Winter Biking Tips!

When thinking about riding your bike in inclement weather, the first thing that may come to your mind is it’s cold and dangerous. Read this post for tips on making biking in winter safer and easier.

This is a guest blog post from Lori, one of our brand ambassadors in Chicago. 

In my view, cycling through winter is the best fun – the air is exhilarating, pedaling warms you up in a jiffy, there are fewer cyclists on the road and let’s face it, it makes you tough! Expect your friends to think you are crazy, but that’s ok. They will get used to you.

Biking is healthier, greener and saves you money. Hopefully, I’ll give you some suggestions to make it safer and easier for you to want to start winter biking.


What to wear

You generate sweat and heat that needs to leave the body, transfer through your various layers, evaporate out and keep you relatively dry and warm underneath.

I wear 3 layers in the coldest weather.

1) The base layer needs to wick and be fairly lightweight. Avoid cotton as it can get sweaty and has zero wicking property so you will stay wet and get cold. Merino wool or fabrics such as dryline and drylete are my personal favorites. You can actually pour water over the outside and won’t feel wet on the inside. It wicks water right to the outside.

2) The next layer should be your Insulation layer. It also needs to be wicking. I often wear a vest or down layer.

3) The outer shell layer blocks the wind and rain. Make sure that it’s a high visibility color with reflective strips on it. Be sure to wear your Po Campo Reflector Pins in the dark!

You can replace one layer with arm warmers and your core will still stay warm. If you want just a little extra layer, just add arm warmers.

The rule of thumb is to be slightly chilly if you are standing outside when you first go out so that when you get moving your body will warm up. If you start out too warm, you will easily overheat and then be really cold when you stop. It will take practice to get the layers right for you. Everyone handles the cold a little different.


Don’t skimp on accessories

You lose substantial body heat through your head, feet, and hands and you need all three of those working well to be able to make it home safely.

For the Head:

There are several options of what to wear on your head underneath the obvious bike helmet. I wear a headband, balaclava and/or a neck gator. I also wear sunglasses, clear or yellow glasses or in the coldest weather I wear ski goggles for extra protection.

For the Hands.

To keep your hands warm in winter biking, it’s great to take 2 pairs of gloves. One heavier and one lighter to handle temperature shifts. My hands get really cold, but also sweat. The gloves don’t quickly dry out, so it’s nice to have an extra pair for the ride home or glove liners you can interchange. You can wear winter cycling gloves, lobster gloves or split-finger gloves (my favorite) or use handlebar mittens.

What to wear on the bottom:

My favorite pair of tights has a windproof layer on the front covering a thick drylete material which is the only thing on the back. That way it’s comfortable to sit on but cuts the wind. If it’s raining I wear rain pants over the above mentioned. If you wear a chamois when you ride, don’t put your leggings under the chamois. The chamois is always the layer closest to your skin.

For the Feet:

Wool socks and shoe covers or toe covers. The shoe covers also keep you dry if it’s wet out.

Everyone’s tolerance for cold is different but remember not to overdress. For me every 10 degrees of temperature drop is a change in the layers that I wear.


Bicycle Prep and maintenance

Use lights at all times, flashing white in front and flashing red in back - the brighter the better. Riding with lights is great practice any time of the year, but it becomes more important in the winter with shorter daylight hours and fewer people on the road. Cars aren’t used to seeing bikes as much in the winter. Blaze makes my favorite headlight; it beams a green laser light on the street in the shape of a bicycle. It’s really bright and holds a charge for several hours.

Along those lines, my favorite helmet is made by Lumos. It has a built-in hazard light on the back and turn signals which are really bright. Between the helmet and the headlight, I get a lot of fun comments from pedestrians and other cyclists. It makes me smile.

After a wet, salty or sandy ride, take a rag and give your bike’s chain a good wipe down and then spray or drip on bicycle lube, but don’t use WD-40. Make sure you lower the psi on your tires.

I live in Chicago and the city does an awesome job of keeping the bike lanes clear. Oftentimes even before they get the side streets cleared!

Other things to consider in winter biking

Keep a fresh set of hand warmers, like these from Hot Hands.

You still sweat and need to hydrate even when it’s cold, so make sure to insulate your liquids. I have had water freeze on my winter bike rides! Hydro flask keeps hot liquids hot and cold liquids cold.  If you don’t have a hydro flask, put your water bottle in your back pocket. 

You still sweat and need to hydrate even when it’s cold, so make sure to insulate your liquids. I have had water freeze on my winter bike rides! Hydro flask keeps hot liquids hot and cold liquids cold.  If you don’t have a hydro flask, put your water bottle in your back pocket. 

When it’s really cold out I actually stay much warmer on my bike than I do walking the streets because I don’t care what I look like and I build my own heat…. another upside to winter biking.

If you take some kind of food, nuts are probably your best choice. Most bars will freeze when it’s really cold out so keep it in your pocket.


Most important is to stay safe and have fun

Let’s not forget another important component to riding your bike any time of the year. You need a bag to carry your extras in. I love my Po Campo Bike Share Bag, which is designed to work with Divvy, Chicago's bike share system. It is weatherproof with reflective strips on them and it looks great to just carry around. 


Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and I hope you aren’t afraid to take the plunge and ride through the winter. I hope you like riding all year around as much as I do.

About Lori

I am honored to be a Po Campo Brand Ambassador. I live in Chicago, try to live a healthy lifestyle and have been riding my bike all year around for almost 25 years. My typical commute to/from the health club several days a week averages 6 miles each way and my once a week commute to the Shedd Aquarium is 7.5 miles each way. I am the owner of All About Fun Entertainment, which is a kid’s entertainment company. My specialty is balloon artistry. I’ve been in business for myself since 2003 and absolutely love what I do. I have been a volunteer scuba diver at the Shedd Aquarium for 26 years and have close to 12,000 volunteer hours. That’s my once a week escape from the real world.

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5 Small Things that Make Winter Biking Less Painful

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