The DOs and DON’Ts of tackling this season like a pro
Riding your bike in the winter can feel daunting, especially if you don’t consider yourself a seasoned cyclist. We’ve talked to our team at GoodTurn Cycles and put together a list of winter do’s and don’ts to get you moving this season, without having to trial-and-error the process yourself! Our staff ride for a variety of purposes, from recreation to commuting, on both eBikes and traditional bikes, giving a range of expertise. They’re sharing best practices and local ride recommendations throughout Colorado. We even have one GTC intern featured, who is participating in our job skills training program this season! Please feel free to share YOUR tips, and tag us on Facebook and Instagram in your winter rides.
Let’s start with the DOs
AVOID ALL ICE. Ice is dangerous and you’ll need to be cautious. Sarah loves her local trails so much that she will sometimes bring salt and a hammer on her rides to chisel away at icy spots on the trail. Yep, we don’t deserve her.
INVEST IN GLOVES & SHOES. Our staff have been raving about lobster gloves, because they keep your fingers together and, therefore, warm! Terry also loves pogies and Davis uses mittens that can flip back if his hands get too hot. You don’t want to be caught in the cold with wet or freezing feet, so invest in a waterproof option and wear warm socks.
WINTERIZE YOUR BIKE. Drop that tire pressure, consider adding some fenders (there are even clip-on options), and take care of your bike. Your drivetrain is one thing that will need some extra love this season, so switch from a dry lube to a wet one and keep it clean. If you’re riding tubeless, you may want to swap sealants, too; we recommend Orange Seal’s Subzero Sealant. It’s a great time to schedule service appointments for your brakes or other concerns, as service times are low. Think 3-6 day turnaround vs our summer wait of 5 weeks!
RIDE IN THE HEAT OF THE DAY. Think of the sun as your friend and ride when it is out.
GRAB SOME COFFEE. TJ’s favorites are Fika Coffee House in Parker, Legends Coffee in Aurora, and Nixon’s Coffee House off the Platte trail. We also love the Girls Inc shop, Strong, Smart, & Bold Beans, in the lobby of our Denver building! Nick and TJ take coffee shop rides together, so this tip will make your besties happy, too.
BE BOLD, START COLD. When you start your ride, and for the first 3-7 minutes, you should be a bit cold. You might be surprised by how much you heat up when riding in the winter. Starting too warm will lead to excess sweat, which can dry or catch the wind and chill you. Typically, your core, head, and legs build up the most heat, so take care of those areas.
PLAN WITH YOUR KIDS. Terry’s children love riding in his cargo bike, and doing this in the winter requires some prep. Kids need to be covered from the wind and have ways to keep warm, whether that means bundling them up or packing blankets and hand warmers. You’ll want to have good tires for extra security and only ride in your comfort zone.
CONSIDER YOUR MTB ROUTE. South and southeast facing slopes are your friend because they dry quicker and hold less snow. When tackling MTB trails in the winter, go low, slow, and in control. As for recommendations, Davis says Buffalo Creek can be hit or miss depending on storm cycles. It’s a good time to hit the Western Slope, like Grand Junction or Palisade, which can be too hot to ride in the summer. If you’re looking to get out of CO, consider a trip to Moab or ride in other desert areas. At Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort, you can rent bikes and venture on up to St. Elmo Pass.
SWITCH UP YOUR COMMUTE. Christian is planning to drive to the South Platte trail and then bike on it to work, cutting out his road riding. Take some time to get creative about how to make your winter commutes feasible. Jahze notes that if you ride in bike lanes a lot, you’ll need a back up if they get covered. Joe uses his eBike for grocery and hardware store runs, so look for places you can swap from car to bike!
CHECK YOUR TREAD. Having the right tires can make a big difference in the winter! Jahze swaps his out at first snow to make sure he can handle his commutes. Jamal, who also has an eBike, notes that fat tires can be deceptive. Just because a tire is big doesn’t mean that it can grip like you need it to. Check out what you have going on with your tread and make a winter upgrade if needed for safety.
