Thinking of hanging up your bike for the winter? The colder temperatures and darker days don’t have to be the end your cycling season! With the right clothing and gear, cycling can be an enjoyable way of getting you from point A to point B all year long.
Halifax’s Bikeway Network: What’s New for 2023?
In honour of Winter Bike-to-Work Day, Active Transportation staff hosted a pop-up at the Halifax Central Library on Feb. 7 to share updates about bikeway projects happening in 2023. After a short presentation on the status of the AAA Regional Centre Bikeway Network, attendees were able to talk with staff about upcoming bikeway projects as well as get tips and route planning advice for cycling in winter.
Winter Cycling Tips
Cycling in the winter is different from cycling in warmer months. Keep reading for some tips to keep in mind when winter cycling for the first time.
- When cycling in slippery conditions brake earlier, take turns more gently and stay alert at all times
- Give yourself extra time during the winter months as it takes longer to cycle through the snow.
- If the weather or road conditions feel unsafe for cycling, avoid travel or choose another form of transportation.
- Planning your trip ahead of time according to the weather and road conditions can make your ride more comfortable. Streets are cleared within certain timeframes so check to see what the services standards are for your route. If there are hills on your route that may be slippery, look for routes that will help you to avoid them.
What To Wear While Cycling In Winter
- Head, neck, and face
Hats and neckwarmers can help to reduce exposure of your skin to the cold and wind while also insulating and keeping you warm. Remember that wearing a hat may require you to make some adjustments to your helmet to ensure it fits properly. Eye protection can also be useful when there is a lot of wind or falling snow.
Keep your hands warm while you ride with a good pair of mittens or gloves. It’s important that you can still easily use your brake and gearshift levers with your mitts or gloves on so try it out with your hand protection on before you head out on your ride. A popular option are “pogies”, a mitt that goes over your handlebars and allows you to cycle with bare hands or a light glove.
As with most outdoor activities, layering is key to remaining comfortable. You can wear as many layers as you’d like but depending on the weather, you may want to opt for the following three layers:
- Base layer: This layer sits close to your skin and helps insulate from the cold. Look for a base layer that’s either made with wool or a water-wicking synthetic fabric to trap the heat without trapping moisture.
- Mid layer: This is likely what you would wear when stepping out of the house in the winter. Think pants, long-sleeved shirts, or sweaters that will help to keep the heat in while you cycle.
- Outer layer: A waterproof jacket and/or waterproof pants will help to keep you dry in the event of rain or snow on your ride.
Keep in mind that while cycling, your body will generate heat so you may not needs as many layers as you would when you are off your bike.
Waterproof boots or shoes are key for keeping your feet warm and dry. You can also layer with warm socks made of wool or a moisture-wicking synthetic fabric.
- Overall visibility
Shorter days means you may be cycling in the dark more often. Wearing brightly-coloured or reflective outer layers can also help others see you from a distance.
How To Ensure Your Bike Is Winter-Ready
You are required to have lights on your bicycle, according to the Motor Vehicle Act, but they are especially crucial in the winter when you may be more likely to be cycling in the dark. A white light pointed in the direction you are travelling will help you see, while a red rear light or reflector increases your visibility to other people on the road.
A wider tire with a knobbier surface or treads will help in most winter conditions. The wider the width of the tire, the more traction you will have in snowy or icy conditions. Lowering the air pressure in your tires by a few psi can also help provide more traction when needed.
Installing a good set of bike fenders in preparation of the snow, slush, salt and rain in the winter months can keep you and your bicycle clean.
Disc or drum brakes are the top choice for riding in wet or snowy conditions. When the roads are icy make sure you do not use your front brakes.
Those that wear bike shoes or clipless-pedals may want to switch to a regular pedal so that you can wear a warmer winter boot or shoe.
- Ongoing maintenance
The salt on the street is great for melting ice and creating safer riding surfaces, but can also generate rust on your bicycle. A good method to put into practice is to give your bike a quick rinse or wipe down when you get home at the end of the day to remove some of the dirt and salt. Just be sure it's dry in the morning so it doesn't ice up on your ride.
- Get a bicycle specifically for winter riding
If you're concerned about the impact of ice, dirt, and salt on your bicycle, consider purchasing a bike specifically for riding in the winter months. Bike Again is a community space that sells used bicycles at a more affordable price.