There are five bits of specialized biking gear for cold weather that help keep this cargo biking mom rolling year-round.
While I have several years of experience commuting daily in damp and wet Vancouver winters and a couple winters of mountain biking in the snow under my belt, 2018 was my first season of regular daily commutes in snowy winter — the past few winters I have gained my confidence and competence with scattered trips throughout winter, building my skills and figuring out what I need to make things work. Hopefully, my lessons learned will help you gain the skills to transition to be a year-round rider, too!
This post is all about winter-specific gear.
5 Key Pieces of Biking Gear for Cold Weather
We run Schwalbe Marathon Winter studded tires on our cargo bikes. My husband has a set of thinner tires from 49North, too. Honestly, sometimes I wish that I could find a bit wider studded tire for our CETMA, but the Schwalbes are the only 20″ studded tire that I’m aware of.
I highly recommend studded tires. They are serious confidence boosters and I find them extremely useful in our Calgary climate, where we usually have fluctuating temperatures all winter long that lead to freeze/thaw cycles.
Be prepared to choke a little when you buy them though; chances are it’ll set you back $200 CDN, give or take, to stud up your bike. Privileged-yet-budget-conscious me is also motivated by committing to something by making this kind of “investment”; it’s enough cash that I’d really be hard on myself if I didn’t use it; so, I use it! Never fear, they last a long time (and your non-studded tires will last longer, too, since you’re spreading the km’s over two sets of tires now).
Full fenders. These will keep you and your bike a heckuva lot cleaner. Simple Planet Bike fenders have always been good to us. I initially forgot to include these in my post because I clearly take them for granted! So. Effective.
If you’re worried about what size or style to get, head on down to your local bike shop (LBS) and they’ll be able to help you out. If your bike does not have braze-ons, never fear, a little creativity and patience (or an awesome service department at your LBS with said traits) can solve the problem.
Pogies upped my comfort level immensely. I never used them in Vancouver, but picked up a pair last winter and their ability to block wind was a game changer for me. I recommend taking your bike to the shop when you buy them as there are different styles to accommodate differently shaped handlebars. I use a pair of Bar Mitts brand pogies in their Moustache handlebar style to fit on our CETMA. Check out these super cozy looking (not to mention stylin’) Basil brand pogies that Lana Stewart has:
If you’re the crafty sort, you could sew your own. Check out Coldbike’s shop for some Calgary-made pogies, too.
For those who wear helmets, definitely get a thin toque (aka skullcap) for your noggin, preferably one that covers your ears. This year I’ve moved to a Bern helmet that I got a cozy winter liner for and it rocks my world. My girls are both wearing this set-up in mini with the Bern Nina (winter liner):
The only thing that I don’t like about this style of helmet is that I can’t hear as well, which has been weird (and revealing as to how much I rely on my sense of hearing when moving in the city…); I find myself shoulder checking even more and I should probably get a mirror.
Cold temps make my eyes water. Snowflakes make my eyes water.
I have gotten away with using my sunglasses most days, but that doesn’t work at all if you are commuting in the dark. Some people opt for ski goggles, especially in extreme cold; they can provide extra warmth by protecting half of your face from the wind, and perhaps you already have a pair if you downhill ski (which means one less piece of gear to acquire).
I have a pair of clear lensed, cross-country ski googles or cycling style glasses on my wish list. When we lived in Vancouver, I had a pair of super cheap pink lensed Ryder-brand glasses and they worked find at cutting the wind and keeping rain out of my eyes. They were my happy glasses. I think light coloured lenses (pink, yellow, or orange) are great, but not for dark.
In 2017, I used clear safety glasses from Home Depot. I liked the strap they had on them so that if they did fog up at all, I had the option to whip them off my face quickly and they’d just dangle around my neck. This year I have got prescription glasses and they’ve worked well so far for keeping ice crystals out of my eyes, too, just not as great a coverage as the safety glasses.
If you use social media at all, I’ve found the online biking community to be really strong and awesome on Twitter, in Calgary and other cities. Hopefully you can find likeminded folk doing what you do or venturing into what you want to do! This can be a useful resource for figuring out what works best in your community for your conditions, but also a place for moral support, normalizing what you do, and daily trip reports!
There are bikey hashtags for all of the major cities in Canada, for example: #yycbike, #yegbike, #yvrbike, #tobike, #ottbike, #yulbike, etc.
Reach out and find your bikey Tweeps! It’s a great low commitment way to start to get involved in your local biking scene. You never know where it might take you…
Keep riding all winter long because you can. Because it is an awesome way to start the day. Because it is peaceful. Because we’re Canadian and we have a winter that we might as well embrace. Because YOLO.
I hope that this brief gear guide helps you keep rolling. Keep watching for more posts.
Anything else you use? Advice to share? Other questions about special equipment for your bike? Comment away, below…
Other posts in this series
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