Five Dangers of Winter Cycling

Winter riding can be just as enjoyable as summer riding. It just takes a little more preparation. It only takes a few more minutes to add some extra layers to stay comfortable. So you can continue to see the same benefits with warm weather.

What is different about winter riding is the road conditions. Here in Colorado, it only takes a few days till the roads are all but clear. Even after it snows 6-8”, a few days later, you can expect it to be 60 degrees and the snow is just a memory.

No matter where you bike, you need to be aware of these five hazards on even the clearest of winter rides.

view of the foothills from Cherryvale Rd
view of the foothills from Cherryvale Rd

One: Dress warmly. Even if it is sunny, the temperature may still be cool. That may be okay while standing in the sun, but traveling at 20mph, the wind chill begins to take effect. Make sure you have the proper gear, or your easy training ride can turn into a bad experience.

Two: Use winter tires. Winter tires will have greater grip in wet or snowy conditions. It is tough enough negotiating a decent and curves in perfect conditions. Add a little snow or rain to the mix, and you have a recipe for disaster. Let’s face it, no matter how hard you want to hit your ride, you still have to go to work in the morning. The right tires will give you an extra layer of protection.

Table Mesa in the Distance
Table Mesa in the Distance

Three: Watch out for changing conditions. As you ride from a sun lit area, to a shady area, you may encounter snow or ice that has never melted from the fair weather. Bus stops may have an additional snow built up on the shoulder. Driveways may also have ice built up from cars on the shoulder. Or it may begin to snow or rain while on your ride. Make sure you have an extra jacket to keep you dry.

 

Four: Roadside debris. Typically I ride on the shoulder. I pick routes that have a wide shoulder so I can stay out of traffic. You would be amazed how much junk is picked up by a snowplow. As that debris is pushed to the side of the road, it becomes indistinguishable from the sand on the shoulder. Stay out of that sand to avoid sliding, tire flats, or worse. You may not see that piece of metal in the road before it is too late. Or if you do see it, you may not have room to avoid it if there is traffic next to you.

 

Five: Looks of amazement. I have caught people staring at me while riding in the winter. “Is he nuts?!” “Does he realize how cold it is out there?!” “That doesn’t look fun.” Oh, but it is fun. Yes, it is cold out here, and I am properly dressed so I feel great. And while I am out here, I hope to inspire someone else to think about what is possible as I pedal by with grace.

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I have talked with many cyclists who continue to ride well into the winter months. It is really all about being prepared for what the weather may bring. Many make their biggest fitness gains during this “off season”. As we look to create some goals for the cycling season, it is not that difficult to watch out for these pitfalls that can ruin your ride. You will have even more opportunities to be prepared for a strong spring season.