Video: Winter cycling HOWTO

Streetfilms visited Chicago to show us tips on winter cycling.

I got my start in real winter cycling a month after I moved to Champaign, Illinois from Forth Worth Texas. I was a committed bike commuter before Illinois, but when I heard the radio tell me it was twenty below zero on that record-breaking January day, I hopped in my mother’s Grand Am (borrowed for the move). I turned the key and… nothing. Next, I tried my Corolla. The starter at least made a couple of clicking noises.

Ian rides his bike to school
My son rides his bike to school in Colorado on a snow covered road several years ago. It was 5°F / -15°C that morning, which was was near the high temperature of the day as a cold front moved in and dropped the low to -10°F / -23°C that afternoon.

And that’s when I discovered (1) cars really hate extreme cold and (2) bikes are mostly unaffected by it. I bundled up and biked to work, and it really wasn’t too bad.

The only time I had to bail on a winter commute was the time I foolishly tried to ride across 20 miles of Illinois prairie in a blizzard. It was the kind of blizzard where people get lost and are found only after the spring thaw. Visibility was maybe ten feet, and drifting snow completely hid the road. I made it seven miles before I turned back and found refuge at a friend’s house in Urbana, from where I called my wife for a ride.

Most of the time, however, winter cycling has been a joy for me. The video is spot on with the advice. My only quibble: They film this in Chicago but fail to mention Chicago Bike Winter!! Bike Winter has been absolutely awesome encouraging people to bike in Chicago’s winter and providing helpful winter cycling resources for nearly two decades now.

Now I’m in perpetually sunny California. The high temp today in San Jose will be 68° F / 20° C!

Update: I see now my pal Mark Blacknell had a story on winter cycling in Virginia published in a local newspaper.


  1. 68? Lucky! (done in my best Napoleon Dynamite voice)

    ‘Round these parts, the high today should be 34 – the first time above freezing in 21 days. At least the sun sets at 5 O’clock now.

  2. I work a condensed shift so it’s a short week for me but I did make one of the 3 commutes by bicycle. ( the other two were posts an hour away by car!) Overnight guard duty, 12 hour shifts 1800-0600 means darkness this time of year. You can miss the sun entirely while you’re asleep. That bicycle helps make up for it. Lights, lights, lights, and when people say I’m crazy (and they do, it was 36F when I went in 28F when I came home) I ask them if they think skiers are crazy for being out in the cold.

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