A large number of biker riders keep their mountain bikes in storage throughout the winter season. Doing this, however, warrants missing out on a large number of benefits that come from cycling in cold weather.
From allowing your body to burn more calories as it struggles to generate enough warmth in the cold to learning how to use oxygen efficiently, winter cycling is both fun and has health benefits. In this detailed guide, we will take you through the tips and tricks you need to know to enjoy winter cycling.
10 Tips for Cycling in Cold Weather
1. Dress for the Weather
The most crucial aspect of riding in winter is what you wear when biking. This is an area that a large number of first-timers make mistakes.
The key is to not overdress. Since it is cold out on the bikepacking trails, people assume that they need a tone of clothing – this is wrong. When riding your bike, your body produces a lot of sweat and heat – this means that you can become too sweaty and hot. This can easily lead to dehydration and hypothermia – when stopping on things like traffic lights, the extra heat will get dissipated by the cold breezes, leaving you shivering and wet.
Layering is the key to dressing right for riding in cold weather:
- The base layer – The purpose of your base layer is to ensure you stay dry. Merino wool – or synthetic wicking fibers like nylon/spandex or polyester – work well. Avoid cotton – it soaks up sweat and keeps it next to your skin.
- Outerwear – A soft-shell jacket should keep you warm and dry while allowing minimal wind to penetrate. If you are riding in cool, wet conditions, wear a water-resistant or waterproof shell featuring ample breathability.
- Head coverage – A wool stocking cap under the biking helmet, with a scarf or balaclava just in case, should keep you warm enough.
- Gloves – Look for winter cycling gloves featuring grippy fingers and palms, and waterproof qualities.
- Footwear – Waterproof winter cycling shoes combined with wicking thick socks should keep your feet warm and toasty.
2. Prepare Your Bike for Snow Riding
Fat bikes are great on snow, but you do not need 4-inch bike tires to enjoy winter cycling. For stability when riding on snow, run the lowest possible tire pressure. Depending on your body weight, you might be able to run on 15 psi or even lower.
Also, consider replacing your regular tires with the widest tires you can fit on the bike. If you need more traction for the icy conditions, you may want to get a pair of studded tires.
3. Wash the Bike After Every Ride
Cycling in the snow and slush will kick a lot of dirty, salty water onto the parts of your bike. This can cause damage and corrosion over time. Clean the mountain bike, or at least rinse or wipe it down after every ride.
While WD-40 is not encouraged by most expert riders, spraying it on your bike can help with repelling both grime and ice. After the ride and cleaning your bike chain, be sure to spray it with an ideal chain lube to keep it running smoothly.
4. Hydration and Food
While you may not feel warm when cycling in cold weather, you will still sweat and need to hydrate. Bringing hot coffee or broth along can help you get warm from the inside out.
When planning winter riding, be sure to invest in a double-insulated coffee mug or flask – this will keep the liquids warm throughout the biking trip. If you are riding with a traditional water bottle, keeping it in the back pocket of your jersey can help keep it from freezing.
When it comes to cycling in cold weather, food is another key consideration. Without enough food intake, your body will not have the right amount of fuel to produce both energy and heat. In warm conditions, the lack of enough food will cause you to lose power and tire quickly, but in the cold winter conditions it can make staying warm impossible. Before heading out, eat a meal – also, consider bringing some energy snacks along.
5. Always Ride with Fenders
You should always have fenders on your bike when winter cycling. Fenders will keep the slushy road spray off your bike, yourself, and other people you are riding with.
The fenders do not need to be extravagant. They can be basic enough just to keep the spray from hitting you while pedaling. The front fenders should reach a few inches in front of and behind the fork. The rear fenders can be full length – if you use a clip-on variety, ensure you can angle it up to compensate for the lack of length.
6. Ensure You Are Visible
In winter, daylight tends to be fleeting. Assume that you will be riding in darkness and have bright back and front bike lights. Look for the brightest lights that you can find – preferably those that feature a wide viewing angle.
While pricey, rechargeable lighting systems are often ideal. The more affordable clip-on lights do work well, too. However, be sure to keep the batteries fresh so that the lights can remain brightest.
Visibility is extremely important for safety. While it might sound like a pretty basic idea, you may not realize how much riders fade on a whitewashed landscape on a winter afternoon.
