Yes, winter can be cold and icy, but it doesn't necessarily mean you should deprive your young bike enthusiast from riding. There is a lot of specialized gear for riding in the winter, but after buying a set of studded tires, you probably have most of what you need right in your winter gear box.
As with any new adventure outdoors with kids, I would recommend keeping the first few biking trips short and with enough opportunities to bail, in this case, if they get too cold. A shorter outing also allows for everyone to learn safely. From head to toe, here is my list of winter biking necessities to keep you and your children comfortable while in the saddle.
Mittens and Gloves: I find hands and feet are the hardest to keep warm when riding in the winter. Investing in a good pair of mittens is worth it. I always wear gloves underneath mittens to be able to use my fingers when needed.
Layers: Layers, layers, layers. Invariably, I warm up while riding and I always find it necessary to start dropping layers to cool down. In the cover picture, we’re both wearing a soft-shell, a sweater, and a long-sleeve base layer under our jackets. We’re also wearing snow pants on top of regular winter pants.
Balaclava: Keeps your face warm and protected from the wind and cold air. They tend to be made of thinner material, which makes them easier to wear with a helmet. Plus, you get to look like a ninja!
Boots: Hands and feet tend to be the hardest warm when riding. There are a number of bike-specific boots you can buy for winter biking, and even heated insoles. Ski socks and regular winter boots are fine for my daughter and me. I try to avoid too specialized gear that I could not get for my daughter, so I can get an idea of whether her gear keeps her warm enough.
Don’t forget the helmets!
Studded Tires: A must for icy conditions! While we wait to get studded tires for her bike, it seems to work just fine to have my bike with studded tires, and the tag-along with a regular tire.
*Note: Thinner tires make for great commutes on plowed streets or trails, but tend to be more treacherous if you need to ride in snow, in which case you probably want to go with thicker tires.
Like I mentioned in an article about winter biking basics last winter, I consider lights to be a must if you’re going to be out and about, during a season with such short days. I add a headlight to my equipment during this time of year, as well as a reflective vest. Watch for a subsequent article about the importance of lights while cycling during these bitterly cold months.
How do you get your child to school?