Winter biking

A bike can be ridden in virtually all winter conditions. You likely already have everything you need to ride in most winter weather. But, you may want special equipment in some extreme conditions. Only you can determine which conditions you feel comfortable riding in, and what equipment you like to do so comfortably. While everyone has their own strategies and preferences staying comfortable in different conditions, here are a few general guidelines:

Start simple

If you are new to winter biking, try opting for shorter rides on days with nice weather and road conditions. Try longer trips and harsher conditions as your comfort and skill level increases.

Go slow

Road and trail conditions are less predictable in the winter. Slow down and use caution on slippery surfaces. Remember: you can always pull over and walk your bike.

Check your bike

While you should always check to make sure you bike is ready to ride before you go, this is especially true in winter. Icy, cold, wet conditions can make the parts on your bike wear down more quickly. Road salt can also take a toll on bikes. See maintenance for details.

Check the weather

Conditions can change fast. Check the weather forecast before you go and plan accordingly. You may need different clothes if the weather changes.

Bring extra clothes

Carrying extra clothes like spare socks and warm layers can come in handy if your clothes get wet or the weather changes.

Remember your lights

Less daylight in the winter means you have to use lights more often. A front light and rear light or reflector are required at night.

Have a backup plan

Have a plan if you encounter an issue or conditions become unfit for biking. A few options: phone a friend, take the bus or use Metro Transit’s guaranteed ride home program.

Bikes and equipment

You do not need a special bike or equipment to ride in the winter. However, depending on the conditions and your skill and comfort level, certain bikes and equipment may improve your experience. Here are a few general tips:

Dedicated winter bike: Some folks choose to ride a different bike in the winter. This can be a bike with wider tires, or just something they don’t mind getting dirty.

Wide, knobby tires: Wide, knobby tires are not required but they can improve better traction in snow and make uneven road surfaces more comfortable.

Studded tires: Studded tires are tires with metal studs that can help with traction on icy surfaces. You do not need studded tires but if you are worried about riding on ice you may consider one or two studded tires.

Lights: Less daylight in the winter means you need to use lights more often. A front light and rear light or reflector are required at night.

Fenders: Fenders help keep you and your bike clean and dry. There are many different designs. Visit your local bike shop for options that will best fit your bike.


Dressing comfortably in the cold is key to enjoying your ride. While you do not need special or expensive clothing to ride in the winter, you might need some additional layers to stay comfortable. Check out the clothing and gear section for details.