Cycling is a great way to exercise and enjoy the beautiful weather in the winter months. Because in this way, you can stay active and healthy during the colder months by participating in cycling. And the winter has come to our doorway!
So today I’ll discuss the basics of winter cycling, winter cycling clothing, benefits & drawbacks, including what bicycle is best for winter cycling, and safety tips. So, if you’re looking to start winter cycling this year, be sure to read on.
What Is Winter Cycling?
Cycling during winter is the practice of riding a bicycle on ice, slush, and snow-covered roads and paths. In near-freezing or below-freezing temperatures, cyclists face several challenges. It is common for cyclists to stay indoors during the winter months. With the proper preparation and mindset, winter riding can be beneficial.
What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Cycling In Winter?
Simply, you can burn more calories, beat traffic and boost your immune system by cycling in winter. In addition to keeping warm while not sweating, it requires a new set of riding skills and awareness of hazards. And, there are some disadvantages as well as advantages to winter cycling.
Advantages Of Winter Cycling:
Burn calories and stay fit
Commuters can hibernate anytime, but they may enjoy an extra drink or larger meal during the cold months. It is keeping your metabolism high and burning calories through winter can be achieved by cycling at least twice daily. And, you won’t have to spend money on gym memberships you’ll never use.
Avoid traffic when roads are blocked
It is often difficult to drive anywhere by car in the winter, especially when there is snow or heavy rain, which is one of the biggest pros for me. But cycling allows you to pass stopped cars on the road and take car-free routes. And the main advantage of cycling in poor weather, especially in urban areas, is that it can often be faster.
Take your riding skills to the next level
Wet and slippery roads make cycling more dangerous in winter, as crashes are more likely. However, riding in slightly more challenging conditions will make you more aware of how to manage the bike better.
As a result, you will feel more confident when the sun comes out. In addition, by cycling throughout the winter. Yes, you can become a better cyclist – because practice makes perfect, especially in inconvenient situations.
Identify new cycling routes
Since I feel less visible when cycling in the winter, and standing water makes it easier for cars and trucks to splash you, I often prefer routes with fewer cars. One way to do this is to take longer or rougher courses or look for shortcuts that other cyclists might take.
- Does that cyclist have a reason for popping down that lane?
- Can the Letter route by following them?
And, getting some kind of answers like the above questions yourself makes you more confident and worthy in cycling. In some cases, you may discover a great path through a forest or park that you might not have cleared yet to consider the route you would take while biking.
Boost your immune system
The Harvard Medical School website has some scientific evidence, as well as plenty of anecdotal evidence that-
- Cool temperatures stimulate the immune system.
- The benefits of cycling in winter include reducing the chances of getting sick. Do remember- viruses cause colds, not cold temperatures.
Moreover, according to a Dutch study, the reduction in sick days and lower hospitalization costs caused by the high number of cyclists contribute around 3% to the country’s GDP.
Disadvantages of Winter Cycling:
It is an excellent time to improve your riding skills. Still, winter cycling can be dangerous due to slick roads and reduced visibility when wet and dark.
It would help if you kept your hands and feet warm in the cold, significantly when the temperature drops below freezing. You get even less blood flow to your feet and hands when you ride, and you catch more wind, too.
The opposite is also true; depending on how hard you push, you may become hot and sweaty while riding. In other words, you may need more coverage on your hands and feet but less on your body and head.
For more detailed information, check our blog on preparing for winter cycling which focuses specifically on how hard you cycle and the conditions.
Plenty of water
Make sure you’re prepared to get wet. Regardless of whether you wear a helmet, many people don’t like this because it ruins their hairstyle. Moreover, your bag, clothes, and shoes will be soaked. And the tires, if they spray a lot of water, particularly on your feet.
Unprepared people may face this problem, but at least our skin is waterproof. After a wet ride, the best thing to do is find a shower facility.
It is usual that you might have to repair your bike on the go in the dark, wet, or icy conditions and it seems challenging. As a cyclist, you can only be prepared, but for me, this is the most difficult part of winter riding.
So, Is Cycling Possible In Winter?
Yes! There is no reason why cycling can’t be done in winter! The winter can be hazardous and cold, but cycling is still enjoyable.
- Be sure to wear warm clothing – a jacket, pants, and boots—exercise caution when crossing roads when merging onto busy streets or crossing intersections.