7. Choose an Ideal Lane Position
In winter, riding next to the curb can be extremely dangerous. In snowy climates, the immediate curb area is where the most snow accumulates, freezes, gets plowed over, melts, and eventually becomes an uneven mess of road debris, ridges, and ice. Ride far enough away from the curb and if possible, seek out the pavement.
It is worth noting that in wet or cool conditions, the immediate curb area also carries a lot of broken glass, rusted car metal parts, and other dangerous debris. If this debris does not damage your bike, it can end up causing injuries.
8. Use an Ideal Body Position
Maintain a relaxed body position throughout the ride. With locked elbows and knees, even a little ice ball can be enough to send you toppling to the ground.
Stay loose and use the legs to absorb any motion created by the road debris, ice ridges, and other dangerous areas. Always be alert and ready to swerve around broken glass, metals, and other pieces that might destroy your tires.
9. Consider the Ice and Snow Conditions Carefully
Watch out for areas featuring melted snow when riding your bike. Snow usually melts in sunlight and refreezes as the sun sets and the temperatures drop. Places featuring black ice are one of the most dangerous aspects of riding the bicycle in below-freezing conditions.
However, you shouldn’t freak out. Instead, ride steadily and slowly through the black ice – if the tires slip, be sure to go with it. The good news is that the bicycle will be going slowly and you will have extra clothes to pad your fall.
10. Wear Sunscreen
Even though it is winter, it is still crucial that you apply sunscreen to any parts of your skin that are exposed when riding during the day. For example, you should never leave your home before applying sunscreen on your face.
Snow can reflect up to 90% of the UV radiation. This means that riding on snow can place you at an even higher risk of developing negative effects associated with the sun’s rays.
In winter conditions, the skin can also dry easily. Apply a protectant such as a moisturizer to help the skin retain moisture. Also, do not forget to use lip balm.
Q: How Cold Is Too Cold to Ride A Bike?
The lowest temperature for riding outside varies for different riders. However, the cut off for most cyclists varies between 30 degrees Fahrenheit and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. With the right clothing, some riders are capable of taking on lower temperatures.
Q: Is Cycling Harder in Cold Weather?
Riding a bike in cold weather is harder compared to riding in the summer – you will need more effort even if you are riding the same bike on your usual trails. Cold air is denser than the warm air – this increases the amount of drag on your bike and your body. This increases how hard you need to work to maintain the same speed.
Q: What Should I Wear Cycling in Cold Weather?
Layering correctly is the key to staying warm when riding in winter. Some of the clothing you will need to have on include:
- Wicking base layer
- Arm and leg warmers
- Waterproof jacket
- Cycling gloves
- Softshell jacket
- Cycling jersey
- A merino wool cap under the helmet
Q: How Do Cyclists Keep Warm in the Winter?
Wearing the right clothing layers is the first step to staying warm when riding in winter. Some riders also bring warm drinks – for example, a coffee in a flask – to help with warming from the inside out.
Q: Can I Leave My Bike Outside in the Winter?
Leaving the bike out in winter is never a good idea. The cold air will cause moisture to condense on the bike’s frame, leading to rust. If the bolts and nuts are made of dissimilar metals, they can seize up leading to corrosion and getting stuck.
Q: Does Cycling in the Cold Burn More Calories?
Cycling in winter does burn more calories. The body has to work harder to keep you warm – this leads to greater calorie burn. Also, you will need to use more effort while pedaling – this also increases calorie burn.
Q: Is It Bad to Bike in Cold Weather?
Biking in cold weather is not bad. As long as you are wearing the right clothing, protecting your skin from UV rays, and hydrating correctly, you should be able to derive numerous benefits from your ride, including burning more calories.
Q: What Should I Wear Cycling In 40 Degree Weather?
When riding in 40-degree weather, you will need to wear the following:
- Leg warmers
- Long-sleeved heavy mock turtleneck
- Cycling jacket
- Medium-weight gloves
- A headband that covers your ears
- Winter cycling shoes
- Wool socks
- Shoe covers
Globo Surf Overview
When approached correctly, winter cycling is beneficial. Since hypothermia is a major concern, you will need to layer your clothes correctly when cycling in cold weather. Also, ensure that you are riding in the right areas, staying visible, protecting your skin, and using the right tire pressure to enjoy your rides.