Have you ever been stuck in traffic as cyclists zip by you, completely unaffected by the gridlock that you’ve found yourself in? That model of efficiency by itself is a great incentive to commute by bike, but what happens when the temperature really dips during the winter months? Simple — you just need to have the right gear. If you have a nice collection of ski and snowboard gear, you’re already pretty well set!
While not a piece of gear, having traction is easily the most important thing you can do for your bicycle as things get slick, snowy, or slushy. After all, it doesn’t matter what you wear if you’re not able to keep the bike upright and those wheels rolling. The Kenda Klondike tires features anywhere between 100 and 400 carbide-tipped metal studs, depending on the tire type and size, that bite into the ground. Tires built for slick conditions are well worth the investment, especially if they can save you from a nasty fall.
You probably already have a bike helmet, but those are often designed for maximum airflow and won’t do anything to help keep your head warm. That said, wearing a thick hat under a helmet can also negatively affect the effectiveness of the helmet, which is not something we recommend risking. Instead, look to your snow gear for a helmet. We’ve taken the Smith Vantage for a winter ride around Minneapolis, and it did an admirable job of keeping the cold air out when all its vents were closed.
If you’re going to go with a snow helmet, then you may also want to opt for a pair of goggles. Unlike other recommendations on our list, however, going with a snow-specific model isn’t necessarily the answer. Potentially long waits at stop lights could lead to fogging, so mountain bike goggles like the Smith Squad MTB are probably better suited for your snow-riddled commute given their increased ventilation. For those really cold and windy days, Abom snow goggles have heated lenses to keep things fog-free.
Keeping your hands warm is critical for both comfort as well as being able to squeeze those brakes when it’s time to slow down, especially in an emergency! Once again, reach into your snow gear stash and find the warmest gloves you’ve got that don’t impede your ability to operate the hand controls. We like the Dakine Titan Glove (womens model is called the Sequoia) because it’s warm, includes removable liners, and has a Gore-Tex membrane to keep things dry inside. The options are virtually endless, and you could even wear surgical gloves inside an old pair of gloves in a pinch.
If you’re aspiring to be an all-season cyclist, then flexibility is key. Going with a waterproof shell will mean that you’ll be protected from both snow and drizzle, but since cycling is an aerobic activity that’ll make you sweat, you should look for one with a good waterproofing and a breathable membrane. OutDry Extreme is a strong rival to Gore-Tex, and Columbia’s put it to great use in its top-of-the-line Diamond hard shell (womens), which is one of the best values on the market today. It’s completely seam-sealed, wicks moisture from the inside to out, and has abrasion-resistant panels on the shoulders so your backpack won’t easily wear down the jacket. If you’re looking for a larger range of motion, check out the OutDry EX Stretch Hood when it arrives in the spring.
If your conditions aren’t that extreme and you’re looking for an ultra-breathable option, the Lululemon Einn shell features a cape vent that helps expel air that enters through the front pockets. The cape vent opens with each vertical motion, too, so the more vigorous your activity, the more often the vent will open. With subtle, reflective details and lightweight construction, it’s also a great running jacket.
Dedicated cyclists will go for winter tights, but casual bikers will want to keep it a little more everyday-looking. You’re going to need pants with a good bit of mobility while cycling that are also able to withstand (and resist) the inevitable splashes you’ll encounter on the road. Snow pants are often too heavy-duty and baggy, which could mean contact with your bike chain, and rolling up snow pants looks silly. Thankfully, the Columbia Titan Peak pants (womens) offers four-way stretch and articulated knees for a full range of motion, and comes with a belt to further customize the fit.