take more time than usual. Giving yourself extra time will save you on stress and over heating working too hard getting somewhere.
5. Pay attention to the obstructions in your route before it snows. So when they are covered by a slush puddle, you know what is coming.
6. Grow a beard. Best balaclava ever. If you can’t do this. Gore Bike Wear makes an excellent balaclava that doesn’t fog up your glasses.
7. Goggles. Goggles rock when the snow is blowing and it’s super cold. Racing cross has raised my level of suffer a bit. So my goggles only come out on the worst of days, but they are there, and I use them.
8. Bar Mitts. If your hands get cold easy, these bad dogs are the bomb! Made for flat or drop bars, you can use your spring gloves in these on the coldest of days. If you live where 0 is common, you may need some thicker gloves.
9. Eat more. You burn more calories in the winter. The same distance you rode in the summer will take more energy to cover when moving through snow.
10. Layers.
11. Lotion. It puts the lotion on its skin, or it gets all dry and crackly.

winter riding tips
Studded tires add some traction.

12. Studded tires. They are not necessary, but they do work well. You will move slower and work a bit harder, but you will not end up on your butt in a cold slush puddle because you slipped on ice. They also build confidence when riding on nasty days.
13. Fenders. Fenders not only help keep you dry, they help keep you and the bike clean.
14. Minotaur fur lined magic helmet. Keeps you magically warm. (This link originally referred to the Bugs Bunny episode of “What’s Opera, Doc?” with the mighty spear and magic helmet, but it is now gone.)

winter biking tips
An amateur sketch of the mythical Minotaur Fur Lined Magic Helmet.

15. Glare resistant eye wear. When there is snow on the ground and the sun is out. It can be blinding. Tinted glasses or Tifosi Fototec eye wear works well to adapt to changing light levels.

101 winter biking tips
Gore Bike Wear Active Shell

16. Gore Bike Wear Tool jacket for men and Fusion jacket for women. Full Windstopper jacket with a soft and luxurious inside lining. This is my daily jacket almost all winter. When it gets really cold, you can add a Gore Tex Active Shell jacket over the top for an outer layer.
17. Lights. Lots of lights. Bright lights. Even during the day. The Blackburn Flea is a good light and is rechargeable so you are not constantly replacing batteries.
18. Watch out for manhole covers and drain grates. Very slippery when wet.
19. Train tracks are also slippery. Here is a little guide on dealing with them when wet.
20. It takes longer to get ready to go places. Plan for that. Do it.
21. Cotton is not your friend. It will make you sweat, and you will be cold.
22. Slow down while riding. Especially turning. Black ice will strike. Like a freaking ice ninja waiting for you.
23. Try a little lower tire pressure for better grip.
24. Watch out for alleyways. They have snow piles around them. And sometimes there is a car trying to come out it without getting stuck.
25. Be prepared for the post ride ice and slush melting off your bike when you come in. Towels, card board or boot mats works to catch the stuff.
26. Don’t forget to grease your seat post. You should also have your bearing points like hubs and headsets checked and greased often and as needed. Once before and once after winter will work for most people.
27. Warming packs for hands and feet.
28. Wear a helmet.
29. If it is too cold to ride the whole way, you can take the train half way and bike the rest. It is still faster and you get to ride.
30. Plastic bags inside your shoes if you are on a thin budget. They work for blocking wind and water. But they also do not breathe, and your foot may sweat, a lot. Gore Tex socks if possible.
31. Make sure your base layer is tucked in. You lose quite a bit of heat through there.
32. A higher cadence will keep you warmer.
33. Wear more than one hat. Layers work on your head too.
34. Layer work for gloves too.
35. Riding in the drops (if applicable), reduces windchill.
36. Wrap-around glasses keep the wind out of your eyes better.
37. Run a lower gear ratio in the winter for better torque.
38. Reflective material & stickers.
39. Watch out for black ice at night.
40. Be ready for surprises.

