Whether this is your first winter biking experience or you simply want to be better informed, take the time to read these tips from the 2 roues, 4 saisons campaign of ENvironnement JEUnesse.
CLOTHINGTip: It’s like cross-country skiing! When you go out biking for more than 10 minutes, your choice of attire depends on your tolerance for cold. Ideally, you should feel a bit chilly when you first leave and then start warming up after the first few kilometres. If you feel warm when leaving, you may find that third layer of polar fleece unnecessary after a few minutes of pedalling!
On your headSummer helmet + tuque + neck warmer: Feel like having your first winter biking experience, but don’t want to invest in all kinds of specialized clothing? Just wear a thin tuque under your helmet, along with a neck warmer!
Winter helmet + neck warmer: The ultimate! A winter helmet is the one you can also wear skiing. Equipped with integrated earmuffs and designed to accommodate your ski goggles, this helmet is perfect for braving winter on two wheels! Just remember to wear a neck warmer, since this helmet does not protect your neck... its only shortcoming!
Ski goggles: In cold or snowy weather, put on your ski goggles to prevent your eyes from freezing or block out snowflakes. A must-have for the four-season cyclist.
JacketsWaterproof, breathable jacket: (5°C and +) Ideal for a rainy fall day! The jacket protects you from wind and water and minimizes perspiration, especially if it is equipped with back vents and underarm zips!
Waterproof, breathable jacket: (-5°C to + 5°C) At this temperature, conditions are difficult to predict. The important thing is to stay dry, because being damp at -5°C is not fun, especially if the wind picks up. Always bring along a waterproof jacket which not only cuts the wind, but protects you from slush and dirt.
Winter jacket: (-5°C and under) When winter arrives with its glacial winds and swirling snowflakes, you have to protect yourself! In these conditions, a winter jacket is the best solution. A cross-country ski jacket with good ventilation is ideal, but your good old winter jacket also fits the bill. And in extreme cold? Just add a base layer.
Gloves and mittensNeoprene gloves: (5°C and +) Neoprene gloves are ideal for keeping your hands warm, even in the rain!
Split finger gloves: (-5°C to + 5°C) Choose a winter glove with three fingers for more dexterity.
Mittens: (-5°C and -) Since the extremities are the first to freeze, protect your hands with a good pair of warm mittens. If you are sensitive to the cold or if the temperature dips under -15°C, you can wear thin gloves inside your mittens.
PantsWaterproof, breathable pants: (5°C and +) In rainy weather, you will be perfectly comfortable in these pants. They can be worn over shorts in the summer and over pants when the mercury drops.
Waterproof, breathable pants: (-15°C to + 5°C) In the winter, wearing waterproof, breathable pants over your cycling outfit will keep you warm and prevent you from getting dirty.
Waterproof, breathable pants: (-30°C to -15°C) In cold weather, it is important to protect yourself from the wind and stay dry. Wearing waterproof, breathable pants over long johns or warm pants will do the trick.
FootwearRain boots: (5°C and +) Wear an old pair of rain boots to keep your feet dry over short distances. Otherwise, expect your feet to get wet… from perspiration.
Shoes + waterproof shoe covers: (-15°C to + 5°C) Slipping waterproof shoe covers over your favourite shoes will protect your feet, without compromising your style once you arrive at your destination.
Winter boots: (-30°C to -15°C) Warm winter boots are recommended, provided that your feet rest comfortably on your pedals.
BIKEHave a bike and want to ride it during the winter? There is no perfect bike for cold weather – every cyclist has his own preferences. So to get initiated, you can definitely use the good old bike that gets you around every other month of the year!
Tip: Before leaving, make sure that your brakes and gears are working properly and that your chain is well lubricated. Also, given that the roads are wet in winter, protect yourself and others from grimy spray by equipping your bike with full-length fenders.
Tip: Things freeze in winter! Always remember to keep a small bottle of bike lock de-icer in your bag or coat pocket in order to avoid starting your day late and in a bad mood. (very affordable and convenient, available in hardware or bike stores).
Active lightingIn winter, the days are shorter and you will often be biking in the dark. To stay safe, equip your bike with lights – white in the front and red in the back.
Tip: If your route is dimly lit, you will need a headlight of about 150 lumens or more to help you see clearly. On a well-lit route, a headlight of 60 to 150 lumens will help other road users see you.
Tip: Since cold weather is tough on batteries, remember to recharge them frequently or carry spare lights.
TiresTip: If the road is slippery, you can reduce the pressure of your tires. However, be careful not to go below the minimum pressure recommended by the manufacturer (follow the directions indicated on the edge of your tires). A slightly softer tire will give you better grip.
Studded: Designed for snow, cold and ice, these tires will provide good traction on slippery roads thanks to their studded ridges. However, they are quite expensive. They are also heavier, making for a slower, more challenging ride.
Cyclocross: Multipurpose, inexpensive! Since they are quite narrow, they effectively cut through snow, even in deep layers, to the pavement. However, they do not perform well on ice. Bike with caution. Affordable price.
Mountain: Also very affordable, these wide studded tires hug the road well, even in wet conditions. However, they do not provide the same traction on snowy or icy surfaces. Bike with caution. Affordable price.
SpeedsDerailleur(s): This is the most conventional system on the market, since derailleurs are usually affordable and quite reliable. However, they can freeze in extremely cold weather. It is therefore advisable to opt for a ratio that suits us and avoid changing speeds.
Internal Gear Hub: Since the gears are protected inside the hub, there is practically no risk of breakage. The system functions effectively under all conditions, although it will weigh down your bike. It is also a bit more expensive.
Single Speed (fixed and standard cog): The fewer the parts, the lower the risk of breakage! However, since there is only one speed, it is sometimes more difficult to get going. Be aware that the free wheel of the standard single speed can freeze in extreme cold. And fixed cog enthusiasts should have at least one emergency brake!
BrakesOn rims (V-brake, cantilever): Their jaws close on the rim of the wheel. This type of brake is quite effective, although less so when the road is wet. Be careful of ice when the temperature fluctuates. Also the rims and brake pads tend to wear out prematurely in winter.
Backpedal: Since it is integrated into the hub, it is a very reliable system, regardless of the conditions. However, the bicycle will be more inclined to skid with this braking system; a minimum amount of practice is required before hitting the road, and a backup brake is recommended.
Disc: This system is very effective under all conditions, but is quite fragile. It requires a bit of maintenance and, depending on the quality, is relatively expensive compared to other braking systems.
Drum: A good choice in all weather conditions. A sustainable purchase that requires little maintenance, since it is protected from bad weather. However, the emergency braking is less reliable than other systems – keep your distance! Weakness: it is very heavy and requires a compatible hub.
SeatTip: Consider slightly lowering the height of your seat at the beginning of winter. The icy road and difficult conditions will sometimes require you to put your foot on the ground quickly to come to a stop or keep your balance. You can raise it again once the warm weather returns!
MaintenanceWatchword: lubrication! Don’t forget about your chain – otherwise, you may have to forget about winter biking! Use a more viscous chain lubricant than in the summer, so that it lasts more than 24 hours under damp conditions. However, remember to wipe off the excess with a cloth to prevent it from accumulating dirt as soon as you clean it. You can then apply a more liquid lubricant, if necessary.
Also consider lubricating other bike parts (braking system, spoke nuts, derailleur, drive, etc.) a few times during the winter, in order to improve performance and reduce the risk of freezing.
Watch the video clips below or visit 2roues4saisons.org to learn more.
1 - Aux portes de l'automne
2 - Prêts à affronter l'hiver?
3 - Pourquoi pas?