Top winter biking tips from our founder, Maria Boustead.
“Wow, winter biking – that’s hardcore!”. I hear that a lot when I meet someone for lunch and plop my winter biking helmet down on the seat next to me. But, I disagree. With the right gear and clothing, winter biking is just as enjoyable as riding on a cool, above freezing type of day and does not seem particularly “hardcore” to me at all.
Updated February 16, 2022
First, a disclaimer. The following winter biking tips are best for:
- Conditions 20ºF and above. Riding in temperatures less than 20ºF is still possible but requires more specialized gear.
- Rides of 3 miles or less. I find that my fingers and toes get colder on longer rides and therefore I wear more layers than what I’ve described below.
- Dry roads with no snow or ice. I think biking on snowy and icy roads with poor visibility is risky and way too hardcore for me.
My current bike commute is an easy 2.5 miles and takes me about 15 minutes. My alternative to winter biking is to take the bus. While the bus ride itself is warm, I’m actually outside, bearing the winter elements, for a longer amount of time when I take the bus than when I bike. Walking to and from the bus stops and waiting for the bus to show up takes time! So, my first suggestion for winter biking gear is to dress like you were going to spend 10-15 minutes at a bus stop, and you’ll have most of the bases covered.
For me, this includes:
1. Merino wool base layer. I always wear leggings (not as underwear though, because I usually take them off at the office) and a short sleeve or tank top for my upper body. I like the wool because it’s warm, lightweight, and thin so you can still wear them under most jeans and pants. Icebreaker and Smartwool are good brands for these items.
2. Thick scarf. I like a bulky scarf that I can wrap around my head several times and pull up and down to cover my cheeks as need be. I think the scarf is good for adding some color or style to your winter ensemble so I have a few to choose from. Etsy has a nice selection of scarves from indie makers.
3. Insulated boots. Insulated and waterproof boots are a must-have for braving winter weather and I use the same ones regardless of if I’m waiting for the bus or biking. This season I am sporting insulated Bogs. I like them because they’re tall and easy to clean, which is good for winter biking because road gunk seems to splash up on you more.
Next, you have to consider the ways that winter biking is different than standing at the bus stop and get the gear for that. This includes:
4. Super warm gloves and hand warmers. Since you won’t be able to shove your hands in your pockets to keep them warm, it’s imperative to have warmer-than-usual gloves. Look for gloves that are waterproof and insulated, like these from Pearl Izumi. Stick a Po Campo reusable handwarmer in each one to stay toasty! Note: You have to sacrifice style to keep your hands warm as cute winter biking gloves are hard to come by. However, I also keep a pair of thinner, cuter gloves in my pocket that I can use either as glove liners or as “casual winter gloves” if I don’t need the extra protection.
5. Winter biking helmet. I've been riding with snowboard helmets for years because their insulation and ear coverings keep me warm. Worried that a snowboard helmet doesn’t provide enough protection for biking? Then I suggest getting a bike helmet with as little venting as possible and wear a cozy biking cap underneath it. I recommend the Swrve softshell Belgian Cap for this.
6. Skiing Goggles. It’s good to have ski goggles on hand for winter biking days that are particularly windy. They help cover up the skin between your helmet and your scarf and protect your eyes from the cold wind. My eyes start to tear in cold weather which is no fun! Plus, they look badass.
7. A Po Campo bag to store your gear. You're carrying a lot more stuff in winter! I find that I may need an extra bag, or a bigger bag, to store it all when I get to my destination. For this I recommend our Chelsea Bike Trunk Bag. It fits pretty much everything included in this post, and I like that I can get into it while on my bike. Sometimes I want to take off my heavy gloves, or decided midway that it is indeed goggle weather, so it's nice to have access to that stuff.
To recap, here are my top seven accessories for winter biking:
1. Merino wool baselayer
2. Big scarf
3. Insulated boots
4. Super warm gloves
5. Winter biking helmet
7. Chelsea Trunk Bag (A place to store all your winter gear)
Do you have any gear that you can’t live without for winter biking? I’d love to hear what you use. Please leave in comments below.