winter riding guide
Sidi Diablo GTX

41. Salmon brake pads. Not the fish, the color. The softer compound brakes better in colder weather.
42. Don’t Panic.
43. Sidi Diablo GTX. They have a Gore Tex sock built in with some nice insulation. Warm and dry feet.
44. A death grip on the handlebar is not necessary. Relax. A loose, yet secure grip, will result in a less arduous ride.
45. Wider tires have more traction.
46. Feel good about yourself when you ride 5 miles when it is colder then 10 degrees.
47. Keep reminding yourself that “Man (or Woman!) Against Nature” is one of the classic conflicts.
48. Silk long underwear makes a good, inexpensive base layer. It breathes and the chicks dig it.
49. Army surplus stores are good for cool looking sturdy outer wear that’s reasonably priced.
50. Something around your neck does an excellent job of sealing in heat. The Gore Bike Wear Power Beany is the bomb.
51. Get used to it: Good gear isn’t cheap, and cheap gear isn’t good.
52. Occasionally yell “Rabble Rabble Rabble” as you ride. It will make you feel better.
53. Take the “L” once in a while. It will remind you why you ride a bike in the winter.
54. Enjoy the looks you get from drivers and pedestrians.
55. Carry extra gloves of different weights in your bag.
56. Learn to get your lights on and off you bike and lock it up without taking off your gloves.
57. Take an Emergen “C” every day.
58. L.L. Bean cold weather boots keep feet warm and dry.
59. Frame saver! Frame saver! Frame saver! (if you have a steel frame)
60.Think about the revolutionary war soldiers at Valley Forge leaving bloody footprints in the snow. It will make you feel better.
61. Keep reminding yourself that riding is fun!
62. Take your coffee or hot cocoa with you. The hot deliciousness will keep you warm while you ride. The Barista works well to hold your mug on your handlebar.
63. Use Sport Wash with your technical gear. You spent some good money on your apparel. Help it perform and last longer by using a wash that doesn’t fill the fabrics with softeners or perfumes. If you don’t have Sport Wash, use half the amount of detergent needed.
64. Apply a light coating of Tri-Flow on your frame and parts to prevent build up of salt & grime. Be careful not to get it on your brakes. And if you do, use Clean Streak to clean off the braking surfaces.
65. Invest in Gore Sealed Cable systems. Your cables are sealed away from the environment and work well all winter without much maintenance.
66. Stainless steel Whipperman chain prevents corrosion.
67. Carry a self sealing CO2 kit for quick flat fixes when it is cold and wet. Then change the flat when you are warm at home.
68. In a pinch you can use newspaper for an added layer inside your jacket.
69. When around tall buildings and ice is falling, don’t look up. Unless you don’t have a helmet on. Then you might as well see what is about to fall on your head.
70. Do not lick your bike frame when it is cold. Even if they triple dog dare you.
71. Topeak Modular Java Cage holds almost every type of mug.
72. Use the flashing mode on your lights. The batteries last longer and you are more noticeable.
73. Use the Brooks proofide on the top and bottom of your leather saddle to protect against salt and grime.
74. Always use a saddle protector. (Brooks saddles)
75. Wear thermal cycling tights or thick leggings over regular hosiery to stay warm while riding, then quickly remove to look nice when you reach your destination.
76. Layer a wool sweater under a waterproof shell for extra warmth on extra cold days that can still match your outfit underneath.
77. A nice wool scarf or pashmina works to cover your face and keep your neck warm when it’s chilly, but not cold enough for a balaclava.
78. Carry a plastic bag in your purse or backpack to put dirty winter riding clothes in once you get to your destination.
79. Use your brakes evenly when slippery.
80. Be careful on bridges. Walk around them if you feel the urge. Falling on them is quite painful.
81. Brandy in your water bottle may seem like a good idea, but it’s not.
82. Wiggle your toes by extending them up on the top of your pedal stroke, and curling them on the down stroke. If your toes start to become painfully cold, STOP! Jump around, dance, or do jumping jacks to get the blood flowing into your extremities.
83. To keep fingers warm, don’t just bend them to wiggle. Spread your fingers out, jazz-hands style, to get more blood pumping through your fingers.
84. Take time to enjoy your surroundings. Riding a bike lets you see the city from a different point of view then most people. So when the snow is falling and the city is quiet, enjoy it!
85. Remember, just like the Honey Badger, people who ride all winter are bad ass.
86. Check air pressure in your tires often. Getting a flat from over or under inflation sucks. It’s basically your own fault you are now freezing your hands fixing it.
87. Sometimes the hardest part is getting on the bike. You sit inside looking at the pile of gear you have to put on and how miserable it will be. But you cowboy up and start rolling, and realize it’s not that bad. And being on the bus is far worse.
88. Sometimes it is miserable. Remember it is your choice. What ever your motivation. No one is making you do this.
89. Just because you are working harder than anyone else on the street, doesn’t mean you can break more rules than anyone else.
90. If the hat keeps you from wearing your helmet. It is not a good hat.
91. It is all mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.
92. Be prepared. Think about how long you will be riding and if it may get colder before you ride home. Bring an extra layer just in case.
93. Carry something for quick energy like a food or candy bar. Getting weak can come quick when burning loads of calories.
94. Keep an eternal spring in your heart.
95. Your bike should not live outside.
96. Good excuse for men to wear tights.
97. Embrocation! With glitter!
98. HTFU.
99. Remove Gore Balaclava before into bank.
100. Eat lots of clementines. Really handy for Vitamin C and making new friends.
101. Have a great water proof bag. Mission Workshop makes some of our favorites.

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  1. Anthony
    12 years ago Reply

    Do you have another tip? Post it in a comment!

  2. bekasaurus
    12 years ago Reply

    The Buff! Wool scarf/balaclava/neck/hat thing. Best to keep your face warm on cold days!

    And, wool socks!

    Use a bell so you can ding it and say to hello to your fellow winter biking comrades. It’s the best part of winter biking!

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