Cycle Commuting Tips For Winter

Durand Coldicott | Mon 12th Jun 2023 14:14

Have you stopped riding your bike because it's too dark and cold? It doesn't need to be that way. With a little preparation and the right gear, cycling in NZ is possible 12 months a year. Here are our top tips for commuting through the cooler months.

Holy sh#t it's cold!

Yep, it’s that time of year again—winter. If you are thinking about hanging the bike up until the weather warms up (which you could do with Steadyrack), think again! Perhaps it’s just a matter of preparation and a few handy tips to make commuting via bike in winter a bit more comfortable. Here are our top tips for riding through the colder months.

Tip #1: Reduce the windchill

Ever heard of the wind chill factor? In simple terms, the colder the air temperature and the higher the wind speeds, the colder it will feel on your skin. The wind chill factor is the same effect that causes you to blow on hot soup to cool it down. The movement of the air increases the soup's loss of heat by convection, so the soup cools down faster. Think of yourself as the soup in this example, except it’s the winter air rushing past you as you ride your bike in the frigid cold. This effect is particularly pronounced when riding a bike in winter, and the faster you ride, the stronger the factor.

So what? Blocking the wind through windproof materials will often keep you warmer than wearing bulky clothing. Focus on areas prone to rapid heat loss, such as the body's core, and sensitive areas such as your head, ears, eyes, fingers, and toes.

Shop Winter Clothing
Layer up with a windbreaker, thermal layers and cover exposed skin to reduce windchill.

Tip #2: Good gloves = warm hands

Don’t mess around when it comes to your fingers—invest in a good quality set of winter gloves or be prepared for discomfort. You can always take off your gloves if you warm up, but it’s a lot harder to warm up cold fingers, not to mention how miserable it makes you feel during the ride when you start losing feeling in your fingers. It’s pretty hard to enjoy the journey when you’re focusing on your numb digits.

As outlined in tip #1, wind chill is the biggest problem here. Your summer MTB gloves might be great for grip, but the construction is full of holes, meaning wind rushes straight through the fabric when travelling at fast speeds. Look for a set of gloves that have either a windproof membrane or a less porous material such as neoprene (the stuff they make wetsuits from).

Shop Winter Gloves

Tip #3: Be Seen

It seems obvious, but motorists will have a hard time seeing you on the road when it’s dark out if you're not lit up. If a driver doesn’t see you, then, well… Let’s just say you and your bike won’t win in a fight with a car should it come to blows. That’s a big ouch or dead!

Let’s avoid that nasty collision scenario from ever happening by using a good set of bike lights and some high-visibility aspects on your clothing. This could be a full high-vis jacket or as little as reflective taping on your clothes. In general, the brighter the clothing, the more contrasting you will be to your surroundings, and thus you’ll stand out to motorists. Yes, we know, black is always in fashion, but it doesn't pop in terms of visibility. If you want to be seen, light yourself up like a Christmas tree and have peace of mind that other road users will see you before it’s too late.

Another tip: the same rule applies even when the sun is shining. It’s still important to use daytime running lights on your bike and wear clothing that stands out when riding on the road. High-visibility clothing will help you be seen in all conditions.

If in doubt, assume that the driver hasn’t seen you and always be prepared to take evasive action.

Shop High Visibility Shop Lights

Tip #4: Mudguards and fenders

Mudguards and fenders serve two main functions: 1) minimise water and mud splatter on the rider, and 2) they help protect bike components from unnecessary wear and tear. In winter, they become particularly useful as the riding surface is typically wetter than in the summer. Having a wet behind when you are already cold is not a very nice experience, so a mudguard will help.

There are a few options for guards, and the style you can use will heavily depend on the type of bike you ride. Full coverage fenders are a great option for permanent commuter bikes as they provide the best protection. However, in many cases, these will need to be bolted to the frame, which makes them not compatible with all bikes. Alternatively, there are universal mount options that can clip to the seatpost or saddle in the rear, or the fork in the front of the bicycle.

