How Cycling in the Winter Differs from Cycling in the Summer

Cycling in the winter requires some planning and thoughtful clothing, but it’s not nearly as daunting as it seems. Winter cycling can be just as enjoyable as cycling in the summer, if not more so! There are fewer crowds to battle, you won’t get overheated if you dress properly, and the scenery can be downright beautiful. Plan well and you’ll be able to stay in riding shape all winter long.


Riding in the winter means bundling up correctly, layering for warmth and ventilation. Avoid overdressing, which makes you sweaty and causes you to get cold when you stop pedaling. In order to remain warm—but not hot!—while you’re pedaling, you’ll start out a bit chilly. This may take some getting used to, but a chilly start makes for a comfortable ride. Start with base layers that wick away sweat. Cycling tights and a fitted undershirt made of athletic wicking fabric or wool will do the trick. Then wear a top layer that’s right for your winter weather. If your winters are mild and wet, waterproof shells with hoods and vents in the front are ideal. In colder, drier winters, try a shell that blocks the wind. In extreme cold, add a zippered fleece layer under the shell to keep you insulated. Throw a pair of waterproof pants over your cycling tights and you’re set! Don’t forget warm gloves or mittens that allow some dexterity, warm wool socks, and a skullcap that fits under your helmet.


Just as important as proper clothing is the right gear and regular maintenance on your rig for colder, wetter winter conditions. Winter can be tough on your bike’s drivetrain, and the extra sand, dirt, and salt on winter roads can build up in there pretty quickly. In snowy climates, you can also end up with slush buildup on your gears, which can freeze when you’re at a stop. Without any modifications to your bike, be prepared to do regular maintenance to your drivetrain, cleaning it out and lubricating it weekly. Alternately, if you plan to do a lot of winter riding, consider a bike with internally geared hubs to protect your gears from the weather and other debris. While it’s an investment up front, a frequent winter cyclist will save money because they won’t have to replace parts as often. Keep your tires at a lower pressure for increased traction and always ride with lights for improved visibility.


Once you’ve figured out how to adjust your clothing and gear, you can get out and enjoy winter riding. You’ll notice that compared to busy summer riding, the cold trails and frosty bike lanes are blissfully uninhabited. You won’t have to fight for space on popular trails and you won’t spend time weaving around other cyclists. Instead, you’ll be able to move at your pace, enjoying the winter scenery around you. Even better, you’ll discover the peace that comes with feeling your blood pumping through your veins on cold, quiet ride. Training in the winter can come with a learning curve compared to the relative ease of summer riding, but the rewards are well worth it.

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