Bicycles are one of the popular modes of transportation in some big cities in Sweden, one of them is the city where I live, Uppsala. Other than the main transportation mode, I also use a bike as a part-time job, where I deliver food from restaurants to customers. Biking in Sweden is a really fun activity, the cold weather makes it more comfortable for me to ride a bike without any sweat, furthermore, there’s also a lot of roads only for bikes so it’s safer to ride.
However, in winter, it might be different, especially since I’m coming from a tropical region. The snow, cold temperature and icy road can make it more challenging to ride a bike. But winter biking can help you acclimate your body to the cold climate. Therefore, here I want to share some tips that can help you in making your winter biking safer and more comfortable. Also, no, you don’t need another bike specialized for your winter activities. For regular transportation, your usual bike will be enough.
Picture 1. Ride a bike in snowy road
Clothing is a very relevant factor for your comfortable biking experience. Ensuring you got enough winter protection, especially in your hand and feet is crucial.
First is the clothing, when you’re biking in the winter, you’ll feel cold at first. Then as you continue biking, you’re going to feel warmer and warmer since your body exerts more heat from the exercise. Therefore, it’s important for you to layer up. Having a middle layer that you can put on / off during your biking trip can be really helpful. Also, avoid using a big and bulky jacket since it can make you harder to move. As for the lower body part, usually, you won’t feel that cold since it moves a lot. You can just use thin thermal legging and an outer layer, this is usually enough to ward off cold temperatures.
Gloves (use Mittens)
Hand protection is important during biking, especially since it’s usually not moved much and will be exposed from wind during your biking. Glove mittens can be useful since mittens are warmer than regular gloves with fingers. This is because your fingers can generate heat together, instead of individually. You can even layer your hand with thin wool gloves, then add mittens as an outside layer.
Ski mask / ski google
During snowy weather, it can be annoying to bike. Especially during heavy snow where it can be hard for you to keep opening your eyes since there’s a lot of snow coming through your eyes. Ski goggles can help you with this issue and for those who wear glasses, no worries! Some ski goggles can be worn over the glasses. A ski mask is another good option, but be careful as some people experience difficulties breathing while wearing a mask and cycling. Some bike helmets also provide cover for the eyes.
Scarf / Neck cover
It’s important to keep your neck covered since there will be a lot of wind coming when you’re biking. You can wear a scarf or thin neck cover for this. An exposed neck can increase your chance to catch the flu or neck pain.
Aside from the hand, the foot is also really sensitive to cold temperature, wearing a wool sock / ski sock can help you to fight cold temperature while biking. Ski socks are better since they’re longer and cover up until almost your knee, so they provide more heat protection.
Now, let’s talk about the preparation that you might need for your bike. Good preparation on your bicycle can create a much safer riding experience for you
Picture 2. Winter tire
During winter, the road is icy and can be very slippery. Therefore, it is important for you to change your bike tire to a winter bike tire. Winter bike tires have iron spikes that can help you to gain the extra grip that you need when travelling through the icy road. However, winter tires are not really 100% effective, you also need to be more careful when you ride your bike to avoid any accidents.
Changing winter tires can be expensive, you can try to find second-hand winter bike tires online, but make sure the size is similar. Usually, you can find the details of your bike tire size on the side of your current bike tire. Other tips to save money is to change only the front tire of your bike since usually most slipping accidents are caused by front tire slip due to excessive turns.
You can change your bike tire in the bike shop, or if you want to save more money, you can try to change it yourself. You can see online videos on YouTube for instruction.
During wintertime when the temperature can reach below zero degrees Celsius, some parts of your bike might not function correctly, like gear or bike lock that are stuck. The trick for this is to have a thermos with hot water in it and pour it on your gear or bike lock. This will melt the ice and restore the function of those items. But this is not a preventive measure, to prevent this from happening, you can try to park your bicycle indoor.
Reflective tools and Bike Light
During winter, there are limited hours of sunlight, so there is a higher probability that you’ll ride in the night. When you’re driving in the dark, make sure you can be seen by other drivers to avoid any accident. Other than using the front and back bike lamp, you can also wear an outer layer with reflective panels or carry an additional light such as a keychain that you can hang on your bike. Remember to bring extra batteries for your bike lamp, just in case.
Tips for Riding the Bicycle
During winter there are several bike riding tips that I’ve learned myself or being told to from my senior food delivery courier.
When facing icy roads, it’s important to keep driving slow and study. Don’t try to speed up, since it can increase the chance for you to slip and have an accident.
Stay out from puddles/road hole
A Hole on the road might collect water and during winter, this puddle might freeze and form an ice layer. These layers are dangerously slippery, so if you see this ice layer try to avoid it. If you encounter this layer, drive straight and do not use your brake.
Try to keep driving straight
Always drive as straight as possible, when turning try to keep it as mild as possible, excessive turning can increase the chance to slip. Choose a road that has less turn. If you have to turn, make it as less sharp as possible. Another tip is when facing a downhill road, it’ll be safer if you get off from your bike and walk it out.
Reduce the need to brake
Always plan your move ahead, to minimize the need for braking. It will be hard at first, but the brakes also increase the chance of slipping especially when you’re not in a stable position. If you really need to brake, use the back tire brake first then continue with the front tire brake.
Last but not least, stay alert so you will be ready to respond to any slip. If you do slip, don’t panic and try to keep the balance and drive straight.
Putu Christ Wirawa
Putu Christ Wirawan
Master of Environmental Economic and Management
Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet (SLU)
Editor: Badai Kesuma