Cycling During Winter: Tips

Being in Florida, we really don’t have to worry about snow but it does get pretty cold down here. For us bike riders no matter where you are from, bicycling in the winter can be made more enjoyable by following a few tips.

  1. Tires – wide tires with widely separated knobs work best on snow, use low pressure (start with 15-20 psi and go from there to find what works best for you) and glue tires to the rims using tubular tire glue or any strong cement in about 6 – six inch strips (only glue one side).  Studded tires improve traction on ice.  Chains improve traction on snow or ice but dig themselves in on soft snow and give the rider a rough, slow ride on pavement.
  2. Lubrication – during the winter months the load on bicycle bearing are so slight that just about any grease will protect them.  Put low temperature grease in the bearings to make them easier to pedal and steer all year round.  If you use your bike on a regular basis, have the bearings repacked yearly to extend their life.
  3. Lighting – most states require bicycles to have a white light in front and a red light in back, both visible at 500′, as well as side reflectors and a red rear reflector.  Strobe lights may be brighter but they don’t meet legal requirements.  Flashers work best when mounted on your bike or rear rack where they can be aimed more accurately, rather than on clothes, packs or helmet, where they can shift around.  Winter trail riding requires little light as the snow reflects it – 4-5 watts is enough.  Clear (white) reflectors return twice as much light as amber ones and more than three times as much as red ones.
  4. Riding Technique – when on ice and soft snow, try to pedal smoothly and relax your upper body.  When the bike starts going sideways, make small corrections – don’t oversteer.  Practice riding in a straight line wh4en the trail is good so it’s easier under bad conditions.  On some trails, riding at a higher speed will take less effort because your tires don’t have time to sink into the snow.  Have the less experienced riders lead so they can use the trail before the better riders cut it up.  Snow machines leave the center of the trail soft so ride in the tracks left by their skis.  When riding on an icy road, try not to brake hard and if you must use your back brake.
  5. Clothes – cycling builds up a lot of heat so you’ll need clothes that are warm and comfortable but that also controls the buildup of heat and moisture while insulating and protecting you from the wind.  Experiment with the gear as everyone is different.  Multiple light layers with neck zippers let you adjust your ventilation as you ride.  Base layers (against your skin)  and mid-layers should be synthetics or wool (cotton will feel wetter and colder).  No t-shirts.  Outer layers should consist of windproof fronts and very breathable sides and back.  If you feel warm as you start out then you’re probably overdressed for any ride longer than 30 minutes.

Drink water frequently to avoid dehydration.  Carry emergency food and an extra layer of clothes in your bag.  If your feet get cold, run with the bike.  Cover your tools with tape so you don’t have to touch the metal directly when doing repairs on the trail.  Only bring a cold bike indoors if you can keep it there until it’s dried off completely.

Enjoy your winter riding!!

Cindy 🙂

3 responses to this post.

  1. […] Vote Cycling During Winter: Tips […]


  2. Posted by Donnie Harries on May 9, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Cindy that is really some good stuff!! Awsome site, I am really excited that you and my wife spoke at Santos trails.


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