Our Annual “Winter Warriors” Article

Some of you may have noticed that the crew here at Bikecommuters.com doesn’t write too much about bicycle commuting in winter…with most of the staff in balmy southern California and myself in SW Florida, we don’t get too much experience riding in the cold.

Nevertheless, we have complete and undying respect for those brave souls out there who commute year-round…through snow, ice and freezing rain, bitter winds and chilly temperatures. Last year, we offered a couple of photographs of some of our favorite “winter warriors”. You can check them out by clicking here.

Reader James Haygood sent in a great photo for us to share with the rest of our readers. He took this photo from his hotel room overlooking Lake Michigan in Chicago:

snow bike

Click here for the full-size version

That’s an awesome sight…ice and snow is no deterrent for these hardcore cyclers!!!


  1. Rick December 29, 2008 6:26 am 

    This is the first year I am planning on riding throughout the winter. It is not as bad as it seems. In fact, there has only been one morning where I got chilled – not even cold. I would suggest that everyone tries it before thinking it cannot be done.

    Here’s a winter cycling photo from last winter.


  2. ksteinhoff December 29, 2008 6:49 am 

    We riders in South Florida define “cold” a little differently.

    Here’s an account of the perils of Florida winter biking:


    And here’s an account of braving 79-degree weather.


    Tourism must be down. We’ve had milder temps than usual this winter. My theory has been that all those Yankee cars coming south with ice and snow on them lowers the temps. Fewer cold cars = warmer temps.

    That’s my theory and I’m stickin’ to it.

  3. Iron Man December 29, 2008 7:14 am 

    Temps in my area hover between 15 to 35 degrees F in Winter with around 10 being the coldest I’ve yet to encounter. I tell folks that I deal with the same issue in Winter that I do in Summer, which is managing excess body heat. As is evidenced by the striptease I do outside in an attempt to dump heat before going in to the building. The outcomes of too much heat cause drastically different problems between the two seasons, but folks are shocked to learn I’m toasty warm while riding. In fact I rely on moving to keep me cool. Stop at a light or fix a flat and I start to overheat…for a while.

  4. Ghost Rider December 29, 2008 7:34 am 

    Rick, that’s a cool article…I’ll know where to come when it is snowing and I’m all out of beer!

    I wonder if an Xtracycle handles inherently better in snow due to the long wheelbase? Any comparisons from you “winter warriors” ?

  5. Val December 29, 2008 10:30 am 

    Here’s my commute after a recent snow: http://tinyurl.com/49haj4 Things got much worse in the week thereafter, but I still managed to get where I needed to be by bike. Now we’re back to pouring rain and darkness – normal, that is. And, yes, Jack, the long wheelbase makes Xtracycles pure fun in the snow – until it gets deeper than 8″ and lumpy; but then, nothing works well in the really lumpy stuff.

  6. Clancy December 29, 2008 3:08 pm 

    The longer wheelbase gives you time to make a correction much like in a car. There is only draw back of the Xtra in the snow. It has more places for the “road soup” -snow, slush and grit to accumulate.

  7. Raiyn December 29, 2008 3:11 pm 

    No sir, I don’t miss that.

  8. Dottie December 29, 2008 8:48 pm 

    Awesome picture! I’m a Chicago year-round cyclist. That’s my route to work everyday. Studded tires and a sense of adventure help.

  9. Ghost Rider December 29, 2008 10:32 pm 

    Dottie, tell us more about this route…our photo contributor was sparse on the details.

  10. Quinn December 30, 2008 10:31 am 

    Finally This winter (thanks to Christmas) I finally have a SS/studded tire/fendered bike, just in time for a move back to the snowy part of Reno, and am looking forward to testing the bike in the next snow, even though my daily rig (urbanized 29er) handles phenomonally well in the snow

  11. jhaygood December 30, 2008 12:52 pm 

    That’s my photo, and it’s the bike path that runs along Lake Michigan and in this spot Lake Shore Drive. The part you see here is just north of Navy Pier and then Grant Park, etc. Even walking there was a bit tricky, ice patches and such. Hearty souls…

  12. Ghost Rider December 30, 2008 1:14 pm 

    Thanks, James! That really helps pinpoint the area for me and the rest of our readers.

  13. Chip Haynes December 31, 2008 5:27 am 

    Man, that photo of cyclists along Lake Michigan looks COLD. Winter in Florida presents some different hazards: The air cools down, but the sun still heats the earth. That means all of our reptiles are out sunning themselves on the asphalt to stay warm. The first rule of cycling in Florida: Do NOT bunny-hop the alligator’s tail. He does not find it amusing, and he really is faster than you.

  14. Iron Man December 31, 2008 12:20 pm 

    Anyone have problems with the rear derailleur freezing up at temps in the teens? The beard also freezes up. I had a nice coat of ice on mine when I got to work.

  15. Donaldo December 31, 2008 12:49 pm 

    I ride year round in La Crosse, Wisconsin and we’ve had some cooler than normal temps this year. I moved here from Chicago and learned while there that dérailleurs are no good for winter time gunk and freezing temps.

    I switched to an internal gear hub which works pretty well until it gets down around 10 degrees F. It’s a little sluggish then (my bike remains out of doors), I think whatever oil is inside my hub starts to coagulate. Not sure what to do about that but pedal harder, and it’s usually better going home when it’s a few degrees warmer.

    If you ride in the cold, I can’t recommend Poagies highly enough. I wear a pair of medium weight wool gloves under mine and stay pretty toasty. In fact I was sweating when I arrived at work the other day after a 5 mile ride into a headwind on a 4 degree day with -20 degree wind chill. They keep the wind off my hands and warm my forearms which seems to have some magical warming effect on the rest of my body. I couldn’t commute by bike without them.


  16. Andrew December 31, 2008 1:06 pm 

    My best winter bike is an old 10 speed converted to single speed with knobby cryclocross tires and upright, swept back handlebars. I may convert this to fixed gear for even better traction.

    The knobbies help on rutted snow but for sheer ice studded tires are essential.

  17. travesty December 31, 2008 7:22 pm 

    You don’t have to be hardcore to ride in winter. All you need is to know how, and have some skill.

    Good gear will help keep you warm, and the right bike might operate better or require less care, but pretty much any bike and ride in winter. Not necessarily on every combination of snow and ice, but you would be surprised what is possible to ride on once you try. Salty roads will rust the bike up surprisingly fast, so cleaning it becomes necessary more often. It sucks when your chain gets a new layer of rust in as little as a day, so you have to stay on that and keep it clean.

  18. Donaldo January 1, 2009 7:37 am 

    I agree with travesty. The most important tool to winter riding is the desire to ride. If you have that you’ll figure out what works for you and develop the skills necessary to do it in the process.

    Other than using poagies, I don’t change my bike at all between winter and summer, I just adjust my riding to the circumstances. Every cyclist does that. Winter just adds some new twists.

  19. Dottie January 1, 2009 9:09 pm 

    As jhaygood said, it’s the lake front path that runs along Lake Michigan almost the entire stretch of the city from north to south. The park district plows and salts the path after snow, except for the section in the picture because, I’ve been told, several years ago a plow truck slid down the ice and almost fell into Lake Michigan, one tire hanging over the edge (the path slants down slightly toward the lake at that section). This is the one place I’ve fallen, before the studded tires. Here’s a picture of that spot from the ground level that I took this summer. To the right is Lake Shore Drive and downtown (Gold Cost area) and you can see the ferris wheel of Navy Pier ahead.


    And another more recent (but snow-less).


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