Cycling in winter can be tough, especially in colder parts of the country where snow and ice complicate road conditions and plummeting temperatures make it hard to stay safe and warm while exercising or commuting to work. With the right equipment, though, you can fend off the worst of the cold and get where you need to go without dissolving into a shivering wreck after half an hour pedaling through -3 wind chill. Here’s what you’ll need to start:
1. Balaclava: Your face is an easy target for frostbite, especially on exposed and protruding areas like the nose and ears. A balaclava protects your vulnerable facial features from the worst of the wind and snow blowing into your face half the time you’re cycling in winter.
2. Gloves: A pair of good thermal gloves with rubberized palms and fingers lets you keep a solid grip on your handlebars without sacrificing your pinkies to the cold.
3. Under Armour/Long Underwear: Thermal underclothes are a good way to regulate core temperature and stay comfortable during even relatively mild cold spells. While pedaling keeps the body warm, there’s only so much exercise can do if you’re improperly insulated.
4. Knit Cap: You’re going to have to make sure it doesn’t interfere with your helmet, but an extra layer between your head and the howling void of winter couldn’t hurt.
5. Cold-Weather Spandex: Your outer layer is as important as your inner one, and Spandex is an excellent insulator that offers minimal wind resistance, meaning you’ll feel warmer and move faster.
6. Ski Goggles: They’re not just for hitting the slopes. While most regular cycling goggles are fog-resistant, goggles made specially to cut through snow glare and to keep vision clear in subzero conditions are a must.
7. Cleats: Get yourself a pair of shoes that’ll serve well enough for pedaling but which can also give you much-needed traction if you need to dismount and walk. You don’t want to get stuck slipping and sliding on an icy hill while you try to shove your bike to the top. Also, using chemical heat packs in your shoes is a good way to keep circulation steady.
8. Wool/Thermal Socks: Make sure that you aren’t showing any more bare skin than you need to be, including around the ankle. Make like a Puritan and cover those shins with something that’ll seal out the cold.
9. Headband: You don’t want rapidly-cooling sweat dribbling into your eyes. Invest in a good headband to soak up any excess perspiration before it compromises your vision.
10. Helmet: Some helmets have attached cowls to create a heal seal with your neck and scalp, while others have internal padding and insulation to conserve warmth. They’re also a completely necessary element of any cycling expedition in fair weather or foul.
11. Bike lights: During the winter months when the evenings start earlier and the mornings are dark - riding in the dark is unavoidable! By law, it is required that every cyclist who rides between sunset and sunrise should have a front white light fitted, a rear red light fitted and pedal reflectors. This is applicable to those who ride in public, or even for those off road riders who take to the trails.
This list is just the beginning, but you’re going to want everything on it before you venture out into the cold. And remember, if there’s a wind chill warning in effect or if the roads look dicey, play it safe. Don’t risk yourself when you don’t have to.