Introduction To Winter Cycling

11 Sep

Note: This article is the first installment in a series of articles on winter cycling. I hope to have the entire series finished by November and then publish it as a free PDF book that you can download from this website (the working title is, “A Guide To Winter Cycling”).

I started cycling in the spring of 2002 because of major health problems I’d suffered with over the past winter. With a change in my diet and several hours a week on my bike I was able to drop 60 pounds and get into decent shape. However, when winter came I stopped cycling and put on about ten pounds. The next year I determined to ride as long into the winter months as I could—and I found out I could handle temperatures down to about freezing. Over the next few years I kept experimenting with clothing and gear and can now easily ride in temperatures down to -20F (-29C). By the way, I live between Chicago and Milwaukee and the temperature rarely gets any colder than that.

My Surly Necromancer Pugsley on Lake Michigan

Surly Necromancer Pugsley With A Shimano 8-Speed Internal Geared Hub

Since most “winter cycling gear” is made in Europe it is usually not suitable for the harsh winters we experience in the Upper Midwest. As a result, every fall I used to visit the local ski shops and sporting goods stores looking for gear that I could adapt for use in winter cycling. However, last year I didn’t have to buy hardly any new gear—that is when I realized I had finally figured out how to ride in brutal conditions, stay warm and have a great time!

Gary Fisher Big Sur with Shimano Alfine 11-Speed IGH

Gary Fisher Big Sur With A Shimano Alfine 8-Speed Internal Geared Hub

When I started winter cycling I was riding an inexpensive Trek 4300 mountain bike—I just added a cheap pair of steel studded snow tires. Later, I put an Shimano Alfine 8-speed internal geared hub onto a Gary Fisher Big Sur mountain bike so I could ride through the slush on off-road trails, then put an Shimano Alfine 11-speed internal geared hub onto a Trek 1200 road bike so I could ride on the roads that were covered with sand, salt and slush without having to worry about my gears jamming. Finally, I bought a Surly Necromancer Pugsley Fat Bike with 4″ wide steel studded snow tires—this puppy will go through about anything winter can throw at you!

Trek 1200 With A Shimano Alfine 11 Internal Geared Hub

Trek 1200 With A Shimano Alfine 11-Speed Internal Geared Hub

There are many advantages to riding in the snow and ice. For example, you never have to worry about mosquitoes, sunburn or overcrowding on the trails! In addition, you don’t have to put up with those guys in the team jerseys who have never been on a team—they spend all winter in their basement riding on their training wheels, I mean trainers, while watching reruns of The View.

An Old Photo Of My Trek 4300 After An Ice Storm

An Old Photo Of My Trek 4300 After An Ice Storm

Winter cycling is a lot of fun if you have the right gear. When people ask me about how difficult it is to ride in the snow, I tell them that the hardest part of ride is the first 500 feet as you leave your garage.

In the next few installments in this series we are going to talk about getting your bike(s) ready for winter and the gear needed to help you enjoy your ride, along with several articles about the different pieces of clothing you need to stay warm. If you are considering buying a Fat Bike for this winter I would strongly suggest you check out because those guys have a lot of good information about the new bikes on the market.


Posted by on September 11, 2013 in Fat Bikes, Winter Cycling


Tags: , , , , , ,

48 responses to “Introduction To Winter Cycling

  1. Wild Juggler

    September 11, 2013 at 5:18 AM

    Great post! The part about those guys on training wheels watching the View all winter was hilarious!

  2. tischcaylor

    September 11, 2013 at 5:47 AM

    Very inspiring!

  3. elisariva

    September 11, 2013 at 6:04 AM

    So glad you are writing this! I most likely will e getting a cross bike soon for winter riding!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 11, 2013 at 9:53 PM

      You shouldn’t have any trouble riding all winter in your area with a cross bike. Which one are you getting?

      • elisariva

        September 12, 2013 at 3:33 AM

        I looking at the Trek Gary Fisher Ion. It is more entry level but I could use it for racing too if I get that brave!

        • All Seasons Cyclist

          September 12, 2013 at 8:18 PM

          The Trek Gary Fisher Ion is an excellent bike! I hope you two will be very happy together!

