Cold Weather Biking Tips

Cold Weather Biking Tips (linked to PDF)It’s getting cold out there! But riding a bike in the cold doesn’t have to be miserable. With a little planning, riding in colder temps can be quite enjoyable. No need to buy new clothing, a lot of what you can use is probably already in your closet! We teamed up with our friends at goDCgo to bring you some great tips on how to prepare yourself for cold-weather riding.

Also see our Riding in the Snow page for tips on riding when there's snow on the ground.

Download a larger version of the infographic at right in Portable Document Format (PDF, 406 KB, Adobe Reader required).

Layer it.

Layering clothes is the key to comfort! Start with a base layer that wicks sweat, then a medium-weight layer (such as a light fleece) and finish off with a windproof jacket. A light windbreaker is good for temps near 40 degrees, but a heavier jacket can be used for temps around freezing and below.

Protect the extremities.

Your hands, feet and head get colder more quickly than your core, so make sure to wear gloves, thick socks (such as wool) or even shoe covers, as well as a hat that fits under your helmet. Using a helmet with less ventilation helps keep your noggin toasty too.

Cover Up.

Legs should be covered completely in the cold, but thick layers are not usually necessary. Workout pants, athletic tights, jeans and slacks are generally fine. Layering pants in freezing temps also helps!

Be flashy.

Because the days are shorter in the winter (and sometimes duller), it’s important to be visible. Wear bright clothing (neon) with reflective strips and always have lights on your bike (white for the front and red for the rear).

Fat tires.

Wider tires with some tread add stability, traction and control on winter surfaces that can sometimes be wet, snowy or even icy. Depending on your wheel size, adding thicker and knobbier tires may make winter riding easier. Talk to your local bike shop about the best tire choice for your riding conditions. 


Fenders make a huge difference on wet days because they block the rain from splashing on your shoes and clothes, keeping you nice and dry. They’re inexpensive yet very effective, so totally worth the (small) investment. 

Tread lightly.

If you encounter snow or ice, don’t panic! Sudden braking or swerving can cause you to slide. Be light on your pedal strokes, delicate on the brakes and ride in a straight line if possible. You can always dismount and walk the bike if it looks too dangerous.

Plan ahead!

The most important advice for riding your bike in the winter is to check the weather forecast ahead of time! Don’t ride if conditions are poor (heavy snow and ice), but don’t be afraid to ride if the bike paths and roads are clear and temps are above freezing!

Did You Know?

Adolescents who participate in bicycling more than four times a week are 48% less likely to be overweight as adults.

Menschik, D., et al., 2008


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