Tips and resources

25 tips for new riders commuting in winter

With the right attitude, gear and a little know-how, winter commuting can be every bit as enjoyable and even more rewarding than summer riding.

Riding through winter

While there are plenty of reasons to keep riding through winter, it’s fair to say when the weather turns sour it can still be tempting to leave the bike parked up at home. However, if you can stay motivated and keep riding through the cooler months, commuting by bike year-round is the perfect way to maintain and build fitness while also saving on public transport tickets, petrol and gym fees.

Read on for our top 25 tips for new riders who want to ride through winter.

Get motivated

One of the biggest barriers to winter riding is finding the willpower to get outside and onto your bike. You know you’ll feel great once you get rolling, but it’s easier said than done. Like any challenge, setting achievable goals is the key to staying motivated.

1. Sign up for a spring event, such as the Great Vic Bike Ride or United Energy Around the Bay. This will encourage you to use your commute as training and gives you a tangible fitness goal to work towards.

2. If you don’t want to ride through hailstorms, gale-force winds or rain that’s completely fine! Instead of riding five days a week and beating yourself up over missed days, aim for three and count extra rides as a bonus.

3. Reward yourself and put the money you save towards your favourite post-ride coffee and pastry.

4. Recruit a riding buddy. It’s harder to give up when you know someone else is relying on you.

Gear up

Having the right gear for both you and your bike is fundamental to a comfortable winter ride.

5. Layer up! Thin, breathable layers are more comfortable than a large jacket and can be removed as you warm up. Start with a merino base layer to wick moisture away from your skin.

6. A wind-proof vest or gilet keeps your core warm without restricting arm movement.

7. If you’re rugging up with a scarf, tuck the ends into your vest or jacket to avoid them flapping around and potentially getting tangled in the bike. Alternatively, opt for a neck warmer or buff.

8. Keep your hands warm with good quality windproof gloves with good grip.

9. On rainy days… 

  • Don a soft-shell rain jacket, ideally with a longer tail to protect your behind from road spray, and mesh panels or zippered vents for breathability.
  • There are waterproof socks available (though they’re largely too warm for the Australian climate) but it’s often easier to opt for merino wool socks (two pairs when it’s cold) and invest in waterproof overshoes or toe covers – they’ll protect your feet and shoes from wind, rain and road grit.
  • Clear glasses can help stop spray up in the eyes or a peaked cap under the helmet can also help improve your visibility

10. A skullcap, beanie or cycling cap under your helmet to trap heat and keep your noggin warm, just make sure your helmet is properly adjusted to accommodate the extra headwear.

11. With winter’s shorter days, it’s likely that you’ll ride at least part of your commute in darkness. In low light conditions, you’re legally required to run a white, front-facing light and a red, rear-facing light visible from a minimum 200m. For more information, check out our bike lights resource and bike lights buyers guide.

12. High-powered lights can ‘blind’ other riders and pedestrians. If you use one, point it downwards to light your path and run an additional, regular light for added visibility if necessary.

13. Mudguards/fenders are a winter must-have. You can get adequate coverage with an Ass Saver (damp roads only) or invest in a full-length set. They’ll not only save your legs and backside, but they’ll also prevent you spraying other riders.

14. If you are carrying gear, a waterproof backpack or panniers are well worth the investment. To be doubly safe, store valuables in a zip lock plastic bag and carry and extra set of socks and jocks in a separate waterproof bag. Detachable waterproof back-pack covers are also a cheaper investment to keep your existing bag dry.

15. If locking your bike outdoors, save yourself a wet bum by protecting your saddle with a plastic cover (a shower cap will do the trick).

16. With more grit on the road in winter, chances of a puncture increase. Reduce your risk by switching to puncture-resistant tyres.

17. If you’re running skinny tyres, it’s worth switching to something fatter and grippier to prevent sliding on wet roads. You can also increase grip by lowering your tyre pressure by 10 PSI. Be sure to check your tyres for debris at the end of each ride to minimise your puncture risk.

18. Running clip-in pedals will prevent your feet slipping off the pedals. If you’re not confident riding clipped in, opt for grippy pedals and shoes.

Roll out

As the weather changes, so do conditions on the road and you need to adjust your riding accordingly.

19. Slow it down. In winter the roads are often wet and cluttered with debris left over from storms. Puddles can conceal potholes. Surfaces may be slippery or muddy and low light conditions impair visibility. Lowering your cruising speed will give you more time to anticipate and react to unexpected obstacles.

20. On wet days, water and grit accumulate on your wheel rims, making it more difficult for the brake pads to grip. Begin braking early, lightly applying pressure to the brake levers to squeegee water from the rims. This will also minimise your risk of skidding out.

21. In wet weather, approach corners wide and slow to avoid slipping. Painted and metal surfaces, such as lane markings, grates and tram tracks, become slippery when wet. Approach these surfaces at a minimum of 45° (preferably perpendicular) and avoid braking until you’re safely across.

22. Keep your bike clean. In wet weather, mud and grit accumulate on the rims, chain and sprockets and wear down your brake pads and drivetrain. After mucky rides, rinse your chain and remove grit by running it backwards through a clean cloth, then use a second cloth to remove water and grit from your rims.

23. While the dark affects visibility, bad weather and even the low angle of the winter sun can make it hard to see others on the road. Every road user has a responsibility to be aware of their surroundings whether walking, on a bike or driving a car. In these situations:

  • Don’t be afraid to take the lane when an unobstructed bike lane isn’t available. At traffic lights, position yourself in front of the traffic and look back to make eye contact with the driver behind to confirm they’ve seen you.
  • Where possible, avoid queuing to the left of cars where you may be in the blind spot of left-turning traffic.

Added extras

24. Check the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) to plan for possible rain and wind. In saying that, foul weather rarely lasts, so you can also check the rain radar before you ride and reschedule your ride to avoid particularly heavy downpours.

25. If you do get caught in a deluge, dry your shoes in time for the ride home by filling them with newspaper.

Enjoy your ride!

While it can be hard to leave the house on cold mornings, being equipped with the right gear and adapting your attitude and riding style to the conditions makes commuting in poor weather both doable and enjoyable.

Not to mention you’ll still get plenty of absolute ripper mornings like this 📷

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