Winter Bike Commuting

12 Tips for Winter Bike Commuting

1. Follow the plow

Bike trails are regularly plowed in many major metro areas. Snow removal crews begin plowing the city's major multi-use paths at the same time as other crews begin plowing the major streets. The Boulder Creek and Broadway paths are plowed first, followed by the Foothills Parkway path and then other Greenways paths. University of Colorado at Boulder (CU) facilities maintenance staff clears the section of the Broadway path between Baseline Road and University Avenue.

Ride Steady2. Road conditions

Believe it or not, the medium during most winter commutes is often the same dry pavement as in the summer. Sand, salt, sun, and snowplows eliminate ice and snow from roads in the days after a storm.

3. Ride steady

For slippery stretches, riders should slow down and stay loose. Brake only on the rear wheel to avoid spinouts on slick surfaces. And be prepared to take your feet off the pedals if the bike starts to fishtail or tilt.

4. Watch out

Cars are less aware of bikers in the winter. Ride defensively. Make eye contact with drivers.

5. Choose the right ride

Don’t use your $3,000 road steed or a full-suspension mountain bike in the snow. Sand, salt, and grit can destroy suspension and gears. Instead, go with an older bike you designate for cold-weather use, adding fenders, bright lights and winter wheels. Some cyclists employ single speed bikes in the winter, as they have fewer moving parts and require less maintenance.

Temperature6. Cold and clean

Unless you plan to clean it off, keep your bike cold and store it in the garage. A room-temperature bike in new snow can cause ice to form on brakes and gears more easily. Also, keep your chain and gear cassette lubricated for best operation.

7. Go Studs

Carbide-studded tires can increase grip on snow and ice, and some riders swear by them.

8. Go Fat

Fat bikes are becoming one of the most popular commuter options, especially in cities that get lots of snow. The wide rubber will let you float through new-fallen snow and avoid ruts in icy streets where other tires can get trapped.

Winter Clothing9. Protect your core

Any outdoorsy person knows that layering is the key to staying warm and managing sweat in the cold. A common configuration for biking includes a wicking base layer shirt followed by an insulating fleece top, then with a waterproof and windproof shell jacket. For the legs, usually one less layer is needed; many riders wear normal pants like jeans covered up with a wind-shell pant. If your commute is long, consider bike tights or shorts with a chamois pad combined with long underwear bottoms and the shell pants on top.

10. Headwear

Jacket hoods are a no-no, as air funnels in as you move, inflating a hood like a sail. Instead, many riders wear balaclavas and sunglasses or ski goggles. Tight-fitting (but warm) fleece skull caps are popular. Top it off with a helmet, perhaps sized larger in winter to fit over all the insulation.

11. Warm hands and feet

Switch out gloves for mittens or bifurcated “lobster”-style handwear, which keep fingers close together and warmer. Winter boots, not bike shoes, are best for the coldest days, but use platform pedals with aggressive tread for good grip as you crank. Above 20 degrees, many riders get away with bike shoes, employing neoprene covers to add insulation and buffer warm air. Some companies, notably 45NRTH and Lake Cycling, sell insulated winterized bike shoes compatible with clipless pedals.

RTD12. Public transit as retreat

Many metropolitan trains and public buses allow bikes, letting riders surrender on the worst days and hop a ride home. Bike near a bus route and you have bail-out points should the commute prove too long or laborious in the snow


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