Biggest Little City

Cold-Weather Riding

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Yes, Virginia, there is Winter Biking!
Tips from Winter Cyclists

I'm no cycling guru whose blood has been thickened on arctic expeditions. I'm just an urban bike commuter who, through experience and advice from friends, has gone from being a fair weather to all weather cyclist. The process was gradual. The first winter I didn't invest in special gear; I just piled on what I had. I learned how to ride in a range of weather conditions simply by doing it and watching my friends. Winter biking isn't something difficult, something you need to equip for. The only equipment you really need is the willingness to do it. - Gin Kilgore

The following tips are compiled from a variety of winter cyclists. If you attend a Bike Winter class, you will see the tips covered more extensively, with demonstrations of the tips, as well as question and answer periods.

Winter biking essentials:

  • Willingness
  • Waterproof, wind proof outer jacket (does not need to be insulated--you'll generate plenty of warmth)
  • Warm, waterproof glove/mitten combos that do not compromise your dexterity
  • Warm, waterproof shoe/boots with warm socks and room for toe wiggling
  • Warm, but thin head covering that will fit under your helmet and protect your ears
  • Wicking base layers, like silk or synthetics
  • Weekly chain lubing
  • Worn brake pad replacement
  • White headlight, red backlight and reflective tape. (OK, folks get by without these, but I think they help a lot with visibility)

Non-essentials, but darn helpful

  • Fenders
  • Waterproof, wind proof pants
  • Armpit zippers in the jacket to help prevent overheating
  • A sense of adventure

The remaining tip information is broken down into these categories. You can get more info at

  • Get Layered! Dressing for Winter Cycling
  • Remaining Visible During Winter Biking
  • Winter Bike Handling
  • Warming Up After Being Outside in the Cold
  • Maintaining Your Bike In the Winter
  • Tips for Winter Traveling With Kids in a Trailer
  • Why Cycle in the Winter?

Thanks to Kevin Womac, Gin Kilgore, Alex Wilson, Tim Casady, Lisa Phillips, Daniel Kopald, Bob Matter, Eve Petyl, Jane Healy, BigHorn, Mr. Bike, and others for tip information.

Many thanks to the Chicago BikeWinter Organization!

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