Biking is a great form of exercise. It gets your heart pumping and your blood flowing, keeping you healthy and fit. Being outside in the fresh open air is great for your lungs and exploring roads and trails is great for your mental health, helping to reduce your stress levels. Just because winter is upon us, that doesn't mean that you need to put your bike into storage, confining yourself to your house until spring rolls around again. Biking can be a winter activity. There are just a few things that you should keep in mind before you strike out on your winter ride.

Do Wear Layers

Dressing for the weather is rather important before heading outside on your winter cycling adventure. Dressing in layers allows you to stay warm and comfortable despite the cool temperatures. Start with a base layer of bike clothing, preferably one that consists of wicking materials. The form fitting clothing keeps heat in, but when you do start to sweat (which is still possible in the winter), moisture is removed. This keeps you warm, dry, preventing you from becoming uncomfortable or developing a rash.

After your base layer, it's time to move on to the middle layer, which may be the top layer depending on the conditions. The middle layer provides you with warmth, and can even be fleece lined when it gets extremely cold.

If the weather is especially inclement, raining or snowing, a jacket can prove rather useful. Cycling jackets are usually waterproof and wind resistant, keeping all of the elements off your skin. Fitted wristbands and waistband keep the icy winds from sneaking under the material, allowing you to stay warm and dry throughout your ride.

Don't Forget the Extras

There are a few little extras you may want to consider when you're preparing to take off for a winter ride. A windproof skullcap or headband keeps your head warm, as cycle helmets are ventilated.

The collar of your jacket provides you with some neck protection, but most of your neck and your whole face are left exposed. A neck warmer will be your face's best friend. It not only keeps your neck warm, but it can also be raised up to cover your jaw and nose.

If it is wet outside, your shoes are likely to get wet, which can lead to freezing feet. Overshoes are waterproof, therefore keeping your shoes, and your feet, dry.

Don't Leave Without Proper Protective Gear

Cycling has immense health benefits, but wearing the right protective gear is important. Learn how cycling benefits your health, and you'll be glad to hit the road year round. The very least you should wear is a cycling helmet. Snow helmets can protect your head and brain from injuries that might otherwise occur from hitting hard patches of snow and ice. It is important to choose a helmet that gives complete safety such as those created by POC. Their bike helmets take the same technology they use to make their ski helmets and are designed to fit the needs of cyclists of all kinds, providing you protection on the road or on the trail.

There is other protective gear you should consider as well.

  • Body armor, which is lightweight and flexible (giving you complete freedom of movement), protects your chest and back as well as all of your vital organs contained within.

  • Elbow and knee pads should also be considered.

  • Cycling glasses protect your eyes from sunlight and road glare. They also help keep debris from flying into your eyes, which could otherwise obstruct your view or even cause serious injury.

  • Gloves. Gloves protect your hands from scrapes as well as from vibrations from the ground. Full fingered gloves also help to keep your hands and fingers warm throughout the ride.

Do Pack a Bag

Bring some extras with you in a travel bag. Bring an extra pair of gloves in case it gets colder or it starts to rain. Cold, wet hands can make for a miserable ride. Also, to prepare for rain, it would be rather helpful to pack a rain jacket. The last thing you want to do is get soaked, especially when the temperatures are so low.

As with any weather, you may also want to pack some bike tools and a tire repair kit. Accidents can happen and snow can obscure dangerous, tire ruining obstacles in your path. If you're far from home, you're not going to want to be without them. Also important to a long ride are snacks, crucial for giving you the energy you need to get through your ride.

Do Make Yourself Visible

In winter weather, especially when it turns inclement, you may not be visible to drivers until it's too late. For this reason, you want to make yourself as visible as possible. Reflective clothing is a good start. So are reflectors on your bike. And, since it tends to get darker earlier, having a light on your bicycle is also an excellent idea, not only for your visual benefit but for drivers to see you as well.

Don't Spray Slush

Whether it's raining or snowing, your back tire kicks up water, which can soak you, making you cold and uncomfortable. It can also spray on other cyclists or people passing by you on the street. Rather than spray slush, have a back fender installed on your bike.

Do Ride With Friends

Riding with others has several benefits. For one, being in a group makes you even more visible to drivers on the road. Another major benefit is that it gives you the motivation you might otherwise lack on a cold winter morning to get up out of bed and hit the road for your ride in the icy air.

Don't put your bike up for the winter just because the temperatures drop and it starts to snow. With the proper measures, you can enjoy your favorite physical activity throughout the year and never miss a beat.