When winter rolls around, many bicyclists hang up their helmets and put their bikes into storage. Don’t let chilly temperatures and fewer hours of daylight keep you inside. With all of the holiday calories and couch-faring extravaganzas, it’s hard to find a way to exercise. Your good old friend the bike, only moments ago cast into hibernation, may be your answer. Why not cycle through unwanted holiday weight? Here are some tips for winter riding.

Get the Gear!
If you own the right clothing, the cold cannot touch you. Start with layers. Wear a flexible, well-fit undershirt designed as a cold weather insulator. Any brand will do, just make sure it fits comfortably. The same principle can be applied to your legs with leggings or tights.

Wear a Warm Jacket
Preferably, find a wind and waterproof jacket with good ventilation (back and underarm vents). The airflow through these vents lets you work at full capacity without retaining excessive moisture inside your coat.

Protect your Head

Of course wear a helmet when riding. If you choose not to in the summer, think twice when temperatures shift. Helmets, aside from preventing head injury, retain a great deal of warmth. Coupling cranial safety with a balaclava or ski mask that covers your head and neck is combination that colder temperatures can’t face up to.

Gloves Are a Must
Any warm ones will do, but make sure that you have enough dexterity in your fingers to safely operate your brakes and shifters. Cannondale and Pearl Izumi gloves are designed specifically for winter riding. But any gloves that are warm, flexible and have good coverage down to your wrists will do.

If you are worried about ruining that favorite pair of shoes, fear not. Pick up a set of neoprene waterproof shoe covers, manufactured by many companies. These booties will keep your toes warm and protect your shoes from the elements and road salt.

Keep Clean!

A clean bike means a clean ride.

  • When you finish riding, wipe and dry your bike. Keeping the salt and grime out of these parts keeps your bike efficient and prevents you from needing new parts come spring.
  • Buy a good degreaser from your local bike shop to clean the chain, brakes and derailleur after every ride. Make this a part of your riding ritual.
  • Lubricate it. Liquid lubes work best in the winter; wax based lubes vow to prevent dirt build up, but are not effective in the winter. Any lube is better than no lube. It’s like the oil in a car’s engine, keep it there or pay the price.

Don’t let the winter blues roll you away. Your body can’t afford to give up such an outstanding cardiovascular exercise. Pick up the essentials. Plan your rides with traffic and visibility in mind. With the right gear and proper maintenance, riding a bike in the winter will be, well, “like riding a bike.”

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