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13 Necessary Tips For Riding Your Bike In The Winter

Get the gear, lose the fear.

Your love for cycling simply can’t be contained, but you're concerned that riding a bike in the winter means you will slip on black ice, veer off the road, and plummet into the inexorable jaws of a snowblower. Don't worry, you got this. Just stop for a second and make sure you’re prepared.

  1. Headgear
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    Winter cycling means you’ll encounter snow, ice, and a host of other conditions that can cause accidents. Protect your head. Bern sells a bunch of affordable headgear that, unlike most bike helmets, won’t make you look like a dweeb.

  2. Mittens
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    Gloves are the worst. (Especially gardening gloves.) If it’s below freezing outside, just wear a nice pair of wind- and rain-resistant mittens. Your fingers can wiggle around and keep themselves warm, and if it gets really cold, there’s plenty of space for hand warmers.

  3. Warm socks
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    You’ve gotta keep your toes toasty, and the best foundation for cozy feet are thick, wool socks. If you want to step it up a notch, get shoe covers. Even though they're a luxury item primarily used by fancy-pants road cyclists, they're very effective for blocking cold wind and moisture.

  4. Long johns
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    You need a layer between your pants and your skin, or else your legs will become popsicles. If you want to get fancy, check out Uniqlo. They offer “extra-warm” long underwear, with air pocket-trapping technology. Or you can just wear the old-fashioned long johns that have a button-up poop flap in the back. All that matters is you layer up! (Important: Stick with wool if you’re the sweaty type.)

  5. Balaclava
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    Not baklava, the pastry -- that would be messy and get stuck in your hair. We’re talking about a balaclava, the face mask. You could go for the less pricey Pussy Riot variety, if you desire, but if you want to avoid looking like you’re about to rob a 7-11, try and get a thinner one that’ll fit under your helmet and has an adjustable mouth opening.

  6. Jeans
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    Any pair of jeans will do, but a skinny-ish jean is the wise choice, even if you’re not a hipster. Wider-cut jeans have a tendency to get caught in your chain. If you wanna treat yourself, check out the Levi’s Commuter 511s, which are designed specifically for bicycle commuting. They’re extra stretchy! (They’re also $250, so maybe worth it if you ride multiple times per week.)

  7. Lightweight jacket

    Riding your bike in the winter is tricky because, if you dress too warmly, you’ll sweat and make yourself colder. You always want your core to feel slightly chilly for the first 10 minutes of the ride. After you warm up, you’ll feel perfect. Try to find a jacket that’s weather-resistant, warm, and lets your body breathe.

  8. Waterproof bike bag
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    Keep your stuff dry! A waterproof bag is useful year-round, and will last forever if you invest in a quality product. Beware of bags that are advertised as “water-resistant.” That translates to “waterproof-for-10-minutes-and-then-your-term-paper-is-destroyed.”

  9. Vaseline
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    We know, we know. It’s slimy. But if you smear it on your nose when temperatures drop into the teens, it’ll prevent windburn.

  10. Blinky-lights
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    These are a must in any season, but they’re especially important during the winter, since there are fewer hours of sunlight. Never ride at night without them! They’ll keep you visible to motorists, and they can look really cool, too.

  11. Fenders
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    If you’re a serious bike commuter, you’re going to ride on wet roads often, which means you’ll need fenders (unless, of course, you enjoy the sensation of gritty street mud spraying on your lower back and shins). A nice, full set of fenders will prevent you from getting soaked and looking like you just wriggled through a swamp.

  12. Fat bike
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    Fat bikes are very popular right now, because they can make your bicycle commute feel like a monster truck rally. They’re tailor-made for snow and sand riding, but they’re useless on pavement, so you should really only get one if you live on Hoth, or Dune.

  13. Studded tires
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    Okay, so these are not a complete necessity, but they exist, and they might be something you’d want to invest in, since they will enhance your bike’s performance on hard-packed snow and ice. Don’t want to buy them? No biggie. You can make your own. Look at you, riding your bike through those mean winter streets!