Marin's Essential Accessories for Winter Commuting By Bike
It's that time of year again! Here are our top tips for commuting by bike through the fall, winter and into the spring.
Spinning Through The Snowy Season
Commuting by bike, or just riding a bike for everyday trips, is a fun and financially-friendly way to stay fit and healthy.
But what happens when the seasons turn, the temperature drops, and the rain (or even snow!) starts to fall? Do you jump back into the SUV and swap bike lanes for heated seats? Heck no!
With a bit of preparation, some affordable winter cycling gear and a positive mindset you’ll be spinning through the snowy season and into the spring.
Here’s the Marin Bikes guide to the essential accessories and equipment you’ll need for cycle commuting through a cold, dark and wet winter.
All of the photos you see here come from Marin Ambassador Andrei Jordi who is happily commuting through a -10°C winter in Finland!
Great Gear, Great Ride
Sensible winter cycling clothing is a must for your winter commute by bike.
A warm base layer under a waterproof jacket will see you right in most conditions. You can add a thicker mid-layer if it’s really cold. Our Marin Bikes Merino jersey, produced by our friends at Soigneur in New Zealand, is a perfect mid-layer for the winter.
Warm gloves with a windproof or insulated back are great for winter cycling as your hands will chill-out much quicker than the rest of you. In really extreme conditions, bar mitts or pogies are the next level of hand protection, but make it harder to move your hands around.
Your feet also need a little extra help on your winter cycle commute. Decent winter cycling boots can be quite an investment, but are worthwhile if you plan to ride regularly. Neoprene overshoes are a less costly way of puddle-proofing your regular riding footwear, although most are only designed to work with clipless pedals.
Waterproof socks won’t necessarily keep your feet dry, but they’re a good way of keeping your feet warm, as are thick woollen ones. If you run flat pedals or you're on a budget, take the left-field option and just wear your warmest hiking footwear.
And Learn From Experience
Don’t forget your head. Most cycling helmets are designed to funnel air and keep you nice and cool, which isn't ideal in the winter. Wool cycling caps aren’t just a hipster fashion statement: wearing one under your helmet can keep the rain out of your face and extra heat in your body. A thin cap or one of those stretchy neckwarmers can also make for a useful extra barrier between your head and the elements.
The rest of your winter cycling gear is down to how far you’re riding and what conditions will be like.
If your commute is short or low-intensity, you can happily don full waterproofs and ride in regular clothes. If you’re exerting yourself more, cycle clothing that’s quick-drying and comfortable may be preferable to trying to keep the elements out. Cotton is generally a bad idea in winter.
Synthetic fibers soak up way less water than natural materials, although wool does a good job of keeping you warm when it’s wet. Try a few different clothing setups and see what works for you (and don't forget about that Marin Merino Jersey!)
Winterize Those Wheels
They don’t tend to score any cool points, but mudguards or fenders are a godsend for commuting by bike in the winter. Your feet and butt will stay much drier, and you also won’t be splattering your fellow bike commuters with spray from the road.
All of Marin’s commuter and gravel bikes are equipped with the necessary mounts for mudguards. If you want your fenders to be a fashion statement, the Muirwoods RC comes with custom color-matched ones for a practical but stylish year-round ride.
It’s also worth a look at your tires. All of our bikes come with year-round tires that should suit most riders but that can be easily switched out for winter-specific rubber. If you’re regularly riding on looser, less-even surfaces this could be a great shout to add a bit of comfort and confidence.
And don't forget your luggage. Keeping your stuff dry can be as simple as putting it in a plastic bag or in a backpack, but there are loads of great options for watertight bike luggage, from high tech panniers to old school cotton duck saddlebags. Whatever your budget, keep your dry clothes and electronics wrapped up in your bag so they arrive as safe as you do!
Light It Up
Shorter daylight hours make decent lights an essential winter cycling accessory.
You’ll need a white light on the front of your bike and a red light on the rear.
For anyone riding shorter, well-illuminated routes you can rely on mid-power bicycle lights that are designed to make you visible to other riders and traffic. These are usually lightweight, quick to charge and not too bright that they'll dazzle other cyclists.
Many riders, however, will be hammering-out their winter commute on dark, wet roads and pitch-black and slippy rural lanes. For these types of rides, we’d recommend bigger, brighter lights that have plenty of lumens (the measure of brightness used for lights) and a decent battery capacity. These more powerful lights don't come cheap but are essential to ride safely in the winter.
For the serious mile munchers who never want to run out of juice, dynamo lights have caught up with the 21st century, and the newest hub dynamos are compatible with thru-axles, disc brakes and powerful LED head units.
The Marin Lombard drop bar commuter takes things even further with a reflective paint job to keep you safe and seen.
A Little Bit of Love (and a whole lot of chain lube!)
Wet conditions will take their toll on frames, brakes and drivetrains. You'll need to show your bike a little more love when commuting in the winter than you would the rest of the year.
We’d always recommend you start your winter cycling season with a quick service. Harder conditions put their toll on components quicker and getting stranded with broken gears or worn-out tires is extra annoying in the dark. You can find your nearest Marin Bikes dealer with the Marin Dealer locator.
Using a decent wet weather chain lube will mean you’re not wasting any watts, and regular cleaning plus not storing your bike in a damp cold place will mean fewer corrosion-related mechanical issues down the line.
All of our urban bikes come with dependable, confidence-boosting disc brakes for year-round performance, and some, like the Marin Presidio series, have internal hub gears that keep the vulnerable bits of your drivetrain safely hidden away.
Also a top tip from the Marin team. Don’t forget to keep your bike lock well oiled - there’s nothing worse than a rusty lock and a bike that's stuck at the office!
A Big High Five to Winter
If you keep your bike habit up through the winter, don’t forget to pat yourself on the back once in a while.
And even though they can be challenging, winter commutes by bike can be some of the best rides of the year. You'll see lots of sunrises, you'll enjoy the lengthening days, and you'll be out on a bike when many people are sat in a stuffy box waiting for their windows to de-mist.
That's got to be worth it, right?
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