Gear Up for Winter Riding with 5 Simple Steps

headshot of bikearlington program manager david balick
David Balick Tweet Us @bikearlington.com@bikearlington.com December 28, 2020
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David Balick is the Program Manager for BikeArlington. Originally from Arlington, he bikes as much as he can and is always on the lookout for new, interesting trails in the area.

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Winter riding can feel like biking up a mountain, but if you take the time to prepare yourself, biking in the winter is a breeze.

Winter riding isn’t much different than riding in warmer months; the only thing that changes is how you prepare. Now that we have had snow on the ground, winter is here, whether we are ready for it not. But just because we have seen snow and colder temperatures, does not mean it’s time for your bike to start collecting rust. You can still happily bike throughout the winter with a few easy steps.

1.Set Your Limits

Too often, people approach winter bike riding (and biking in general) as if it is all or nothing. Just because you aren’t riding every day doesn’t mean your bike needs to go into storage. Make decisions that make sense for your lifestyle and your comfort level, e.g., not biking on days where temperatures are below freezing or not biking on days when it snows. You can even avoid both! Luckily, the data shows that the majority of Arlington winter days do not meet either of these qualifications.

Setting your limits can help you feel in control of when you bike, but still give you the motivation to step outside and onto the bike more frequently.

2.Safety Checks

Much like when you bike all year-long, it is smart to check your bike before you set out on your ride. This is especially important with your tire pressure, as the air pressure in your tire will decrease at lower temperatures. Checking your tires with a bit more frequency can help avoid that untimely flat.

Riding in the winter also means fewer hours of daylight. Make sure when you head out that you have front and rear lights to alert everyone else of your wonderful presence on the road.

3.Layer Your Clothing

It can be tempting when you go out on a winter ride to throw on a big, warm winter coat, for short rides this can still work, but if you exert yourself more than a little, you will quickly overheat which can be just as uncomfortable as being cold.

To avoid this, try layering lighter-weight clothes that you can put on and take off during your ride as your body temperature adjusts to the activity.

I would recommend you start with a lightweight base layer in a material like Merino Wool. Avoid cotton which can absorb sweat and feel sticky underneath your other layers. But any long-sleeved shirt can do the trick.
Then add more layers, such as a lightweight hoodie or fleece, and a windproof outer layer. These layers will form mini air pockets, trapping heat in and keeping you comfortable throughout your ride.

4.Cover Your Extremities

If you are anything like me, your fingers and toes can quickly go numb in the cold. Gloves are an essential when it comes to winter riding. You can even layer your gloves with a liner for added warmth.

For your feet, leg gaiters (like hi-tech galoshes for your ankles and shins) and shoe covers help circulation and keep your toes warm, but thick socks are always a good place to start.
Covering your ears and face can also make for a more enjoyable cold weather ride. This is one situation where wearing a face mask has been quite nice.

5.Make Your Own

BikeArlington recently co-hosted an event with WalkArlington and the Arlington Public Library where we shared how you can make your own homemade face and head covering called a balaclava (similar to a ski mask). Download the template below to make your own. Winter biking can seem hard, but if you take these few easy steps, winter will fly by on your bike, and we’ll all be back riding in the spring in no time.

Photo Credit:

Sam Kittner/Kittner.com

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