        • elisariva

          September 12, 2013 at 8:21 PM

          Thank you 🙂

  4. bgddyjim

    September 11, 2013 at 6:40 AM

    Hey! I resemble that crack about the guys in team jerseys – all but the part about actually wearing a team jersey, I know the rules of decorum. Looking forward to the series!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 11, 2013 at 9:55 PM

      Glad you can take a joke! I hope to have one article a week about winter cycling for the next two months or so.

  5. Jorma (@JR_AlwaysTooFar)

    September 11, 2013 at 7:41 AM

    Greetings from Finland. Very nice to know other winter cyclist. I do the same here in Finland. I have ridden 200 km DIY brevets even in mid of the coldest winter time December to February 2 years now. Luckily we have some “warmer” days during these months (no more than -20C) so I have been able to ride these trips. We, too, have sometimes very cold (-32C or so), but it is not an excuse not to ride at least short 30 km ride. Looking forward to your next part of Introduction to Winter Cycling.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 11, 2013 at 10:16 PM

      Great to hear from you! Finland sounds like a wonderful place for winter cycling! As I publish these article you are more than welcome to add any suggestions you might have — I am sure other readers would benefit from it.

  6. bgddyjim

    September 11, 2013 at 8:00 AM

    Oh yeah, no re-runs of The View (though “Spectacle” would have been a bit more on the mark, no?) either!

    I’m a movie kind of guy.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 11, 2013 at 9:56 PM

      OK, you had me worried for a while thinking that you were watching The View (that’s a good way to get your “man card” revoked).

      • bgddyjim

        September 12, 2013 at 1:47 AM

        Immediate and permanent revocation.

  7. Still a Runner

    September 11, 2013 at 8:19 AM

    Looking forward to this series. With friends/relatives in your corner of the world, I hang out there occasionally and have done some fairly frigid winter runs.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 11, 2013 at 9:57 PM

      I do see a FEW runners out on the trails in the heart of winter — when the snow is deep that have a lot harder time than I do.

  8. MikeW

    September 11, 2013 at 10:04 AM

    I think this blog is getting more people interested in winter cycling than would have even considered it. I refer people to All Seasons Cyclist quite a bit!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 11, 2013 at 9:58 PM

      Thanks for the referrals! I just one of those people who can’t stay inside without going crazy.

  9. d2

    September 11, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    Looking forward to this series. I love being out in cold weather and I have the gear for our chilly, wet Pacific Northwest Winters. My only problem is gloves. My fingertips get uncomfortably cold, even double gloved. I’m trying a combo of winter bike gloves and REI wind/rain resistant gloves.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 11, 2013 at 9:59 PM

      Keeping my hands warm was the hardest part to figure out — i finally got it done but made a LOT of mistakes along the way.

  10. jessicawylie

    September 11, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    I am loving this already. I have a few questions for you, you say you live between Chicago and Milwaukee. Does that mean you ride in an urban area or do you ride on the outskirts of a town, or you are from a small town, etc. I’m just wondering if that would make a difference in the bike you ride or what part that has to play on the tires you use. My point is—does location matter when it comes to biking in the winter and the type of equipment you use to get around?

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 11, 2013 at 10:04 PM

      I live in a medium sized town that has a LOT of traffic — so I have to ride on busy roads for about ten miles until I can get out into the country (across the Illinois state line and into Wisconsin). Once I am on the back roads of Wisconsin I pretty much have the road to myself — until I turn around to head home.

      The only big difference is how much lighting and reflective gear I need in town — on busy roads cars are a LOT less likely to see you than on lonely country roads.

  11. Frank Burns

    September 11, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    You have to be committed to keep cycling in those conditions. Bravo!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 11, 2013 at 10:04 PM

      People have often told me that I “needed to be committed” (usually for psychiatric observation). 🙂

  12. thegracefulcyclists

    September 12, 2013 at 6:13 AM

    Awesome as always!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 12, 2013 at 8:15 PM

      Thank you so much!

      • thegracefulcyclists

        September 13, 2013 at 3:26 AM

        No worries, I thought riding to work at four degrees C was bad. Eitherway sounds more enjoyable than commuting at greater than 45deg C if you want to consider my end of the temperature spectrum.