- Some more tips and tactics will come your way through this post that will definitely make your winter cycling more enjoyable. Just read the post properly.
Then What Can I Accomplish By Cycling In Winter?
The two main reasons that attract or cheer me up in winter cycling-
- It keeps me warm and active while avoiding inclement weather.
- Fitness goals can also be achieved through this activity.
And, here are some more things you can accomplish by cycling in winter.
Increases muscle mass
As regular cycling stimulates a surprising number of muscles, all major muscle groups from the waist down and the abdominal muscles as well as the arms and shoulders. Thus cycling can be an excellent alternative to in-home strength training during the winter if you can’t get to the gym often.
Exercises with moderate impact
An efficient and easy way to exercise is to ride a bike. Additionally, like Nordic and alpine skiing, it has the lowest impact and is least likely to cause injuries.
In a study by the National Institutes of Health, 75% of injuries in a cohort of frequent Nordic skiers (in this case, the Swedish national team) were overuse injuries. Since the sport involves repetitive, high-impact shuffling motions, low back problems are prevalent.
- In contrast, cyclists use just half of their body (legs) for locomotion, in a comfortable, fixed position or moving slightly as required.
- Torn ligaments and stress fractures are less likely to occur if you pedal at a steady pace.
Expend more calories
During the winter, your body must work harder to keep you warm, resulting in more calories burned. So every little bit counts, even if it’s not a lot.
Shivering makes you burn more, but you won’t be shivering much if you’re going through slush and snow. As a result of wanting to get warm, you will probably cycle harder, burning more calories.
Moreover, the summer bike season is less popular than the winter one, so expect a slight increase. Furthermore, exercising regularly can counter some weight gains we all tend to experience during the holiday season.
Save your money
This is likely the reason why many people mount their bikes.
- Winter fuel and gas prices make cycling cheaper than driving.
- Also, by spending more time outside in the cold, you become less reliant on the heat at home.
What Are The Preliminary Preparations For Cycling In Winter?
It is possible to keep riding all winter long if you properly prepare yourself and your bike. And, preparing for winter cycling begins with some simple tips:
Warm The Extremities:
You can easily maintain your body’s internal temperature with the help of your hands and feet. Furthermore, these parts of your body allow you to lose heat.
- These areas should be well-covered and kept warm when cycling in cold weather.
- And your biking routine will be more enjoyable if you control your body temperature.
Gear Up Appropriately:
A ride’s quality is determined by the gear you bring.
- For harsh winter climates, summer cycling shoes won’t suffice.
- The best clothes to pack are cycling boots, balaclavas, and thermal layers.
- Avoid cycling gear mistakes by shopping for your cold-weather needs in the fall.
Winter riding requires fenders – without them, your tires will spray wet, grimy spray on you and others riding behind you.
- It is also excellent for rainy climates to have close-fitting fenders that follow the curve of your tire, but they can get clogged up with slush in snowy climates.
- When it comes to heavy snow, clip-on fenders are the best option.
Both a front and rear light are essential when riding in limited daylight or low visibility conditions.
It is necessary as it allows you to see what’s ahead (rather than just get noticed) when you are in dimly lit areas. Therefore-
- Select a light with a lumen rating of 150 or more.
- A front light with 60 to 150 lumens that helps others see you is delicate if you commute only in well-lit areas.
- Running two rear lights or carrying a spare is a good idea when it’s cold outside.
- For better performance and durability in wet weather, opt for sintered brake pads over organic ones if using disc brakes.
- Your brakes will be worn faster in winter due to grit and sand.
- So, whenever you notice lots of wear on the pads, please replace them as fast as possible.
What Unique Clothes Should Be Worn For Cycling In Winter?
Bike commuting in the winter requires careful clothing selection. And remember-
- Too much layering will make you overheat.
- And too little and you’ll swear that you’ll never be warm again.
Nevertheless, you can conquer the winter road with the right gear and some willingness to experiment.
Layers Are Essential:
Keeping your core warm without overheating requires a tight-fitting, breathable base layer. Consider a wool or synthetic piece that is breathable and moisture-wicking.
Waterproof And Breathable:
This is the perfect jacket for wet, cold weather. If you’re using a jacket, ensure it’s seam-sealed and has underarm zips or back vents. Road salt and winter muck may damage ski shells and parkas in extreme cold.
