Tires with studs and pogies: Tips for cycling in winter

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There’s no reason to give up cycling just because it’s winter, but there are some sensible steps you can take to be both warmer and safer when the days are cold and the roads icy.

Above all, the right clothing is essential. “Good breathable, rain-repellent, and windproof sportswear is relatively expensive, but absolutely worthwhile,” says Jürgen Grieving, a spokesperson for ADAC, Europe’s largest motoring association.

“Many people freeze in winter, although they are warmly dressed on their torso,” says Arne Bischoff of German cycling organization pd-f. “The solution: windproof gloves and an under-helmet cap.”

Instead of gloves, pogies are also an option. These are mittens that fit over a bike’s handlebars and protect cyclists’ hands from the cold while leaving their fingers free for braking and gear shifting.

Keep your feet warm

You can also get warmers for your feet, namely overshoes and gaiters. They are more suitable for commuters than winter cycling shoes because you can pull them over your everyday shoes. Warm winter socks also shouldn’t be forgotten.

Depending on the length and nature of your cycle route, you’ll sweat even when it’s cold. It’s therefore advisable to wear underwear that quickly wicks away moisture and ideally fits snugly over the entire body.

According to pd-f, a high proportion of merino wool is ideal. A fleece is suitable as an insulating or intermediate layer, while the outer layer ideally should consist of windproof pants and a jacket with a breathable insert on the back.

Cycling in winter conditions

Cyclists can effectively increase their visibility on dark winter days by attaching reflective elements to their feet or legs. “They attract a lot of attention due to the whirling movement of the legs,” Bischoff says.

When cycling in winter the same tips apply as for car drivers. Maintaining a safe distance from other road users and parked cars becomes more important, as longer braking distances are to be expected in icy conditions.

Obviously you should slow down too when there’s a risk of slippery roads.

“When the ground is slippery, you should neither pedal nor brake in curves,” says Susanne Grittner from German cycling organization ADFC.

If braking can’t be avoided, it’s advisable to use the rear brake mainly and even then only moderately: “If the rear wheel locks, that is easier to control than a locking front wheel.”

On black ice it’s safer not to try to steer out of it, but rather to let the bike roll along on its course. That reduces the risk of falling over.

Reducing your bike’s tire pressure can help in winter conditions as this will increase the contact area with the road. You can also get winter tires that have a softer rubber compound and a ribbed construction that optimizes grip.

Pedelecs also need care

Cold has an adverse impact on the batteries of electric bikes. According to Jürgen Grieving, the battery should only be charged once it has reached room temperature. “If it’s too cold, it won’t charge fully,” he says.

You can buy special battery sleeves made of neoprene to keep the battery warm when riding in the cold.

Whether you’re riding an e-bike or a normal bike, mudguards are always a good idea to keep off dirt and snow, also to protect sensitive components.

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