Fall & Winter Cycling

Fall & Winter Cycling is a very different experience from riding your bike in summer. Find out how to outfit and take care of your bike when cycling in the Fall or Winter and your basic needs as a cyclist.

Outfitting Your Bike for Fall and Winter

  • Install fenders - prevents dirt, mud, rain, or snow from spraying up onto your back and into your bike components.
  • Lower your saddle - this will lower your centre of gravity and also make it easier to get your feet down flat on the road and to start off sitting in the saddle when things are really slippery.
  • Think about adapting your tires - tires that are wider, have lower pressure, treads or studs will be more effective at riding in ice and snow.
  • Think about adapting your brakes - disc brakes have better stopping power than rim brakes when wet.
  • Ensure you’re visible - you’re more likely to be riding in the dark, so ensure you’re as visible as possible.  Typically, 100 lumens is a good benchmark for being seen, 300-500 lumens for seeing clearly ahead of you. In brighter parts of the city, 20-100 lumens will do. One white front light and one red rear light + rear reflector are required by law from 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise.
  • Consider buying waterproof accessories for your bike - waterproof backpacks or panniers, and waterproof covers for saddles can be useful! You could also buy a waterproof cover for backpacks or panniers.
  • Consider buying clothing for yourself - layering is the key! Focus on moisture-absorbing inner layers that are breathable and a waterproof outer layer. Keep your head, neck, and body dry and warm. 
  • Consider buying accessories for yourself - gloves, gloves, gloves! If you’re going to buy one piece of equipment, this is the first step! There are lots of different types out there, we recommend a thinner glove and a waterproof over-glove, you can also buy overshoes, thermal socks, and winter boots for your feet.

Cold weather care for your bike 

  • Wipe the rims of your tires after every ride. Mud or grit from the road is more prevalent in the Fall or Winter and when it builds up can cause your bike to age faster than if it was clean.
  • Check if your brake pads are worn, and replace them if they are. 
  • Check the tread on your tires, and replace your tires if they’re worn down.
  • Try to oil your chain and clean your bike more regularly than you would in other seasons.

Riding tips - your basic needs  when cycling in the winter

Slippery conditions require extra care when cycling - here are the four basic needs that you need to think about when cycling.

The need to MOVE.  As a cyclist, you need to be able to react to other road users & road conditions, so it’s important to leave yourself as much space as possible, and avoid squeezing between other road users so that you are able to move where necessary. 

The need to be SEEN.  Cyclists are one of the smaller and less visible users of the road, therefore, you want to place yourself in the sightline of other road users as much as possible and stay out of blind spots. Fall and Winter means a later sunrise, an earlier sunset, and grayer days so be sure to wear bright or reflective clothing even when cycling during the day. At night you’re required to use lights, but we recommend using them all the time as studies have found that lights during the day can lower your risk of being hit by 47%. Make sure you have one white front light and one red rear light + rear reflector mounted on your bike or person.

The need to be CLEAR.  You should use all tools at your disposal (hand signals, bells, horns, eye contact, and body language) to communicate clearly with others. People driving cars have slower reaction times when the roads are wet so giving advance notice of what you’re doing is extra important in Fall & Winter. 

The need to do what is EXPECTED. What you do on the road should never be a surprise to anyone. That means following the rules of the road,  and riding in straight lines wherever possible. 

General advice: Consider your current skills and comfort levels and set some realistic goals, there’s no need to go hardcore or buy all the equipment straight away. Focus on getting a few key pieces of gear to keep you warm, dry, and comfortable. Make sure you celebrate every small win, whether it's a ride to get a treat in cold weather or getting to work!

What's next?

Make sure to have a read of our other web resource pages on e-biking, route-planning, cycling with children, basic bike maintenance, and cycling in the fall and winter. We also have a HUB resource page that has a lot of helpful information about cycling in Metro Vancouver

If you want to take your learning a step further, check out our free StreetWise Cycling Online resource that can help you begin your cycling journey with confidence. 

We are running a webinar on Fall & Winter Cycling on either the 21st of September (register here!) or October 12 (register here!). Once the webinars have happened, a recording will be uploaded to this page, where you can also find all our webinar recordings. 

Want to take a cycling course in person? We run courses for the general public and can also run courses for your workplace or community.