Just because the snow is falling doesn't mean it's time to put your bike away until spring. In Minnesota, many paved trails and mountain biking areas welcome riders year-round. Here's what you need to know to keep riding all winter long.
Equipment & Clothing
Having the right equipment is key for both safety and comfort when biking in winter. A road bike with skinny tires is not recommended in any amount of snow or ice. Instead, use a hybrid or basic mountain bike with treaded tires, or swap on some studded tires that are designed to cut through snow and stick to ice. Also be sure to wipe down your bike thoroughly after each ride to prevent rust and minimize damage from salt and sand.
Recommended clothing for winter biking is similar to other cold-weather activities. Dress in layers, with a nonabsorbent material first, such as wool, polyester or other synthetic fabric. The same goes for gloves and hats -- avoid cotton, which gets wet and in turn makes you cold. Top it off with a windbreaker or ski jacket, and of course, a helmet.
If you'll be riding after dark or in high-traffic areas, it's a good idea to throw on a reflective vest and wear bright colors in addition to having lights on the front and back of your bike.
Where to Ride
Several major bicycling trails that are popular in the warmer months remain open and are regularly maintained in the winter. In the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, the Midtown Greenway and Grand Rounds bike trails in Minneapolis and part of the Gateway State Trail heading northeast from St. Paul are plowed for bikers, plus several trails in the Three Rivers Park District system. In Duluth, the Lakewalk along the shore of Lake Superior is open year-round, as are the Red Jacket and Indian Lake Conservation Area trails near Mankato.
Fat tire mountain bikers are also in luck in winter, with trails open at the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area near Brainerd, Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan, Baker Park Reserve in Maple Plain, and portions of the Piedmont and Hartley trails in Duluth.
Winter Biking Events
Bicycle races are a year-round occurrence in Minnesota. The No Name Alleycat Race is an informal, monthly street race in Minneapolis. The Fatbike Frozen 40 takes place in mid-February at Elm Creek Park Reserve in Maple Grove and is a 40-mile endurance race.
The Cold Bear Challenge is a three-part mountain biking series in Elk River's Hillside Park, and the Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout features both a fat bike and ice bike race (a course is plowed on Serpent Lake). Find more winter biking events at HaveFunBiking.com.
The Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota offers free winter cycling courses. Visit Pedal Minnesota for more winter biking tips and tricks.