Cold Weather Cycling

Cold Weather Cycling Tips

arrow_downloadCold Weather Cycling Tips (PDF Format)

Commuting by bike can be an efficient way to get around – and cold weather doesn’t have to mean an end to getting around on two wheels! There are all sorts of good reasons to keep pedaling - you don’t have to worry about scraping off your windshield, waiting for your car to warm up, or standing out in the cold to pump gas. It also saves money, improves Lexington’s air quality, and it’s a great way to build exercise into your daily routine. Cycling can even boost your mood on dreary winter days.

Follow these tips to navigate cold weather cycling like a pro.

Bicycle in Snow

Weather and Road Conditions

Employees and students are encouraged to sign up for UK Alert, the University’s emergency notification system, for information about closures and delays at

Check the local weather before heading out. Allow extra time for your commute on snowy and icy days, as you may need to proceed more slowly than normal or take alternate routes. Remember, you can always leave your bike on campus and return home via an alternative method if the weather or road conditions worsen during the day.

Route Selection

When the weather turns snowy or icy, route selection becomes extra important. Carefully evaluate your alternatives based on local snow removal and salting patterns.

See and Be Seen

Visibility is more important than usual on inclement weather days, as drivers typically do not expect to encounter cyclists when road conditions are poor.

  • Be predictable and make eye contact with motorists; be sure you are seen.
  • In addition to front and rear lights, wear bright or reflective outer layers.
  • Be prepared! Even if you don’t think your commute will occur during dusk or dark hours, plan for those conditions just in case.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Drivers may have lower levels of visibility due to precipitation or glare caused by frost, ice or snow. Even if they see you, road conditions may lead to delayed stopping or skidding.

Riding Tactics

  • Slow down. Expect to take longer to reach your destination, and plan that time into your commute. The roads will be slippery, so pedal deliberately and use lower gears.
  • Don’t hesitate to dismount. If you’re worried about falling, or think an area is too dangerous to ride over - walk. You can keep one hand on the brake lever and use your bike for stability until you navigate to safer ground.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and the road or sidewalk conditions. Look out for black ice. The sun can melt snow during the day that refreezes as it cools down in the evening.
  • Take turns wider and stay upright around corners. If you lean too hard, your wheels may slip out from underneath you.
  • Ride on clear pavement when available. Don’t be afraid to take the lane if there is snow in the bike lanes or on the sidewalks.
  • Anticipate stops way ahead of time. If the road is slick or your brakes are wet, it will take longer to stop. Don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation.
  • Ride defensively. Although cars generally try to give bicycles a wider berth in the winter, motorists also aren’t as used to seeing bicycles out in this season. Make eye contact with drivers, limit sudden movements, and always signal your intent, keeping in mind that drivers may have low visibility.
  • Drink water. The air is usually drier in the winter, and the sweat you produce while you ride can cause dehydration. It’s just as important to stay hydrated in the winter as in the summer.
  • Roll with the fall. If you must take an unanticipated fall, don't fight it. Try to roll with the fall. Don't put all your weight on one arm; that’s a good way to get injured.

Maintenance and Storage

Your bicycle will need regular cleaning and maintenance in the winter months due to the dirt and salt picked up from wet or snowy roads.

  • Consider installing fenders if you don’t have them already.
  • Reduce air pressure in your tires for better traction. If your bike will accommodate them, consider using bigger tires for winter riding.
  • Keep a towel or brush handy to wipe or brush off snow and slush from the frame and chain.
  • Pack a seat cover (or plastic bag) to cover the seat.
  • Clean and lubricate the chain regularly.
  • Store your commuter bike outside - like in the garage - when not in use. Cold bikes do not accumulate snow and ice (and thus dirt and salt) the way that warm ones do.


Bundle up! Your extremities are the most susceptible to cold. However, overdressing can be as much as a problem as under dressing, so choose your layers wisely. A weatherproof outer shell, as opposed to long underwear, can be easily removed once you reach your destination. It’s a good idea to take a plastic bag along for storing the wet outer layer.

Hands: Keeping your hands warm is the key to riding comfortably, so choose layers that are both water- and wind-proof. A combination of wind-proof over-mittens and lightweight gloves provide warmth and allow you to operate your lock.

Head: Many options are available for keeping your ears warm while still being able to wear a helmet. Some helmets even have integrated ear muffs. You may also consider wearing a balaclava (face mask) to keep your neck, ears and mouth warm.

Feet: Wool socks or thick synthetics designed for wicking moisture and water-resistant shoes or boots will keep your feet warm and dry.

Legs: Your legs are going to be doing most of the work, so they are the last area you want to layer up. On the coldest days, thin synthetic or silk long underwear under your pants and/or weatherproof over pants will do the trick.

Torso: A windproof shell coupled with synthetic layers is a solid bet. Remember, the colder it is, the more layers you’ll need.


Not every day will be a cycling day for everyone. That’s okay; any trip made by bike instead of in an automobile has benefits for all of us, so even one day a week helps. For those days when biking isn’t the best fit for you, here are some transportation alternatives.

Ride Local and Campus Buses

  • Campus Bus & Shuttle Schedules
  • BluPass allows UK students and employees to ride any Lextran route, free of charge

    Drive to Campus

  • Scratch-off permits are single-use, one-day permits designed for students and employees who drive to campus infrequently.