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Don’t give up on riding your bike this winter

Friday, February 12, 2021 by Katie Vogel

Here’s how to make your winter riding more comfortable without breaking the bank

There are few things as miserable than a ride interrupted by cold rain when you’ve left your rain jacket at home, or by rides ended too soon by numb fingers and mittens. It’s easy to give up and hang up your bike for the winter, or to leave it to its own devices in the garage.

But friends, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Winter bicycling is entirely possible if you have the right gear and, more importantly, have the right attitude.

Gear up (or down)

Different levels of activity require different kinds of layers. If you’re going out for a 50-mile road ride in February, you’ll want to dress differently than if you’re headed out on a five-mile commute or on a quick ride on a local trail ride with a friend or two.

You don’t need to rush out to your nearest bicycle shop or outdoor-fitter to purchase hundreds of dollars worth of gear. Do you have a simple rain jacket? A wool sweater? Some lightweight silk or wool long underwear? Then you’re more than halfway to what you need for basic winter riding.

Layers make it possible to adjust for being too hot or cold on your bike. Stash an extra layer in your handlebar bag or pannier or backpack, just in case. Depending on the length of your ride, you might find out that your comfort at the end of your ride means you are a bit cold at the beginning of your ride. Embrace the cold and don’t fear it.

It’s layer time

Your extremities get cold first, so let’s start there. A decent pair of gloves underneath mittens will take care of you down to below freezing. Wool socks in hiking boots will keep you warm and cozy, and hiking boots give you a bit more grip on your pedals.

Simple long underwear underneath your regular pants or skirt will up your comfort factor significantly. Is it pouring outside and you still want to go for a ride? Heck yeah! Rain pants can be a great solution to your woes, but can cause you to overheat, so make sure you’ve tested your gear out before setting out on a long winter’s ride to make sure you haven’t created your own sauna.

For your upper half, consider what you’d wear to go for a run in the cold. A lightweight silk or wool layer followed by a sturdy sweater is hard to beat when topped with a shell jacket that’s waterproof.

Top it all off with a lightweight beanie or balaclava that fit comfortably under your helmet and you’re ready to ride!

Be prepared

It gets dark out earlier in the winter and lots of outer layers tend to be dark. A reflective vest is worth the investment, as are good-quality front and rear lights.

It’s not exactly revelatory, but inclement weather can lead to unsafe road conditions. Consider letting a little bit of pressure out of your tires to make them grip the road a bit more.

If you’re in or near the city, putting your bike on the rack of a bus can help you extend your riding season even if the weather turns nasty.

Don’t be discouraged

We’ve all had sloppy commutes that have left us grumpy and wet. There have been ice storms that have left us struggling to safely leave our houses on foot, much less get on our bicycles. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Know what feels safe and comfortable to you.

Riding a bicycle in the winter isn’t about being a hero. It’s about your mental and physical well-being.

You don’t give up on staying outside during the winter. It may take some flexibility and a bit of creative layering, but it’s possible and it’s worth every moment of freedom.

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