Waterproof Pants With Seams Sealed:
This product is ideal for wet climates. Choose pants that feature reflective details and are cut slim through the leg and ankle.
Water- And Thermal-Resistant Cycling Tights:
They work well in cold weather. On frigid days, you can layer them over long johns (wool or a breathable synthetic).
Handwear And Gloves:
If you live in a rainy climate, choose fabrics that are DWR-treated or waterproof-breathable. Seams should be taped internally in these fabrics. When temperatures are cold, you should select weather-resistant gloves with moderate to heavy insulation. Leather or padded palms are often found on cycling gloves and a fleece sniffle patch on the thumb. It is necessary to wear split-finger or lobster mitts in extreme temperatures. Combined with glove-like dexterity for shifting and braking, they provide the warmth of mitts plus the dexterity of gloves.
You should use special winter socks. Because the socks made specifically for winter cycling won’t bunch up and feature strategic cushion zones for extra comfort. So, you can keep your shoes dry and warm, if you wear booties or shoe covers in wet climates.
- Choose waterproof, insulated boots if you live in an area with extreme temperatures.
- Short commutes can be made more accessible with hiking boots.
- Besides offering good protection and warmth, many offer water resistance as well.
And, a pair of cycling shoes designed specifically for winter is an excellent choice for commuters or long winter rides featuring built-in gaiters.
But How Can Cyclists Avoid Accidents While Cycling In Winter?
Even in ideal conditions, biking can be dangerous. As of 2018, 857 bicycle accidents resulted in fatalities for American cyclists, an increase of 6.3% over 2017.
- Cycling fatalities are slowly increasing despite safer cars reducing the number of accidents on the road – from 1.5% in 2003 to 2.2% in recent years.
- There may be a reason for this increase due to the increased number of cyclists, but the trend remains troubling.
So what I am going to talk about now, keep that in mind, they are one kind of preventional matter regarding winter cycling.
There are additional risks associated with winter cycling, regardless of whether you stay on plowed roads or hike more rugged trails. And it doesn’t matter if you’re cycling; prolonged exposure to cold conditions can be dangerous.
- Cycling in the winter also involves pushing through the cold air, which can lead to localized wind chills. And it can cause threats to exposed skin or parts of your body that are not adequately covered.
- Also, the risk of frostbite is the same as that of other winter sports.
- In addition, hypothermia can also occur if you become stranded in a remote area due to an accident or sudden storm.
So, take extra precautions if you’re riding in frigid conditions in remote areas.
- In an area with limited cell service, pack an emergency radio (or make sure your cell phone is charged).
- Also, take several meals (protein bars or other energy-dense foods),
- an emergency blanket,
- an insulated water bottle,
- and perhaps flares, if you are in the backcountry.
- Furthermore, emergency gear may not be necessary, if you travel along urban paths or bike to and from work.
During The Daytime
Mountains and large bodies of water can experience unpredictable winter weather. And it is possible to reduce visibility significantly within minutes after a sudden snowstorm, which can result in potentially dangerous conditions.
But motor vehicles are more at risk of deteriorating conditions when on a road with them.
Despite having a fat bike or great tire studs, you must maintain constant vigilance when dealing with frozen precipitation.
The best way to absorb the energy from sudden slips and slides is to ride alert and relaxed –
- knees bent, arms lose, body slightly forward – to keep your body alert and flexible.
And, it is extremely dangerous to drive on black ice at night.
Moreover, suppose it’s sunny and close to freezing. In that case, a thin layer of water can accumulate on top of slowly melting ice, mainly if it’s close to freezing.
It’s like an obstacle course on the roads and paths during the winter.
- Winter bikers face serious safety hazards on the road because of snowbanks, ice piles, and debris from car accidents.
- Snowbanks can significantly narrow right-of-ways on curbs and shoulders in places where it snows a lot, causing conflict between cyclists and motorists.
- Stick as close to the curb or bank as when biking on the road.
- Watch out for ruts, potholes, and tree branches on unplowed trails, especially those not groomed.
The Short Days
Winter days can be concise, depending on where you live. Thus biking to and from work or exercising outdoors before and after work may require you to ride in low light or complete darkness. And the risk of biking in the dark is always present, even if you wear reflective clothing and use headlights and taillights.
