Tips and tricks for winter biking

Winter Biking

Photo from Simply Bike

The winter is upon us. There is no snow on the roads yet but the cold weather has definitely made an appearance. Thinking about braving the cold and biking through the winter this season? Here are some tips and tricks to help you prepare.

Keep Warm:

  • When the weather starts to change, be sure to keep nice and warm. The best place to start is with your head. It is good to go for a hat that is lightweight and wind resistant, and one that can fit under your helmet. Balaclavas work well because they also protect your face from wind burn. You also want to protect your eyes, a lot of winter cyclists use ski goggles to keep their eyes free from falling snow.
  • Next is keeping your body warm, start with a wool base and you should be good, this includes wool socks too! Then for the outer layer, the key is waterproof and breathable. Waterproof breathable jackets and pants keep the snow and rain from soaking your body.
  • And of course, we can forget about our hands! “Lobster claw” gloves are a great way to keep your hands warm, while still being able to manipulate your bike safely.
  • You may also want to invest in a good pair of waterproof shoes, so that your feet stay nice and dry.

Stay Safe:

  • Make sure your body is properly prepared for the ride ahead. In the winter, try starting your ride slowly so that your joints and muscles have time to warm up.
  • Leave extra time so that you can ride slower without feeling rushed.
  • Try to walk your bike across streetcar tracks. The tracks can be icy and slippery even if the road is dry. If you must cycle across, cross at a right angle. If the tracks are covered up by snow, remember there are the wires above the road showing where the tracks are.
  • If you encounter black ice, steer straight, don’t pedal, and try not to brake as this could cause you to skid and fall.
  • Everyone is a little more distracted in the winter, a local winter cyclist recommends getting an air horn for your bike. They are nice and loud and can be heard though windows better than a small bike bell. It will just make sure you get noticed when you want to be (you can get one here).
  • Let your city work for you. If you notice the snow has not been cleared in a bike lane call 311 and request that the snow be removed. This is a huge safety point.

Take Care of Your Bike:

  • The salt and snow in the winter causes wear and tear on a bike. Wiping down your bike at the end of the day can help slow this wear and tear.
  • When you are not using your bike, keep it covered, so that it is out of the rain, snow, and slush.
  • Some cyclists suggest lowering the tire pressure to the low end of the tire range (this is written on the side wall of the tire) to increase traction.
  • If you have a really nice bike that you are worried about, you may want to use a cheaper used bike for the winter months. This keeps old bikes out of the landfill.
  • One rider from Ottawa suggests carrying a lighter around, for times when your lock freezes solid.

Lastly, one thing that winter cyclists do urge is to take a day off if you need to! Winter biking can be tough an you don’t have to ride everyday. Be safe, take a day off if you’re not feeling up to it or if there is a lot of snow on the roads.

Do you do anything special in the winter or have any tips or tricks that we missed? Let us know!

Cool Toronto Biking Fact: Did you know that you can suggest post and ring stand (bike parking) locations? Click here for more information.

Thanks to Kritika Ganapathy and Kelly Morden for some of their helpful insights. Also thanks to the great tips and tricks at toronto.ca/cycling/bikewinter. They have a very thorough list of riding tips for the winter, check them out.

2 Responses to “Tips and tricks for winter biking”

  1. Hamish Greenland

    I find that mittens don’t allow me enough control over brakes and gears. I have been using a BarBra (www.barbra.ca) for the past 2 years. It is a windproof/waterproof cape that covers the handlebars completely. It keeps the wind and rain off my hands so I can wear lighter gloves.
    I have tested it in -15c and it makes a huge difference in terms of comfort.

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