Overcoming the Weather

With a little planning you can make cycling a year-round activity.

Dressing for the cold and using winter bike gear makes cycling an enjoyable experience even in the coldest months.

Dressing for the cold

Dress in layers

Layers are essential for cold weather cycling.

  • Wear multiple layers of thin or lightweight clothing. Multiple layers let your body adjust your temperature and move easily.
  • Choose polyester, synthetic, silk or wool-based layers to draw moisture from your skin. (Cotton clothing next to the skin will get wet and takes a long time to dry.)
  • Experiment with different combinations of clothing that you already own. You don’t have to buy winter cycling-specific wear.
  • Dress to feel a little cool during the first 5 minutes of your ride. Your body warms up quickly when you ride. If you overdress you’ll perspire quickly, making you feel cold later on.

Bicycle clothing for winter

Legs
  • Wear tights or long underwear with a windproof outer layer.
  • Waterproof pants will protect you from rain and snow.
  • Use pant clips or straps to prevent your layers from catching on parts of the bike.
Feet
  • Wear waterproof boots or shoes with good tread (clip shoes are not recommended).
  • Wear wool or fleece socks, but no more than two layers. Try a thin pair of synthetic socks covered by a thicker pair of wool socks.
Hands
  • Wear windproof and waterproof mittens or gloves. (Waterproof mitts and gloves are best, but wool or fleece tend to stay warm even when wet.)
  • Wear specialized biking gloves:
    • "Lobster gloves" are a cross between mittens and gloves that look like lobster claws.
    • "Pogies" are insulated pockets for your hands that fit over the ends of bike handlebars and make it easy to brake and change gears. You can wear regular gloves under pogies.
Body
  • Wear multiple layers to keep dry and warm.
  • Wear a waterproof/windproof coat that isn’t too bulky.
Head/face
  • Cover as much exposed skin as possible with a balaclava or scarf.
  • Wear a thin hat under your helmet to help keep your head warm. Remember to adjust your helmet to accommodate the hat.
  • Wear ski-goggles.
  • Cover your ears, but make sure you can still hear.
  • Check that your head or face gear doesn’t restrict your vision or prevent you from turning your head.

General riding tips for winter

  • Reduce your speed and pedal slowly, especially around corners.
  • Give yourself extra time for your journey and extra space whenever you brake.
  • Start slow and let your muscles warm up.
  • If your bike starts to skid or move sideways, make small steering corrections. Don’t over steer, and keep your body relaxed.
  • Adjust your speed to increase or decrease your body temperature.
  • Avoid puddles, slippery surfaces, metal bridges, and roadway paint markings. Watch for snow-covered ice.
  • Be aware of narrower roads due to snow banks.
  • Keep your bike in a sheltered area protected from rain and snow.
  • Not all winter days are cycling days. Use discretion.

Bicycle gear for winter

  • Carry a plastic bag to cover your seat.
  • Consider riding a cheaper "beater bike" in the winter.
  • Consider changing the tires on your bike: thick ones have better grip on snow; thin ones will cut through light snow.
  • Studded tires can help in slippery conditions.
  • Keep the moving components of your bike well-oiled.
  • Keep your lock away from the rain and snow to stop water from getting in and freezing.
  • Carry a lighter to unlock a frozen lock.

Source: City of Toronto’s Cold weather cycling

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