  13. Lisa

    September 12, 2013 at 9:01 AM

    It will be close to 100 degrees again today on my neck of the woods. Thanks for giving me a moment to imagine what cold feels like.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 12, 2013 at 8:17 PM

      What does riding at -20 feel like? Just go to your local butcher shop and spend a few hours in the meat locker. For the full effect you need to have someone turn a fan on high and have it blow directly into your face — then have someone start throwing ice cubes at you.

  14. Eric

    September 12, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    Really looking forward to this series! If you could, I’d love to see your take on traction concerns as well. While keeping warm enough is certainly an important point, so is staying upright. Would love to hear your take on just how far we can push when there’s snow and/or ice to contend with. I’ve dumped twice in the past couple of months just contending with wet railroad tracks. As I look at my still healing knee, the idea of icy patches on the commute is less than desirable at this point, you know?

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 12, 2013 at 8:20 PM

      I’ll cover traction in an article on winter tires. For me, the most dangerous part of a winter ride is when I transition from dry pavement to ice or from ice to dry pavement — one wheel has great traction and the other has none!

  15. Alana Henkel

    September 12, 2013 at 5:40 PM

    I winter biked for the first time last year in Montreal. My derailleur is shot from all the muck, but my legs have gotten much stronger from the one gear it is locked into. I can’t wait to read what you have to say on winter biking! I loved it–even the ice wipe-outs!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 12, 2013 at 8:22 PM

      Muck can do a lot of damage to moving parts. However, while riding on the ice I have had a few “unplanned dismounts” (“crash” is such an ugly word).

  16. Norton Geddie

    September 14, 2013 at 7:13 PM

    Really, liked this. Looking forward to more. I live in SC, so no real excuse not to ride in the winter. I need to man up this year, get the right clothes and get out there.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 14, 2013 at 9:40 PM

      South Carolina? Do you even have “winter” there? Every time I’ve been there I’ve just about died from a heat stroke! How cold does it get in the winter there?

  17. kevinmayne

    September 15, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    I have never missed so many days to snow and ice as I have in the past 3 years in the UK and Belgium. Global climate change is a real thing for us. I thought I had set-ups that would handle almost anything but it hasn’t stood the test.

    I saw my first Surly fat bike at Eurobike just a few weeks ago. If the pattern continues this year I might just be tempted!

    Looking forward to the series, I’m certainly open minded now.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 15, 2013 at 8:38 PM

      You ought to get a Fat Bike even if it doesn’t snow — they are great on sandy beaches and off-road trails as well.

  18. Dra Martha Castro Médico WMA

    September 18, 2013 at 7:41 PM

  19. Alex

    September 19, 2013 at 3:30 AM

    Wow that looks cool (Excuse pun). I ride all year round, but do not have to contend with snow so much. Tends to be mud and much in UK. However, when I do get out on the ice it tends to be on my Giant XTC. I dont have chunky tyres as such, just normal mtb 1.8s for winter, but I do drop the tyre presure.

    Looking forward to your book and if you post it on Kindle I will definately download.


    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 19, 2013 at 9:45 AM

      I am not sure about formatting it for Kindle, but I will consider it now that you asked!

  20. Anna Kochetkova

    September 19, 2013 at 5:14 AM

    Wow never thought people can cycle in winter :))

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 19, 2013 at 9:46 AM

      If you don’t cycle in the winter where I live you have a very short cycling season!

  21. thehomeschoolingdoctor

    September 23, 2013 at 8:54 PM

    Is there a wind speed in winter combined with temperature at which you don’t ride? It’s just so dang windy here. I’m trying to see riding in it. (SD)

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 23, 2013 at 8:57 PM

      The coldest it ever gets in my area is -20 and except for when we are having a blizzard I try to ride. However, when the wind is above 20 MPH in the winter I stay inside (30MPH is my limit the rest of the year).

      • thehomeschoolingdoctor

        September 23, 2013 at 8:58 PM

        Ok. This will be bike fodder information to share with my husband. Maybe we should try gearing up this winter…

        • All Seasons Cyclist

          September 23, 2013 at 9:00 PM

          The hardest part of riding in the winter is the first 500 feet as you leave your garage! With the right gear it really isn’t a problem — it just takes longer to get dressed. Now the folks up in Minnesota are crazy — some of them go out when it is -50F (I consider that pretty cold myself).


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