RIDE WITH A BAG. Getting layering right can be tricky. Blake has noticed that he tends to overdress on his rides. Cue a frame bag! This ensures that he can always pull off layers to pack them (or pull them back out when he is in need).
SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY OF OPEN TRAILS. There is less congestion on the trails in the winter, so if they are well-maintained by where you live, take advantage of the opportunity to ride in peace!
LOOK FOR FLAT OR PAVED TRAILS. Bradley commutes to his two jobs (one being at GTC). He decreases his time spent riding in the winter and adjusts his routes. He recommends keeping an eye out for flat, even trails, which can often be found by rivers. Paved trails are more likely to be plowed and aren’t as slippery. The Mary Carter Greenway Trail is one that he recommends. Bradley also shouts out South Suburban Parks and Recreation for doing a good job keeping paths clear.
And now the DON’Ts
GET CAUGHT IN THE DARK. The sun sets earlier in the winter, so you can’t explore as long. Decide where you’re going for your ride and be prepared with some good lights in the front and rear. Joe found fun lights for his wheel hubs and spokes for increased visibility.
OVERESTIMATE YOUR CAPACITY. Terry recommends that you select your riding goals for the winter and then drop them a notch. Are you realistically going to want to get on your bike with freezing temps or fresh snow? Probably not and that’s okay. The same goes for purchasing accessories. Will you use them, or do you just think you need it? Give your trips a go and then decide.
NEGLECT YOUR eBIKE’S BATTERY. After rides, bring your battery inside and pull it off of the charger when it’s full. Remember, if you’re cold then your battery probably is, too!
BE IN A HURRY. Commuting in the winter takes time and you don’t want to rush it. If it is too cold, have a backup plan, from public transportation to taking a Lyft. Go slow!
UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF LAYERING. If you are actively riding in the cold, your body is going to generate a lot of heat. With cold wind blowing across your body, that heat can be quickly sucked away. Experiment with wind breaking layers but be wary about wearing thermals under your wind block. Even in below freezing weather, he will wear a wind blocking jacket and a thin dry-fit style t-shirt or long sleeve. Adam keeps a log of what he wore and what the weather conditions were to help him learn what works for his body.
With that said, layering was important for our whole team and everyone does it differently. On his quick eBike commutes, Jamal wears a hoodie over a puffer over a hoodie with a full helmet. Jahze has a pair of weatherproof jeans that are lined with fleece. Figure out what works for you and your riding!
SKIP THE TRAINER. Colorado winters for many are all about skiing and snowboarding. Davis hits the trainer to prepare for backcountry skiing, as it uses all the same muscle groups. He jumps on 3 times a week for 30 minutes to get in shape. He even wears a hoodie to sweat it out and then stands outside in the cold to cool down.
FORGET TO PACK WATER. Yes, it’s cold out, but you need to stay hydrated. Always make sure you’re leaving the house with plenty of water for your ride. Davis’s pro tip is to put warm water in your CamelBak, which will prevent the tubes from freezing.
MISS A CLEANING. Riding in the winter can be messy, and your bike will need some more care. After every ride in snow, you’ll need to clean your bike!
BE AFRAID TO IMPROVISE IN A PINCH. Sometimes your winter ride can catch you by surprise. Blake has used garbage bags on his feet in bad weather to keep them dry before. Heads up, though, this does not stop your feet from getting sweaty! Davis has cut up milk cartons and zip tied them to fashion a makeshift fender. Do what you need to do and get creative!
NEGLECT YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD. In the summer, Bradley does a lot of exploring downtown. In the winter, he will spend more time in his neighborhood. This gets you more acquainted with your community, while still spending some time on the bike.
To learn more about GoodTurn Cycles and our mission, please visit our website! We are a nonprofit bike shop in Denver and Littleton that provides job skills training to young people with employment barriers.