Best Gear For Winter Bike Commuting

by Steve Petyo October 18, 2021

Best Gear For Winter Bike Commuting

Winter Means Commuting Challenges

Commuting to work by bike has gotten much easier in the past few years with the explosion of electric bikes being brought to market. But while pedaling to work has become less of a physical effort, once the weather turns cold and wet, the experience can be far from fun.

With winter just around the corner, now is the time to start gearing up and planning ahead for the daily traverse through ice, snow, and rain, not to mention cold and windy conditions that can chill to the bone. We’ve put together a helpful list of the best gear for winter bike commuting so you’ll be fully prepared to ride head-on into winter without the misery factor.

Lights For Seeing And Being Seen In Winter

One of the biggest bummers about the arrival of winter is how early it gets dark, especially when you ride to and from work on your bike. Aside from being able to see potential road hazards like sewer grates, potholes, and debris in the bike lane, high-quality bike lights help raise awareness for motorists that might not expect to see someone on a bike (didn’t you know it’s snowing out?!).

The most crucial light for winter commuting is your tail light because it alerts drivers to your presence in the most precarious places. Pretty much all of them have a flashing feature, which is ideal. Many come with quick-attach rubber straps that make it possible to mount them almost anywhere. On the back of your helmet is one of the best places you can mount a taillight, as it’s plenty high to be in the line of sight of the vast majority of motorists.

Garmin’s new Varia RTL515 Rearview Radar tail light offers the ultimate in commuting safety. Beyond the usual tail light features, when paired to your smartphone with their app, the unit alerts you to cars approaching from behind by sending out a radar signal that reflects off of cars and displays their position right on your phone.

After you find the perfect taillight, your headlight is the next most important piece of gear for winter commuting. You’d be surprised how many motorists simply don’t see people riding bikes directly toward them. To prevent potential head-on collisions, having one headlight with a flashing mode is essential.

Ideally, your flashing headlight would be placed on your handlebar, with your normal headlight for visibility placed on your helmet. This way, anywhere you look, you can clearly see where you’re going. Flashing headlights on a helmet can be a bit disorienting because they create a strobe-light view of your surroundings.

The NiteRider Lumina 1200 Boost front bike light delivers an astounding 1,200 lumens of light in five modes, along with a daytime flash mode for increasing motorist awareness whenever and wherever you ride to work. 

Best Clothing For Winter Bike Commuting

After you’ve fully prepared your rig for maximum motorist awareness, it’s time to find clothing that’s purpose-made for commuting in the winter. Keep in mind, some of the safety and convenience features found on bike-specific winter outerwear don’t exist on more traditional garments. Let’s cover some of the features you might want to be sure to have before heading out in the cold.

Reflective Bike Clothing

Most bike clothing made for commuting has reflective trim or, even better, large reflective paneling. The more reflective elements you can get, the better. If you already have an ideal winter outfit for riding to work that lacks reflective trim, you can always pick up some reflective bands to attach in strategic places like your ankles, wrists, and helmet.

Jackets For Riding Bikes In Winter

Jackets that are made specifically for winter bike riding come with some unique features that can make all the difference on the daily. With a hood that fits over your helmet, tons of reflective trim, and armpit zippers so you don’t get your work clothes all sweaty and high-visibility yellow material, the REI Co-Op Junction Cycling Rain Jacket is one of the most feature-packed jackets for winter riding.

Windproof Gloves Are Essential For Winter Commutes

Keeping wind chills from reaching your fingers is a key factor for staying comfortable during your entire winter commute. Look for gloves that feature windproof shells and plenty of insulation, like these PEARL iZUMi AmFIB Lite Cycling Gloves. Aside from cold protection for your fingers, these gloves also have touch-screen compatible index fingers and thumbs, along with a grippy synthetic leather palm that provides plenty of handlebar feel for staying in full control.

Boots, Booties, Or Universal Footwear For Winter?

Depending on how far your commute is and your preference for being clipped-in while riding, you may want to snag some winter-specific bike shoes for commuting. Most warm-season riding shoes fit very snugly and have significant ventilation—definitely not features you want in the winter.

Winter riding boots are the best option for people with longer commutes or more extreme temperatures, but people in areas with less harsh conditions may find booties get the job done just fine. The Sealskinz All-Weather LED Cycling Overshoes combine windproof and insulated booties with tiny LED taillights on the back of them for comfort that increases safety as well.

Hand Warmers And Foot Warmers

Lots of riders swear by using hand warmers and foot warmers on longer winter commutes. It’s important to keep in mind a couple of helpful tips when using disposable warmer packets like these. First, these handy warmers don’t get hot instantly, and they require airflow to activate fully. So take them out of their packaging a few minutes prior to putting them inside your gloves or shoes. Second, hand warmers won’t work if they get wet, so once you’ve activated them, be sure not to shove them into damp spaces.

Secure Phone Mount For Situational Awareness

Beyond the safety and comfort essentials we’ve mentioned so far, quick access to your smartphone is one of the key ways to improve your winter commuting. If you use a safety system like Garmin’s Varia Radar tail light with your smartphone, being able to mount your phone where you can easily see it is essential.

Aside from integrating radar systems, being able to easily view your phone for transit system updates, navigation, or ride data to gauge your personal performance can make winter commuting both safer and more engaging. Combine Rokform’s Rugged Case with one of our Bike Phone Mounts to keep your phone securely mounted and angled perfectly for viewing, and have a safer winter commuting season!



Steve Petyo
Steve Petyo

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