Bad-Weather Bicycling: 4 Tips to Stay Warm, Safe, and Dry

Bike more comfortably whether in rain, snow, or just frigid temperatures.
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Illustration by Jennifer Luxton

Clothing

Dressing properly is your first line of defense. You should always be cold before your ride begins. Your body will produce heat soon after you start pedaling, and if you’re overdressed, you’ll probably overheat.

That said, layering is important. With two or three layers of clothing to work with, you can always adapt to your surroundings. Avoid cotton: When cotton gets wet, it stays wet. If it happens to also be pressing against your skin, it will keep you cold. Instead, try a base layer of a synthetic fabric like polyester or nylon underneath a second layer of wool or fleece.

Eyewear

It’s important to protect your eyes from the elements, but it’s equally important to maintain visibility. Ski goggles can really help bad-weather commuters. People who wear eyeglasses often find them fogging up during their ride, so here’s a tip for the four-eyed crowd: Apply a light coat of gel toothpaste to your lenses before riding (carefully, to not scratch them) to prevent inconvenient fogging and keep your eyes on the road.

Tires

One of bad weather’s biggest biking hazards is the risk of sliding tires. If studded tires are too expensive, you can punch screws or bolts through the rubber. Make sure to tape up the inside of the tire where the homemade studs are to prevent any sharp metal bits from popping your tubes. Another solution is zip ties (if you have disc brakes). Just tie and tighten them all around both wheels so they stay on the outside of your tires.

Don’t forget this low-maintenance trick: Let out some air from your tires before starting your commute. This will make the tires flatter as they come into contact with the road, increasing the amount of rubber on the ground and making slips less likely.

Maintenance

After a long workday and terrible weather, the last thing you probably want to do is work on your bicycle. But safety requires checking out your bike immediately after use. Wipe it down, dry the chain to prevent rust, and make sure everything is still working properly. If you take proper care of your bike, your bike is more likely to take proper care of you.

One last tip: When it’s freezing out and you’re between commutes, keep your bike indoors in an unheated room. Sudden extreme temperature changes can adversely affect a bike’s performance.