Winter Bike Commuting Hacks | Special Equipment Not Required

Winter is coming…

I sincerely do love to ride through the winter! I know it’s not for everyone, but if you are willing to try, even just once, you might get hooked. I really want to highlight that riding through winter does not need extra or special equipment, assuming you pick the right days to ride.  In my last post, I suggested a one-day winter commute as a goal for the year. If you need a little push, check out this article (especially #4). If you plan to ride your regular commute, be sure that the snow and ice have been cleared along the route. This may actually prove your biggest obstacle as the priority is usually to clear the roads (but that should be saved for another rant).

Winter bike commuter with pannier
Heading out when the weather is really cold can sometimes take a lot of motivation, but you might also find you really enjoy the fresh air.

Hack: Don’t ride every day | Icy+Snow=Bad

Don’t be a hero! I want to stress that no one should bike commute every day at the expense of personal safety. I have found that some snow plow operators do not necessarily understand that a 50km/h swell of snow plowed snow vs. a cyclist will not end well.  Not to mention the speed and skill level of many drivers in snowy conditions is not in a favourable equilibrium. I am confident that on a bike I will be able to ride down a snow-covered and potentially icy road without colliding into something but I do not trust that all drivers can do the same. So, too much snow or freezing rain, and it’s the bus (or sometimes the car) for me.

Winter bike commuter
When it is snowing heavily or seems icy (ie unsafe), I’ll opt to take the bus or sometimes the car to work instead

Hack: Layers | Your New BFF

Beyond, route choice and timing, your winter commute shouldn’t be much different than a ride in the fall except it is colder, sometimes a lot colder. So bring on more layers.  Feel free to use non-cycling equipment to keep you warm. Break out those very warm everyday winter gloves (maybe you have some gloves from skiing, snowmobiling, or just snow shovelling) and wear whatever keeps you toasty.  Extra base layers or thermal wear should help. And don’t be afraid to wear several jackets plus your warm winter coat. Just remember that if you start to get too warm that you will need to remove layers. If you sweat too much and it freezes, you will get bone cold.

Hack: Shoes & Feet | Use What You Already Have

In winter, flat pedals are preferred as they make it easier to wear nice warm waterproof hiking boots while riding.  I’ve even seen some winter warriors wearing their regular winter boots. If you find yourself on an icy patch, it is much easier to step down with grippy footwear intended for these types of conditions than most cycling shoes. Also, don’t forget to start with a pair of warm wool socks (or two if you have room for it in your shoes).

Hack: Your Head and Face | Follow Mom’s Advice

Lots of us were told, as kids, to wear a hat in winter because heat escapes our bodies through our heads – and I always recommend listening to mom.  I have a thin winter hat that I can safely put under my helmet to help keep my head warm. Some choose to wear a headband which will definitely help keep your ears warm.  I know many people that wear ski goggles to protect their eyes, and they can be really helpful to those that need to wear prescription glasses when they ride. Don’t forget to cover your face and mouth with something like a neck warmer or a buff that you could pull up or down when needed.

Winter bike commuter
I wear a thin hat under my helmet and face protection. I can pull it down when I get warm or steamy or keep it up if the winds are too cold

If you’re thinking of giving winter bike commuting a try, then I hope these suggestions show you that you don’t need any extra equipment and you can use what you already have.  Next month is Winter Bike To Work Day, what a great opportunity to try it out! (note: I think there may currently be some updating happening on their site).  Your workplace might have incentives or rewards for participating. If not, maybe you could encourage your co-workers to participate and create your own workplace challenge.

Winter bike commuter with pannier
Winter riding can be really fun if you dress for the conditions. Let me know if you give it a try this year.

Have a good ride!

~ Joe

Instagram | @joe.meissner

One thought on “Winter Bike Commuting Hacks | Special Equipment Not Required

  1. Joe
    Great tips! I’ve ridden all year many times, including during the winter.
    I used a hybrid bicycle with wide grippy tires and used clothes I already had. Under my jacket I had a hoodie to put over my helmet. And wrapped a scarf around my neck and over my face.
    For my feet I wore warm socks and shoes with a lot of grip, but not too heavy.
    Now I wear a ski jacket. Winter riding gloves. And a warmer that covers my head and ears, that’s made to fit under my helmet.
    Winter riding can be phenomenal if you prepare for it.

    Liked by 1 person

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