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Do you have the right gear for winter biking in New York?

Photo of Christopher Seleski

Getting on a bike in New York in any season requires some preparation. At the very least, you should check your bike to ensure it is in working order and strap on a helmet before you head out on the open road. It’s also critical to your safety that you familiarize yourself with the laws regarding cyclists and bikes in New York. Doing so helps ensure compliance with traffic laws and reduces your risk of a crash or collision with a vehicle.

Of course, biking in the winter has its own unique set of challenges. If you have already taken the time to winterize your bike by upgrading to heftier tires, checking or installing lights and reflectors, and performing seasonal maintenance, you may think you’re ready to go. However, the most important equipment for safe winter biking in New York is the gear you wear on your body.

Protect your head and keep your face warm and dry

As always, the single most important thing you can do to reduce the risk of death or permanent injury when getting on a bicycle is to wear a helmet. During the summer, that may be good enough, but not during the winter. You may also need to wear a hat or headband to cover your ears. In some situations, a full facial cover may be your best option to keep the cold off. You may need to upgrade the size of your helmet in the winter to accommodate your hat.

Your eyes are particularly vulnerable during winter biking. Not only do you need to worry about flying slush, ice and debris, but also plummeting temperatures. Cold, dry air can suck the moisture from your eyes, impacting your visibility. Investing in a visor or goggles will ensure that you can see the road and protect your eyes from seasonal damage.

Layer up to keep your body warm

You know that biking will increase your body temperature. No matter how cold it is outside, you could still build up a good sweat during a ride. That’s why it is so important to layer your clothing when you ride. You want to stay warm and dry without increasing your body temperature. Ideally, the layer closest to your body will have a wicking fabric that will prevent moisture build-up. For your torso, another shirt and an outer layer will typically suffice, so long as the outer layer offers protection from water and wind. For your legs, basic jeans covered up with water- and wind-resistant pants can work.

Your hands and feet need to be kept warm and dry. You need good boots or shoes that offer insulation, water protection and traction. In some weather, a cover over your standard bike shoes will suffice. Other times, you’ll need to wear your winter boots. Although it may seem strange, mittens are preferable to gloves, because they allow your fingers to stay warmer due to their closeness.

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