This is especially true when sharing the road with cars, which also have problems with visibility, obstacles, and slippery surfaces.
👉 Digest Of The Above Facts
- This list of safety concerns underscores the importance of investing in the proper winter biking equipment and not scrimping even tangentially on on-road safety.
- And the importance of security and peace of mind cannot be underestimated those facts.
- Be aware of the scenario I have just discussed with you.
Then What Types Of Bicycles Are Suitable For Winter And Why?
Winter bikers commonly use three types of bikes. And considering budget and weather, you should choose your winter friend, not only for this reason but just because you want to have a bike specifically designed for winter use!
In addition, used bikes can be found at relatively low prices.
- Even when snow and ice are present, a regular road bike can be used on paved surfaces in the winter.
- Despite shallow snow and slush, thin road bike tires can reach bare pavement and establish stability.
- Snowy or rugged off-road conditions do not make road bikes safe, even with winter-ready tires.
Mountain or Hybrid Bike
Mountain and hybrid bikes have stiffer frames and thinner tires than road bikes. As well as handling off-road trails, mountain bikes can also handle rough surfaces, including bumpy snow and ice on paved tracks.
- A hybrid bike is a good choice if you want to ride on the road and hit the trails simultaneously.
- But using a mountain bike is better, if you plan to stick mostly to trails, especially if you encounter deep snow.
A winter commuter’s dream and a trail rider’s dream. And they’re like mountain bikes with snowshoes since they have substantial tire clearance.
- It is built for snowy, icy, or muddy conditions, with tires 4 to 5 inches wide and rims 100mm or more in diameter.
- As a result of the tire size, you can roll at low tire pressures and gain traction.
- Performance mountain bikes have hydraulic disc brakes, front suspension, and XC geometry.
- If the roads are extremely icy, add studded tires, and you’ll be on your own with the snowplow.
Winter commuters will love these bikes.
- They can mount large 700C tires and fenders due to their tire clearance.
- When driving on snow or ice, use studded 700C tires.
- When the winter weather is mild, a 700C tire with an ample volume tread (700 x 30+) run at a lower pressure provides a good grip.
Are There Any Special Tires For Cycling In Winter?
Winter bikers have a variety of tire options depending on what kind of bike they have. Also, cyclists may have more choices.
A knobby tire (or knobbies) is a bike tire with a rough tread that enhances traction on a mountain bike and fat tire surfaces.
- If the roads are snowy or icy, these are a great choice.
- When the weather warms up, remove knobbies and replace them with less grippy tires, as they produce a lot of friction with the road.
Mountain Bike Tires
There is a lot of traction on mountain bike tires because they are thick. And a few tires have grips that extend almost down to the rim, whereas most tires are smooth.
- When driving on icy surfaces, this enhances traction.
- If you have the budget, you can purchase tires with rougher treads for winter use.
- Though most mountain bike owners use the same tires year-round.
You can only use fat tires with owning a bike with a fat frame. Because fat tires are best used off-road in situations with deep snow or mud (or both) despite having traction-enhancing knobs. Moreover, whether it is winter or summer, fat tires can be used interchangeably.
Road, mountain, and fat bikes can use studded tires of various thicknesses and pressure ratings.
- In ice and packed snow, studs, blunt screws with heads attached, and shafts poking out improve traction dramatically.
- As a result, they’re not suitable for use in warm weather, as they reduce speed and damage paved surfaces.
- So if you plan to use a studded tire year-round, replace it with a regular tire in the spring.
Status can be installed and removed easily with stud-ready tires, which have depressions for loose studs. But screw each stud until it’s secure, and reverse the procedure to remove them.
- Most knobby and mountain bike tires (and some fat bike tires) are stud-ready.
- Using the same type of tire year-round and encountering icy conditions during the winter will benefit you from studded tires.
Last Few Words About Winter Cycling’s Basic Idea
Ah! Yes, winter can be passive for those living in colder climates. As there is a temptation to back off outdoor activity when the temperatures drop and snow starts to fall. And, exercise machines such as treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, and free weights can become monotonous in the winter, even if you have a gym membership. Though in the dark, cold months are not as strenuous as Nordic skiing, winter biking can help you stay in shape.
Well, you may need more than a bike ride and unique clothing to make you love winter. But you might find it more bearable if you adjust your expectations. Because Safe Paddling Comes First!
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