Winterizing your bike can be completed in just a few minutes and it will ensure that you won't get stranded. As with a ride in the spring or summer, it is important that your bike is in good repair. Extra attention should be taken to keep the bike clean, especially the chain. It is important to keep the wheel bearings, brake cables, derailleurs, and brake levers well lubed.
Having good tires is a must for winter riding. If you live in a wet climate, narrow tires with widely spaced knobs are best. In the snow, a wide tire with widely spaced knobs is recommended. Studded tires are very effective if you will be riding in snow or ice exclusively. You can make your own studded tires by inserting #2 machine screws through a tire. Use an old tube between the screw heads and the inflated tube to prevent flats. In the snow use a low tire pressure between 30-40 PSI.
Fenders are very useful for winter riding. They keep much of the mud, snow, or water off of your bike and your body. Aluminum or steel fenders are best in an extremely cold climate.
When the roads are wet it will make braking harder and your stopping distance will increase. On the road, leaves, manhole covers, and gravel can be challenging. Anticipate braking and be aware of turns. Keep things smooth on the turns and avoid braking during a turn. Driveways lips when icy or wet can cause problems. Enter them perpendicular to avoid slipping the front or wear tires. Bicyclists are not as visible to cars during the winter months. Ride defensively! The days are shorter so use a front and rear light and wear reflective clothing.
On the trail in wet or icy conditions, rocks, leaves, sticks, and other obstacles become potential hazards. Braking when the rims and pads are caked with mud or snow is very difficult. V-brakes stop much better than traditional cantilever brakes. Tread lightly to prevent soil erosion.
The key to dressing for winter riding is to dress in several layers. It is better to have too many clothes and be too warm than to be cold. Layers can always be removed as you warm up. The level of protection and breathability is often increased with the price of the garment. With some creativity, you shouldn't need to spend a bundle on your winter cycling gear. It is important in freezing temperatures to keep as much of your exposed skin covered as possible. Hoods made from lycra are available or wool will keep the head and face warm.
We recommend starting with a long-sleeved polypropylene or capeline shirt. These materials are very good at wicking away moisture from the skin. A lycra jersey over this is good for the next layer. Gortex or a good nylon blend cycling jacket should be the next layer. Cycling jackets have additional vents and often have zippers that allow for breathing. A vest can be put on after the jacket. Bring along a plastic shell that can be used on long descents or in the rain.
On the lower half of the body start out with regular lycra cycling shorts. Layer on polypropylene or capeline long underwear. Depending on the temperature, you can put on one or two pairs of lycra tights. Carry a pair of nylon or gortex pants that can be used as a shell in the rain or temperature drops.
Quality gloves or mittens are effective in protecting your hands from the cold, wind and rain. Waterproof outer glove covers help keep your hands warmer because they will be dry and out of the wind. The lobster style of gloves are very good when you will be riding in cold temperature.
Cold feet on a ride will make you miserable! Wear two pairs of socks. A plastic bag between the socks will help keep your feet warm. Neoprene booties are also extremely effective keeping the feet warm and dry. If you do not want to buy booties cover the front of your cycling shoe with duct tape.