Winter Biking Part 3: Riding Tips

In this third winter riding post I will cover a few tips for cold weather and winter riding. Considering I live in Minneapolis these tips are mostly applicable to avid bike commuters braving frigid cold temperatures. If you are in a warmer climate you are lucky enough that some of this is probably overkill…

The most challenging thing about winter riding in very cold weather is not staying warm so much as it is not getting too warm or too cold. Staying dry and regulating your body temperature are the keys to staying comfortable and this is usually best achieved with layered clothes with lots of zippers such as those I covered in my previous post on winter gear.

When you first hop on your bike you should feel slightly chilled, warming up during the first few minutes of your ride. As your body temp rises it is important to pay attention to your body and immediately begin regulating your temp to avoid sweating by ventilating your outer layers. I find that a combination of a base layer with zipper at the neck and a shell layer with arm pit zippers allows me to get just enough cool air on my torso to avoid over heating.

How one rides in the winter is determined by conditions much more than with summer riding. Whether it is snow or ice on the road, overcast skies and darkness or just very cold temps I am always more cautious in winter and as such my pace is 20-30% slower than in other seasons. While some of this is because of the bike and tires, even when accounting for those factors I tend to ride slower in winter so that if I perspire it is only lightly and I’m less likely to go down due to unexpected changes in the road condition.

Many riders will choose to avoid snow covered road or icy conditions for obvious reasons but those who commute or just have a desire to ride in all sort of conditions now have a lot of options for gear, from fat bikes to 45 North gear, to make such riding safer and more enjoyable. Also don’t forget to always have lights on your winter bike. I use “daytime running lights” much more frequently in Winter than in summer.

My last tip for winter riders is to always remember that getting wet (from the inside or the outside) is just about the most unpleasant and dangerous thing you can do and should be avoided whenever possible. Waterproof boots and rain or snow pants as well as good gloves and fenders on your bike are the best ways to avoid getting wet and spoiling your winter ride.

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