6 Things to Know Before Braving Freezing Temps On Your Bike
Just because it’s February doesn’t mean you have to store your bike away until the spring thaw…right? Well, mostly right. If you’re geared up properly and the conditions on the road aren’t too treacherous, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a chilly winter bike ride. But you might have to do a little extra strategizing to make sure your adventure is as safe as possible. Here, we’ve laid out six important things to think about before hitting the pedals during a cold snap, from the best ways to dress to the smartest bike storage options. And please, don’t forget to wear some gloves!
Ask Yourself If It’s Too Cold
Yes, seriously. Before heading out on a sub-zero day, ask yourself if you’d be ok walking or simply standing in the current conditions. If the answer is no, you might want to reconsider your trek. This is definitely a super safe approach to winter biking, but stuff happens. Your bike chain could break, your tires could go flat or your battery could run out of power, which means you’ll end up slogging through snow or ice to get to your destination or even back home. When winter weather makes you doubt your biking trip even a little bit, consider this one of those ‘better safe than sorry’ type of situations.
Dress Strategically (And By That We Mean You Better Layer Up)
To risk sounding like your mom, you should put on a few layers before heading out in the cold. Much like every other outdoor winter activity, you’ll want to dress strategically for winter biking so you’re warm enough but not too bundled that you end up sweating incessantly.
A trusty base layer, like long johns or even thermals, will be your best friend during these cooler months. You can wear these under your regular clothes but you might want to top off your ‘fit with a waterproof winter jacket, since no one wants to end up soaked after a freezing rain, sleet or snowstorm. Gloves are a must, to keep your fingers feeling toasty and to help you keep an ample grip on the handlebars and brakes. If your ears start to feel frozen after even a few minutes outside, you can rock a cycling cap under your helmet for an additional layer. But if you’ll be braving brutal winds or really low temps, go all in with a balaclava that will keep your entire face—save for your eyes, of course—protected from the elements. Finally, grab your thickest socks (or maybe even two pairs) and consider opting for waterproof footwear if it looks like you’ll be traversing slushy puddles at any point during your ride.
And, seriously, trust us when we say that you’ll never regret throwing an extra layer in your bag. Whether you end up soaked after encountering inclement weather or you find that you simply didn’t dress warm enough, it’s best to be over prepared so you can actually enjoy your bike ride. It’s a much better alternative to being absolutely miserable because you’re just so cold.
Winterize Your Bike
This might sound counterintuitive, but you’ll want to keep your tire pressure on the lower side during winter. This allows your tires to have more contact with the road and gives them an extra boost of traction, so you can confidently tackle unseen patches of ice and any other slippery conditions. However, we should warn you that cold air will naturally reduce your tire pressure, so you might find yourself with a flat if you’re not checking the tire pressure regularly. We’d suggest quickly checking your tires right before you head out during the entirety of the winter season. You can thank us later.
Tires aside, you should also keep visibility top of mind. Since it tends to get darker earlier in the winter—and range of vision can seriously plummet quickly during storms—it’s in your best interest to make sure your Bluejay is easily visible to other riders and drivers. Check that your front and back lights are working and consider rocking some additional reflective gear, just to be extra safe.
And Winterize Your Riding
Don’t approach riding in January the same way you would in July. Be vigilant for slushy puddles when taking turns and also when approaching bridges or overpasses. You’ll want to slow your roll, quite literally, as you might not have enough time to avoid an obstacle in the road or bike path, especially if the pavement is already slick. And speaking of slick, remember that you should never try to brake on ice. You should be fine to ride across slick stretches of road at lower speeds, but hold off on stopping or turning until after you’re back on clear ground.
When You’re Done, Clean Your Bike
Snow, rain, ice and the salt that’s thrown down on the roads can do a number on your bike’s gorgeous paint job—and all of the other really important features that keep you moving. So while you might get away with washing your bike every few weeks in the spring and summer, you’ll need to be a bit more attentive when it comes to keeping your two wheels squeaky clean during this time of year.
After a particularly messy ride, get in the habit of wiping down the entire frame of your bike, from the handlebars to the brakes. Pay close attention to your chain and drivetrain—and be sure to recoat both with lube before storing your bike. If you’re a frequent rider, go ahead and pencil weekly bike cleanings into your calendar; you’d be surprised how much gunk accumulates on your brakes.
If you have the option, store your bike indoors to keep it clean and safe from the harsh conditions outdoors. If that’s not an option, try to park your bike in a place where it’ll be safely tucked away from the elements, like a porch or even under your building’s overhang. When all else fails, you could always buy or create a little cover for the utmost protection.
Don’t Forget About Your Battery
While we did design your Bluejay to be used for all-year-round adventures, keep in mind that the cold can affect your bike battery. More specifically, chilly temps will drain your juice quicker than warm weather. If you spend a lot of time riding in the winter, you’ll need to charge your battery more frequently. If at all possible, disconnect your battery and bring it indoors when you’re not riding your bike, especially overnight, to help maintain its life. Why’s that? Well, your battery will maintain its charge for longer if you start your ride with a warm battery. Keep in mind that these changes are temporary and totally due to the chilly weather—come spring and summer, your battery will be back to running at full capacity.