Winter Wheels

Tips for cold-weather bike commuting. 

For many southwest Montana residents, winter means the start of ski season, but that doesn’t mean that cycling season has to end. Here are some tips for winter cycling to keep it safe, warm, and fun.

As the days are shorter and cars sometimes drive with foggy or snow-crusted windows, it’s important to be visible. Front and rear lights aren’t just a good idea; front lights and rear reflectors are the law. You can wear a yellow, reflective outer shell that really shines in headlights. Reflective construction vests also work great and are inexpensive. Approach all intersections with caution and, as always, obey the rules of the road. 

Appropriate Tires
Studded tires are safest on ice, and carbide studs last for years, even when ridden regularly on the often-dry pavement. Mountain-bike tires or fatbikes do well on the snow, but you need to be more careful on ice

Fingers, Toes, Ears & Nose
You’ll be pleased by how warm your body stays when generating energy by riding in the winter, but pay extra attention to your extremities as they’ll feel the cold the most. Bar mitts and balaclavas are good bets. 

Fenders are necessary for keeping the slop and slush off your clothes. If your bike doesn’t have fenders, they’re easy to get installed on most bikes at a local bike shop

Clean Chain and Gears
Because of the snow, slush, salt, and sand on the streets, your chain and gears will get dirty faster. It’s important to keep them from getting too dirty in order to prolong their useful life, so clean and lube them regularly. 

Tire Pressure
Lower your tire pressure just a bit for better traction on snow and ice

Seat-Cover Baggie
A small plastic baggie works great to cover your seat while the bike is parked to keep the seat dry in snow or rain. 

As always, if you have any further questions or need any help getting set up, stop in to any one of our awesome local bike shops and they’ll be glad to assist. See you on the streets!

Kirk Ahlberg is the former president of the Gallatin Valley Bicycle Club.