Tips for Cycling in Inclement Weather
By: Bryan Mac Murray
Commuting via bicycle can be a year-round sport, even if you live in an area where the winter is less than pleasant November through February. Cycling does have its advantages to driving in the winter: you’ll be able to avoid winter traffic, not worry about parking in plow zones, and as always you’ll save on gas. Unfortunately, there are some hazards that pop up when cycling in the winter. Here are some top tips for staying safe when commuting in colder months.
Use an Old Bike
Fat bikes are certainly fun, but they’ll set you back at least $1,500, with many models costing $3,000. If you’re really looking to get from Point A to B, consider just using an old mountain bike in the winter. Winter travel is definitely hard on your bike, so utilizing a mountain bike you no longer ride not only saves your best bicycle for better months, but also saves thousands from purchasing another. Just be sure to clean your bike after a ride through the snow!
If you don’t want to take the time to wash off your bike after riding in the snow, store it in a garage or somewhere cold so additional ice won’t build up once you take it out again. Even if your bike isn’t that dirty, you may still want to store your bike somewhere cold to avoid water condensing on your bike, which can promote rust.
Speaking of clean, cycling in snow tends to kick back a bunch of slush onto yourself, your bike, and anyone traveling behind you. Moisture can cause hypothermia (not to mention ruined clothes), so splashes from slush is certainly something to avoid. Fenders are a great way to prevent a mess. You can buy some decent fenders on Amazon for $25 or so, or you can DIY your own for even less.
It may seem like this goes without saying, but it’s always a good idea to err on the side of caution and ride a little slower when traveling in inclement weather. You can also try only using the rear wheel as a brake to avoid fishtailing on ice or snow. It’s also harder to see cyclists in inclement weather, so you’ll likely need to ride defensively.
Most crashes occur when your bike slides, so you may want to practice handing slides and fishtails at night when there aren’t any motorists around. It’s always best to be prepared for a crash situation before one happens.
Wear Layers & Prepare For Anything
Layers are key when traveling in snow. You can always remove layers if you’ve gotten too hot while riding, but there’s nothing worse than feeling frozen to your bicycle with miles left to go on your commute. Opting for clothing that’s windproof is always a safe bet. You may want to find a thin hat to wear underneath your helmet. Don’t forget your extremities like your hands and feet either!
Pack a few essentials you might not normally bring on a typical commute when riding in snow as well. A spare phone battery, flashlight, and water are all good picks.
Sun glare gets significantly worse during winter months, so polarized sunglasses are always a good idea when you’re traveling. You can also wear tinted goggles when cycling, which will shield your eyes from the sun, and also give your face another layer of protection from the elements.