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Boston Winter Cycling Tips


We got our first snow last night in Boston, and as we enjoyed some good food and company over at the Beantown Pub while watching the snow fall down on the city, we also got to thinking about what promised to be (and were!) our cold, wet commutes in the morning!

So, after we pulled off our wet winter booties and put on a fresh pair of warm, dry wool socks, we thought we’d share some of the tips and tricks we’ve learned cycling through Boston winters over the years.

1. There’s no such thing as bad weather: just bad clothing.

It’s really true. So long as you’re prepared, you can cycle through anything. We recommend the following rule: “a layer to wick, a layer for warmth, and a layer for the weather.” Double up as you see fit.

Long-underwear is also highly recommended: for top comfort, we recommend a wool base layer such as the Craft Wool Comfort or Smartwool Midweight tights — both of which we’ve got in the shop.

2. Give yourself extra time so you can GO SLOW.

While you won’t hear any disagreement from us that it can be hard to get out of bed extra early when the sun’s not even up yet, it’s really worth it to give yourself an extra time buffer for your commute to ensure you can cycle safely. There’s nothing worse than trying to hammer your way through slushy, unpredictable streets just because you hit snooze too many times.

3. Consider your equipment: treat it well, and it’ll treat you well, too.

Winter is not the time to skimp on bike maintenance. Especially once they start salting the roads, components like hubs, brake pads, and bottom brackets can start to feel the toll. There also tends to be more junk on the road — maybe not as much as right after the Fourth of July, but still — so a good flat kit is also worth having with you.

Regularly cleaning your bike can go a long way to keep your bike in tip-top shape, but if you find yourself in need of repairs, fear not! We offer free loaner bikes to customers in need of tune ups all year ’round.

4. Consider a wider or studded tire — or go the other way.

As we discovered in a recent post about tire width, there’s lots of different theories as to what works best in the city, tire-wise. We do know, however, that if you’re worried about ice, go studs! We’ve got studded tires in a couple of different widths for you to try, and though they do add a bit of noise and resistance, boy, do they work!

So far as widths for the snow in particular: go skinny (say a 700x28c) if you want to punch through to the pavement below, or go wide to “float” on top of it all. For optimum float and fun, we recommend a fat bike! Easily some of the most fun you can have in the snow. And if you’re curious but not ready to add another horse to the stable, we’ve got fat bikes for rent, too.

5. Lights, lights, lights. And a set of fenders wouldn’t hurt.

As we’re sure you’ve already noticed, it’s getting dark pretty quick these days! A good set of bike lights is therefore absolutely essential. Quality bike lights will be brighter, last longer, and have better water-resistance, and are always worth the investment. We stand behind the lights we carry in the shop: catch us after work, and you’ll see us rocking a Light & Motion Urban front light, or maybe a NiteRider rear light. It’s good stuff.

In addition to lights, we also recommend fenders, and YES, you can totally buy yourself a pair of our iconic #greenfenders. (We also carry your standard black and silver-colored fenders, too, if you’re a little more “low key.”)

6. Remember, it’s supposed to be fun! Be safe! Also, no shame in going multi-modal.

Finally, remember to stay safe and HAVE FUN! There’s something special about riding through a light snow (or a heavy one, for that matter), and ask anyone in the shop, and they’ll say that winter riding is some of their favorite.

Besides, worst comes to worst, you can always take the T.