Shop Mudguards

Tip #5: Preventative maintenance

Like with most things, the best type of maintenance is preventative. Don’t wait until the bike is broken before you think about fixing it. This doesn’t necessarily mean taking it into a bike workshop regularly, but instead just focusing on some small preventative maintenance tasks you can do yourself at home.

Firstly, clean your bike often. Winter brings wet conditions and with that road surface contaminants such as water, grit, and motor vehicle oils find it easier to get onto your bike. The bike chain and cogs (drivetrain) are the most important parts of the bike to keep an eye on and regularly maintain. If you are going to do just one thing often, it should be cleaning the chain and reapplying lubricant. Water is corrosive, and an unlubed chain in winter is just asking to rust and seize.

Secondly, not only can these contaminants damage your bike's components over time (particularly the drivetrain), but they also have the potential to contaminate your bike's braking surfaces as well. Contaminated brakes may result in noisy braking or a loss of braking power. To help reduce the chance of contamination, disc rotors may need a wipe with a clean rag after a damp ride, or if conditions have been really bad, a spray with a bike-specific brake cleaner will help prevent the disc pads from absorbing contaminants.

Finally, if your bike starts making strange noises or a creaking sound that you can’t identify or fix, get it checked out sooner rather than later. Noises don’t go away with time; they tend to develop into bigger, more costly problems. Would you drive your car around with the engine light on or when it starts making unnerving sounds while driving? A bike should be no different.

Learn more about winter bike maintenance Shop Maintenance

Tip #6: Indoor Bike Storage

We’re pretty fortunate in NZ that most of us have space to store our bikes indoors, whether in a garage or shed of some type. Storing your bike out of the elements is key to keeping it in good condition. There is no point in cleaning your bike just to leave it outside in the elements afterward. The warmer and drier your bike is stored, the better. This is particularly true for electric bikes—electronics hate the damp.

What is the best indoor storage solution, you might ask? Well, that’s an easy one. Steadyrack vertical bike racks offer the ultimate space-saving bike rack solution that will keep your bikes organised and securely stored. Steadyrack bike racks are easy for anyone to use, save lots of space, are engineered and built to the highest quality standards, and get your bikes up and out of the way safely, with no lifting required. The unique loading and pivoting design of these space-saving bike racks enable you to store your bikes in locations that

Learn more about Steadyrack Shop Steadyrack

The bottom line

You can ride your bike 12 months of the year in New Zealand, with just a little preparation and appropriate bike maintenance. Yes it’s colder in winter, yes it’s a little less comfortable, but there are upsides too.

Firstly, it's good for your body and will help you get ready for swimsuit season. Cycling is a fantastic form of exercise that engages multiple muscle groups and improves cardiovascular fitness. Embracing winter cycling allows you to maintain your fitness level and stay active throughout the year.

Secondly, riding your bike in winter will save you a fortune in fuel costs. With rising fuel prices, commuting by bike can significantly reduce your transportation expenses. It's a cost-effective alternative that not only saves you money but also contributes to reducing your carbon footprint.

Thirdly, you're less likely to arrive at your destination a sweaty mess compared to the summer commute. The cooler temperatures make for a more comfortable ride, and you can enjoy the crisp winter air without the worry of arriving at work or other engagements dripping with sweat.

Lastly, cycling in winter is a cleaner form of transport and better for the environment than adding another car on the road. By choosing to bike instead of drive, you're actively reducing air pollution and congestion on the roads, making a positive impact on your community and the planet.

So, don't let the winter weather deter you from commuting by bike. With the right preparation you can continue enjoying the benefits of cycling all year round.

Let’s ride!

About the authors:

Durand Coldicott

Durand is the eCommerce leader at Evo Cycles, heading up the website team for the business. He has been in the outdoor industry for the past decade and riding bikes for about the same amount of time. A keen mountain biker, trail runner and hiker, Durand moved to Nelson in late 2019 to have better access to the outdoors. 


Recommended Products