Cold weather (and snow) no longer need to slow a dedicated biker down. Winter riding is a rising trend – one we at GearJunkie embrace as autumn fades to winter’s gleaming white.
Our new column, sponsored by Amazon, covers gear to get you outdoors.
WINTER BIKING TESTS GEAR LIKE NOTHING ELSE. Cyclists heat up while riding, but extremities face bitter cold. Sweat, sleet, and snow form a trifecta of tricky elements, and slippery surfaces make falling a real possibility.
So, what’s a year-round biker to do? We at GearJunkie are experts in the winter bike ride. It’s how we get around in the bitter metropolis of Minneapolis, Minn.
Our bike-minded staff explored Amazon to find the gear that will keep you riding all winter long. We mixed in a few tips that will make your winter bike commute manageable, if not downright pleasant, as you pedal and coast the winter wonderland.
Winter Biking: Gear To Stay Warm And Dry
Happy winter cycling is about two things: staying warm and being visible. And not crashing, too. Below is a mix of gear to help you ride safer in any weather.
Of course, you don’t need every piece of gear to get started. But everything on this list represents something we’d use for our own cold Minnesota commutes – through ice, snow, darkness, and sub-zero temps. Happy cycling!
There’s a reason fat bikes have become all the rage in winter cycling. They’re stable, virtually unstoppable, and fun. We have a Framed fat bike in the office and use it regularly once the snow flies. The aluminum alloy frame won’t rust – great for salty street commutes – and the 4-inch-wide tires float atop snow cover. Plus, at under $800, the Framed 2.0 costs less than most fat bikes.
Bonus: This Framed fat bike is eligible for Amazon’s free assembly program in most metro areas. Customers can pick up the complete bike at a local bike shop, or have it delivered to their home and assembled on-site by a mobile bike shop. More info Amazon.com/FreeAssembly.
Stay warm and visible with the Showers Pass fleece-lined Odyssey jacket. The unique designs on the jacket literally reflect street maps of 11 bike-friendly cities around the world. Not only do the prints shine in all directions on the waterproof-breathable shell, but each jacket is stamped differently, so no two are the same. It also sports a helmet-compatible hood and lined hand-warmer pockets.
Bike helmets are clutch for fair-weather cycling, and winter’s no different. But the frigid temps require a warmer skull bucket. Giro’s unisex Timberwolf helmet has fleece lining and removable ear pads to keep your noggin comfy. But it also sports adjustable ventilation in case you get too hot and a fit-adjustment dial to keep it secure.
Safe biking means you have to see where you’re going, and nothing is worse than icy, wind-induced tears. Julbo’s Aerospace goggles not only keep your eyes safe from the elements, the lenses also pull away from the frames for extra venting to prevent fogging (which can happen a lot). Plus, Julbo’s lenses are photochromic, perfect for keeping your eyes shaded during bright morning commutes and clearer for dark evening rides home. They’ve been incredible in our tests. While pricey, these are some of the best goggles you can get for sweaty exercise.
Not only are your feet farthest from your heart, they’re also closer to the cold ground and constantly moving through the air, which all means they will get cold – fast. Good socks are a must, but Northwave’s Gore-Tex-lined cycling boots are a better defense against wind gusts and wet slush. The have mountain bike-compatible cleats, so you can clip into SPD-type pedals and stay on board without worry.
Dark mornings and early nights make head- and taillights a must. The 900-lumen Longfin headlight won’t just make you visible to cars and cyclists, it’ll light the path ahead too. Plus, it has high, medium, and low modes to meet your needs and maximize battery life. Both front and rear lights are rechargeable, feature varying pulse modes, and have side amber lights to keep you seen by cross traffic.
Your hands are the first thing to break the winter wind as you bike, and keeping them warm means the difference between a bearable ride and quitting altogether. Split-finger “lobster” gloves provide an ideal mix of mitten warmth and glove-like dexterity. Craft’s gloves are wind- and waterproof to keep hands as warm as possible. Plus, reflective accents add a touch of visibility for oncoming traffic.
Studded tires can help keep you upright. Schwalbe’s Marathon Winter HS 396 treads are dotted with durable carbide studs that resist wear. They bite into snow and ice but are rideable on pavement too. For best results, reduce tire pressure in icy conditions to maximize the studs’ effect. On less icy days, increase the pressure to reduce stud contact on pavement.
For the coldest of winter commutes, an extra layer of defense is necessary. Enter Bar Mitts, a veritable lifesaver among year-round cyclists. These neoprene covers (also called pogies) affix to your handlebars – road type for drop bars, mountain type for flat bars – and keep the wind at bay from your hands. The mitts cover the brake and shift levers, so you never have to pull your hands out while riding.
Merino Wool Buff (lightweight & heavyweight): $20–$80
Though not specific to winter cycling, Buffs are one of the most versatile pieces of gear we’ve come across. They can be worn as a hat, neck warmer, face mask, under-helmet ear cover, and more. Some like to use the lightweight buff as a face mask because it’s easy to breathe through. Others like the heavyweight buff for added warmth on the ears and neck. Whichever you choose, it’ll get plenty of use.