Thursday, November 20, 2014

Taking the Lane: Keep Going! How to make a smooth transition to winter commuting.

STEP #1: Outfit your Bicycle

Hopefully by now you have a bicycle that you have been commuting on. You do not need a special bicycle to commute on during the winter. There are certain features that you will really like, but there are always ways to deck out what you have! First step, and something that can be utilized year round, are fenders. 

Yay! Full Coverage!

To use full coverage fenders like the ones pictured above your bike will need mounts.
They will look something like the silver bits on the bikes fork below, but will be specific for fenders. Investigate your bike and take it to your local shop if you need to verify what they are really for!
Mounts Galore

If you do not have those mounts do not fret. You can use a frame mounted fender. Even if you do have the mounts these fenders are easy to snap off and on depending on your need!


These fenders will protect you from snow, sleet, and all the muck. Your bike will also thank you. The full coverage fenders do a great job of keeping extra snow and salt out of places it shouldn't be.

Next up are studded tires. These will help you take on the ice. Studded tires will fit most all bikes, typically not a road bike though. They are usually a little pricier, but will last more than one season. Also if you are strapped for cash, just using one up front will be a great start. This will prevent your front wheel from slipping out, hopefully allowing your rear wheel to follow through smooth and safe. One thing to mention is that the studded tires are great on ice mainly. If you don't experience much ice where you are they won't be much help, and I would stick to a tire with more tread for snow.  They are also something you will have to get used to using on dry pavement, as the studs can slip. It is something that is very obvious and easy to get the hang of though.

45NRTH, Schwalbe, and Continental are some great tire brands to start looking at for studded options!

The last and arguably most important piece to outfit your bike is LUBE. I cannot express how important lubing the moving parts on your bicycle is. We covered chain lube in our ABC's of bike maintenance post. In the winter all of these ideas will become even more important as salt, sand, and cold are attacking your bicycle. 


First off you will want to wear different clothes. We have oodles and oodles and oodles of posts about what to wear when commuting! Check them out. I want to touch on what you can do to make the winter commute a little less harsh. 

First things first. KEEP RIDING. Ride a little outside everyday. It is the best way to figure out how to dress and to let your body acclimate. 

Even if it is just a short jaunt to the store. It will keep you motivated and it won't be as intimidating when you go out for your whole commute. 

Once you have conquered some snowy and cold commutes it is probably time for a break. I use a friends car at least once a week to give myself something to look forward too. Then I also realize commuting on my bike is usually faster and much more enjoyable. 

Second thing is to give yourself extra time. Extra time to get dressed, to ride, and to get undressed. This time probably adds up to around 15 minutes total for my commute. Acknowledging this added time is necessary because then I am not stressing trying to make up for it during my ride. 

Last and overall the change of seasons is hard for everyone, bicycles included! Taking the change one step at a time will ensure you actually want to be riding and will continue to do so after the winter season has blown by. 


  1. If you can, spring for the carbide studded tires. They will last much longer than just plain steel studded tires. It took me three seasons to kill my Schwalbe Winter Marathons (1500+ miles). I could probably still use them, as they've wore down the carbide to the steel base and are rusting a bit.

    I tried a set of just plain steel studded tires and they didn't even last a season of less than every day commuting.

  2. You can ride through a lot of snow, and even ice, without studded tires-- if you don't have them, don't let that be a barrier to your commute! I think of studded tires on your bike like studded tires on your car (for those that have a car, anyway)-- if your lifestyle/work/geography doesn't compel you to spend $600-1000 for specific winter/ice/studded tires on your car, then you probably don't need to spend $120-200 on studded bike tires. Personally, for the few days that a studded tire is necessary, road conditions are likely so bad as to be causing car accidents, work delays, etc-- and any boss etc is understanding. Further, in those extreme conditions, a studded tire might help you stay upright-- but it won't stop the 3000lbs cars (who don't have any winter tires) from sliding right into you!