Advice for Safe and Comfortable Winter Biking

Author Tom Babin shares his wisdom and knowledge of winter biking from his years of pedaling on snow and ice.

| December 2014

Frostbike (Rocky Mountain Books, 2014), by Tom Babin, offers new approaches to winter cycling to the hesitant bicyclist. Over years of research, trial and error and more than his share of snow and ice, Babin discovered an unknown history of winter biking and a new generation of two-wheel technology to make riding in winter safe and fun. In the following excerpt from “Tips for Winter Cycling,” Babin recommends what changes you should make to your bike, what clothes you should wear and what kind of attitude you need to enjoy winter biking.

Since I first started cycling in winter, some of the most consistent questions I have encountered were the practical ones: how do you do it?

My answers have varied over the years, but I have come to a few conclusions, and while they may still be subject to change, hopefully they add up to some practical tips for anybody interested in winter cycling. They may not turn you into a die-hard lover of winter, but this advice has worked for me and I feel comfortable passing it along.

There is, however, a caveat to go along with what I suggest, which may sound like a cop-out but I mean it sincerely. The best advice I can give on how to ride a bike year-round is this: figure it out for yourself. There is much variance in climate, cities and cyclists, so strategies that work for one person may be totally meaningless to another. I live in a climate prone to freeze-melt cycles, for example, so one of my major concerns is ice. That means studded tires work wonders. If you live in a climate with consistent winter temperatures below the freezing point, however, you may rarely encounter slippery spots, so studded tires may be needless. That said, here’s what may be applicable elsewhere.

The bike

Use fenders.

Use lights. For many people, the shorter, darker days are the most difficult part of winter cycling. Reflectors alone don’t cut it. LED bike lights these days are cheap and ultra-efficient. Buy some for the front and back of your bike, and maybe your head — headlamps work well.

1/1/2016 11:32:47 AM

I got a Surly Moonlander fat tire (really fat tire) bike this winter and have been enjoying days out burning calories here in the midst of a state forest. It's a, no gas just pedal power.

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