We are fans of winter riding for many reasons: you sweat less, typically experience less exhaustion, see less traffic on your favorite routes, and maintain your fitness level. When your friends are suffering through the pain of early season riding, you will be rolling along like you never stopped riding...because you didn’t!
What to Wear: Thin Layers Always Win
In the winter, you should be a little chilly when you start a ride. If you are warm before you start pedaling, you’re definitely overdressed and will be cooking inside your Carhartt overalls before you hit the first climb.
All you usually need in the winter is a wicking base layer, a second thin layer, a jacket, hat, gloves, and riding shoes. For really cold days, add a balaclava/ski mask to keep your face and neck warm.
ALMOST-PRO TIP: To keep from putting on cold gear when you arrive, drive to the trailhead with your gloves and riding shoes on. Don’t put your riding shoes and gloves in the cold trunk or your hands and feet may never warm up. On really cold days, blast the car’s heater on your feet so your tootsies are toasty when you start your ride.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Choosing the Right Tires
In winter conditions, moving from narrow, light tires to more aggressive treads and heavier tires can make the difference between pedaling comfortably to your next coffee stop and a catastrophic wipeout.
Running a durable and wider tire gains you traction and the weight adds to your training. Since you are most likely going to ride less and be less active, beefing up your bike for winter riding conditions will make you a stronger rider when the temperatures warm up and you return to your lighter set-up.
ALMOST-PRO TIP: Riding on tires with lower air pressure makes riding on leaf-covered trails, damp rocks, and wet roads easier. The softer tire has a wider footprint for traction and those hidden and wet obstacles don't come as quite a surprise when your tire has better bite and absorbs the initial shock.
Don’t Get Caught in the Dark: Keeping it Bright
A proper lighting kit for road riding includes:
a bright flashing taillight
plenty of reflective surfaces
helmet-mounted front and rear lights improve your chances of a trouble-free ride
When riding off-road, a good lighting setup includes:
a bright, bar-mounted light
a lightweight helmet-mounted light
a tail light if you are out with other riders.
ALMOST-PRO TIP: If possible, choose a rechargeable lighting system. These tend to be higher quality. Some systems can be charged from your laptop, car power port, or even from portable phone battery backup units. Battery-powered lights tend to be cheaper initially, but you’ll be spending money replacing batteries regularly.
Winter Bike Maintenance
Keep it clean: Lightly wash your bike whenever it's starting to look grimy and/or wipe the bike down with WD-40 to keep dirt from sticking.
Keep it wet: Use a chain lube that is intended for wet conditions. Dry and wax-based lubes don't flow well in cooler temperatures and tend to leave the chain vulnerable to rust.
Keep it slick: Shifters, derailleurs, and cable-actuated brakes tend to lag when temperatures get below freezing. Keep those cables and derailleur pivots lubed with light oil so the controls snap back as they should.
On a budget?
Your best investment is in good winter shoes and tires. You can compromise in most other areas but, you don't want your ride shortened due to cold feet or a flat tire.
Get out and rideIf you’re a regular winter rider, we look forward to seeing you out there. If you’ve never ridden in the winter, we hope these tips inspire you to get out and enjoy your bike rather than letting it get dusty in the garage.
If you’re not yet ready to commit to riding through the winter and are planning on shelving your bike until spring, keep an eye out for next month’s post with tips on storing your bike for the winter to make sure you’ll be ready to ride when the warm weather returns.
Keep an eye on our website or email newsletter for more tips on biking and planning for the Katy Trail. Remember that we're here year-round to help you with trip planning, gear selection, outfitting, and more. We love to talk about the Katy Trail and riding, so stop in anytime to chat.
Eat well, ride often!