10 Gear Essentials for Winter Biking
Biking in the winter can be fun, contrary to popular belief. As with most outdoor endeavors in the winter being prepared and having the right gear is very important. Cold weather cycling is no different. With the right gear, you can bike to work, hit a trail or just go for a ride and still have fun.
- Helmet Designed for Cold Weather
- Proper Tires
- High Visibility Jacket and Pants Shell
- Cycling Shoe Covers
- Cold Weather Cycling Gloves and Handlebar Mitts
- Eye Protection
- Face Mask
- Spare Tubes and Tire Changing Equipment
- Tools and Spare Parts
1. Helmet Designed for Cold Weather
Wearing a helmet is a needed safety measure for any kind of cycling but in the cold you also want your helmet to keep you warm. Most cycling specific helmets focus on safety and ventilation to keep you cool - the later is not ideal for winter cycling. Fortunately, ski or snowboarding helmets are excellent alternatives. There are also helmets that can be converted for different sports and seasons.
If you’re looking to bike in the snow, slush, or cold rain, fenders are a must. Almost any bike can be fitted with functional fenders. While some bikes are designed with mounting points requiring a specific type of fender there are numerous universal fenders that can be adjusted to work on a variety of frames designs and wheel sizes. Universal fenders also tend to be less expensive.
3. Proper Tires
Traction is key to avoiding a crash and having the right tire on your bike can go a long way. We recommend installing a wider tire with ample surface area and spaced out nubs. You should also test deflating your tires slightly to maximize grip. If you find yourself constantly riding on ice or packed snow it may be worth investing in a pair of studded tires.
4. High Visibility Jacket and Pants Shell
A high visibility jacket shell and pants will provide you with essential wind and water resistance without weighing you down. The key is to layer for warmth and top it off with a Goretex or another waterproof material shell. While any waterproof shell could work, it is best to buy one designed for cycling. Many cycling shells are shorter and end at your waistline (ideal for riding.) They may also feature zippered openings to release trapped heat when you’re hot. Cycling outerwear usually features high visibility colors or strips and aid in your safety on the road.
5. Cycling Shoe Covers
Since your feet are one of the extremities most likely to make you feel cold it is important to cover your shoes with a wind and water resistant shoe cover. This applies mostly to cyclists who are wearing cycling shoes since they are not normally designed for warmth. While some solutions cover your entire foot and ankle, products that only cover your toes still make a big difference in the cold.
6. Cold Weather Cycling Gloves and Handlebar Mitts
Your hands end up taking a lot of abuse in cold and you don’t want to cut any corners with hand protection. Winter cycling gloves are a worthwhile investment since you’ll need something that totally stops the wind while still enabling good finger dexterity for shifting and braking. Add a pair of handlebar mitts to your bike and your hands will be ready for any winter excursion.
7. Eye Protection
You may already wear eye protection during your normal cycling but with winter riding it is more important still. Even if the sun isn’t out eye protection is a must to minimize the cold air contact to your eyes. Watery cold eyes increase blinking and generally make your ride less enjoyable and uncontrolled. Clear eyewear or goggles are recommended for cold weather cycling.
8. Face Mask
Often overlooked are the benefits of covering your neck and mouth area. A face mask can be a great addition to other clothing on this list since your head, neck, mouth, eyes, and ears would be fully covered and insulated from the wind, rain, and snow. A facemask is a wise investment and can keep you warm during other winter activities as well.
9. Spare Tubes and Tire Changing Equipment
Having a spare set of tubes may already be part of your strategy but with cold weather cycling, it becomes even more important. The rubber materials of your tubes and tires are less flexible in the cold and are more prone to having a blowout or a rim dismount. In addition, many obstacles may be concealed by ice or packed snow making them harder to avoid.
10. Tools and Spare Parts
Similar to carrying spare tubes, always have a set of tools and common parts like an extra chain link. Being stranded from a bike failure can not only be inconvenient but in the winter it can be dangerous. By carrying these items many common bike issues can be fixed or temporarily resolved so you can get home safely.