Winter biking, cold-weather biking, or winter cycling consists of riding a bike during the months when the road is covered with ice or snow.
The harsh conditions and weather can make the bikes malfunction or get rusty faster than average. Because of this, most winter bikers don’t use an expensive bike for cycling in winter.
Instead, they use secondhand mid-level bikes or new fat bikes (bikes with fat tires and low air pressure).
Winter biking is getting more popular every year, and in today’s guide, we’ll tell you all you need to know about this icy sport.
How Is Cycling in Winter Different?
Winter cycling is different from road biking and mountain biking in many different ways.
The main difference is that you can only practice winter cycling in the months when snow and ice have covered the roads.
Another difference between winter cycling and other biking styles is the type of bikes used to perform the sport. Road biking requires thinner tires with low air pressure, and mountain biking requires a firm suspension in both the front and rear.
Bikes made for winter cycling require what is known as fat tires.
A professional or experienced winter cycler will choose not to use an expensive bike model for cycling in winter. The reason is that the weather can damage the bike and it would be a waste of money.
Some winter cyclers will reuse an old mid-level bike to practice the sport, and others will buy a fat-tire bike to compete.
One key difference between winter cycling and other biking disciplines is the clothing and protective gear used.
While you can go road biking with just a helmet and some other accessories, winter cycling is more on par with mountain biking. It requires eye protection, helmets, a couple of special gloves, and winter masks.
You can practice winter cycling as a hobby or as a professional sport. In Canada, some parks allow winter cyclists to make the trails as long as their bikes have at least 9.4 cm (3.7”) wide tires.
Today, there are many competitions for cycling in winter. The biggest one is the Snow Bike Festival in Switzerland.
Do You Need to Change Tires for Winter?
It depends on what you are going to use the bike for. If you commute with it, you only need to lower the air pressure. This is because too much air pressure can get you to slide on the ice.
If you want to do some off-road winter cycling, we recommend using a fat-tire bike or fat bike.
Fatbike is the name given to the bike used for off-road winter cycling or sand cycling. It uses oversized tires to avoid sliding off from snow, sand, or ice. These tires make for a smoother and safer ride.
Fatbikes are increasing in popularity, and you can get one for as low as 1000 USD or as high as 2000 USD. They are not 100% necessary for winter cyclers, but a fat bike can be of great help for off-road rides.
List of Winter Cycling Gear You’ll Need for Winter Cycling
Winter cycling requires special gear and accessories to make it safe and fun. You won’t enjoy your ride if your hands and feet are freezing, and cycling in winter would be hazardous without the proper lighting equipment as light is scarce.
Keep in mind that your winter cycling gear has to keep you safe and warm and still allow you to perform the necessary repairs and movements.
Winter Cycling Gloves
One essential item you’ll need is a pair of winter cycling gloves. The gloves must keep you warm while still allowing you to move your fingers to perform any necessary repairs.
If you want, you can add a pair of surgical gloves first to keep your hands warmer. It will get sweaty and sticky, but it is better than frozen fingers.
Winter Cycling Jacket
Winter cycling jackets keep you warm and dry without causing discomfort during long rides.
Winter jackets are essential for one specific reason; biking makes your legs continuously move, which keeps them warm. However, your core stays steady, so it can get cold quickly.
Winter Cycling Pants
When it comes to biking, it is your legs that do most of the heavy work. Keeping them cool is vital during summer, but during winter, you’ll need the opposite.
A good pair of winter cycling pants will keep your legs warm and dry. They will also keep the icy wind away, and if you’re lucky, they will come with some pockets.
Winter Cycling Socks
Feet and hands are the parts of the body that can get cold faster. A pair of winter socks will keep your feet warm during your ride, which will make your ride a lot easier. Carry an extra pair just in case the first ones get wet.
Winter Cycling Shoes
Biking shoes keep your feet cool during summer, which is great as summer is hot. But what happens during winter? Well, for cycling in winter, you’ll need different kinds of shoes to keep your feet dry and warm.
Winter cycling shoes are durable, made of materials that prevent your feet from getting cold or wet. They are necessary if you plan to do some winter biking off-road.
Cycling Face Mask Winter
Cycling-facing masks can be anything that covers your face, front of the neck, and head. Most riders use a product called balaclavas for cycling in winter – basically, a hat that covers most of the face, leaving only the eyes unprotected.
For better results, you should combine the balaclava with some goggles to protect all your face. You can even wear them in many different ways (such as a scarf, a beanie, or a turtle neck).
Mudguards are a must, especially if you are riding with other cyclists. Mudguards and fenders keep the road spray off you, your bike, and your mates. It will make your ride cleaner and more enjoyable.
If you don’t want to invest in it, you can try making your mudguards and fenders with a plastic bottle.
Winter days are shorter, and it can get dark faster than expected. Doing off-road winter cycling without a set of lights is at the very least irresponsible.
Make sure to carry a small rechargeable bike light both at the front and at the back. If you can invest in a headlight or boost light, then do. It will help you remain safe during your rides.
Always carry water, sunscreen, and a repair kit if you are going off-road winter cycling. It is essential to keep yourself hydrated as even if it’s cold, you are burning energy and sweating.
If there’s snow and you are riding during the day, remember to protect your skin. Snow and ice reflect the sunlight, and it can burn you faster than a summer day.
Carry a repair kit. It can be the difference between a smooth ride and having to carry your flat tire bike back to your vehicle.
Finally, carry extra gear like a pair of lighter gloves or more warm socks. It can come in handy when you least expect it.
Note: Have your phone, credit or debit card, cash, and a map safe in your backpack and close to you if you need it. Accidents can happen, so remember to always bring them with you as you ride.
Should You Buy a Second Winter Bike?
It depends on how often you plan to practice winter cycling and how intensely you plan to perform it. If you are going to use it for regular commuting, you do not need a second winter bike.
If you want to do regular off-road winter cycling, you should have a spare bike if the first one needs servicing or breaks. Fatbikes, however, can last longer than traditional bikes in cold weather.
So, if you plan to do off-road winter cycling, it is better to get a fat bike.
You do have to consider cleaning and washing your bike after every ride if you use it for winter cycling. By doing so, you’ll prevent it from malfunctioning or getting rusty because of the weather.
Use some wet lubricants for the chain to avoid it from drying; your bike will thank you for it.
Winter cycling is a thrilling new sport that is gaining popularity with each year that passes.
It is not as hard as many cyclists believe, and it is highly addictive. You can practice it as a hobby, go pro, or use it daily commuting during winter.
The sport requires unique gear and clothing such as winter gloves, masks, jackets, bike helmets, and lights. You should also always carry a repair kit and some water. This equipment can keep you as safe as possible.
Overall, cycling in winter can be a lot of fun, but it can also be dangerous. So, put your safety first and practice before going off-road. Get a fat bike if you can, and enjoy the quiet and thrills of winter cycling.
Last Updated on July 28, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic