Winter Cycling Tips for a Safe and Comfortable Ride

By Scott McClave PT, DPT

Despite the days slowly getting longer, we are in the coldest time of our year. Bicycle commuters and enthusiast should be taking some extra measures to stay warm and safe on the wet road during the winter months. Here are my top tips for winter riding:

  1. Wool base layers will help you retain your warmth even if you are wet. Keeping your core temperature up starts with a good quality base layer.
  2. Cover your knees. When the temps are below 60 wear some sort of knee or leg warmer. Your knees don’t have much insulation, therefore keeping them warm is key preventative measure for reducing overuse injuries to the patellofemoral joint.
  3. Don’t let your hands go numb. Consider proper winter riding gloves to keep the blood flowing to your hands. Some gloves have wind proofing fabric and insulation which is helpful on the dry days. While others offer waterproofing and insulation for the cold wet days.
  4. Lower tire pressure yields more grip. Drop 5-10psi out of your tires, running them on the lower end of the manufacturer’s recommended pressure to maximize grip in soggy conditions. Be sure that your tires have sufficient tread and are not aged and cracking.
  5. Stay home in the presence of black ice. If it’s been below freezing, consider riding another day. Frozen icy roads are unforgiving when turning- is an unexpected and potentially avoidable crash worth it?
  6. Be visible and invest in good headlights, taillights, and potentially side lights. Assume that motorist do not see you. A combination of flashing and steady lights help to make you seen and also give motorist a frame of reference for how fast you might be traveling. Reflective and bright clothing is also recommended. Be safe, be seen.
  7. A good rain jacket is worth every penny. When purchasing a new jacket, they will be rated for waterproofing and breathability. Since we are sweating and generating heat while riding, having a jacket that breathes well is critical. You can have the most waterproof material, but if it doesn’t breathe you might as well be exercising in a trash bag.
  8. Take care of your technical and waterproof fabrics for the best performance, don’t just throw them in the laundry with standard soap. Use technical fabric detergent like Nikwax. By following the directions and washing regularly one of my favorite rain jackets has over 7 years of use and still repels water like the day I bought it.
  9. Lastly, in case you haven’t already- invest in a pair of nice fenders for your winter bike. They will keep your backside dry and prevent you from having a soggy pair of bike shorts. Nobody has time for wet bike shorts.

Have fun out there and ring in the new year on two wheels. If you’re experiencing unnecessary aches and pains on the bike, you might be due for a bike fit. At Stride Physio we’re here to keep you happy, healthy and on the bike year round.