4 Tips to Prepare for Winter Bike Riding in DC

Today may be the shortest day of the year…but the upside is that tomorrow, the days are only getting longer!  Even though the sunlight is scarce this time of year, that doesn’t mean that bike riding season is over.  With a little knowledge and practice, winter bike riding can be a rewarding and fun activity.  We’ve put together a few helpful tips for riding in the cold months.

Winter riding is not an all or nothing activity.  Get started slowly and work up to your level of comfort.

  • Use the Metro’s bike policy to your advantage–ride your bike part way, ride the metro the other part!
  • Keep an eye on the weather and ride every other day or every third day.

The most important part of cold weather riding is your clothing.  Outdoor retailer REI recommends wearing just enough clothes to be slightly cold when you start pedaling. The first few minutes may be chilly, but your body produces a vast amount of heat when riding a bike so you’ll warm up quickly.

  • They also recommend wearing a base layer underneath your outerwear–soft shell and water resistant jackets are good options.
  • Other necessities: head coverage, like a wool stocking cap (or helmet liner) worn under your helmet is sufficient for most days, along with waterproof gloves and thick socks.

Winter in DC means a lot of slush and rain, so be sure your tires offer a good grip on wet surfaces—that’s the most important thing. It’s also a good idea to run them at a lower pressure than you would in the summer. Our mechanics at our Union Station location would be happy to help you get your bike winter-ready.  We’re open from 9-5, Monday-Friday.

Assume that you will always be riding in darkness and have bright lights for both the front and back of the bike. Look for the brightest bike lights you can find, preferably those that cast a wide viewing angle. Visibility is VERY important for safety in the winter months–you may not realize how much you and your bike can fade into landscape when it’s snowy/foggy–so make sure to always have your lights!  Our Union Station shop has lots of great light options as well!