Winter biking is not for the faint of heart. It’s reserved for those who prefer a cold saddle to heated seats, adventure over convenience, and being on the move versus standing still at a bus stop. If you do want to extend your biking season into the winter months, a bit of preparation can help make it safe and — believe it or not — enjoyable. Compared to warmer months, it’s much harder to just hop on your bike and go in cold weather, so we’ve prepared a four-step guide to help you stay safe and warm when you hit the roads this winter.
Step 1: Tune up and protect your ride
Be warned: snow and road salt can do a number on your bike. If you invested in a quality road or mountain bike, you’ll likely want to keep it in storage over the winter. Instead, look at buying a more affordable or secondhand bike exclusively for winter riding. Take it into your local shop and ask about tires for winter, the best lubricant for freezing temperatures, brake pads for snow and slush, and fenders to help keep you dry.
Did you know you may be able to take your bike protection plan one step further by insuring your bike under your home, condo, or tenant insurance policy? While insurance coverage won’t help with everyday wear and tear, it could come in handy if your bike is stolen or damaged in a collision. Talk to your group’s licensed insurance broker to learn more.
Step 2: Gear up for the weather
Unless you live in Vancouver (which is downright tropical by Canadian standards), you’ll want to invest in warm, weather-proof layers, or Jack Frost won’t just be nipping at your nose — he’ll be riding shotgun. Without proper gear, it can become a pretty miserable ride before you even get to the end of your street. Some specific items you’ll want to pick up include:
- A helmet liner
- A scarf and/or face mask
- Shoe covers
- Waterproof outer layers
Less familiar but extremely practical, cycling pogies (also known as bar mitts) are insulated, rubberized coverings that go over your handle bars, brakes, and shift levers to keep your hands warm and protect them from the wind. Unlike bulky gloves, they still give you the mobility to brake and shift gears.
Step 3: Light up the road
Even in the most southern parts of Canada, daylight is at a premium during the winter. Load up on reflectors for both your bike and clothing. It’s also not a bad idea to get a reflective vest. Required safety equipment varies by province, so be sure to look up your local laws. Since there are likely going to be fewer cyclists sharing the road with you, make yourself as visible as possible. You may also need to upgrade from summer lights to ones that can withstand colder temperatures. Seeing the road ahead of you is even more important in the winter so you can watch for icy patches and snow drifts.
Step 4: Have a safe ride!
Unlike the dry summer months, when it may be easy to zip across side streets, cut through subdivisions, and detour through parks, you’ll want to plan out a practical route in the winter. Try to stay on roads that are well maintained, have bike paths, and are well lit. Just like winter driving, be patient and slow down! Your brakes won’t have the same stopping power in snow and slush.
Winter biking is a great way to stay active year-round and can be quite enjoyable with the right preparation. With all of that said, we won’t blame you if heated seats are more your thing.
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