Wintertime is my favorite, and there’s nothing quite like the beauty and serenity that cold weather brings. However, I’ve always struggled to enjoy it properly due to Seasonal Affective Disorder. That is until I found out about the various and never-ending benefits of cycling in winter.
What are the Benefits of cycling in cold weather?
Cycling in cold weather helps you can burn more calories, boost your immunity, and exercise your mind, body, and soul all in one simple ride. It helps to counteract the effects of S.A.D. and deals with unwanted holiday weight gain.
Now, I get to enjoy the weather to its fullest, and work on my fitness, all in one go!
In lieu of my finding this gem of an idea, I decided that it was only fitting for me to share it with others.
Here are seven of the main benefits of cycling in cold weather.
Here are just some of those benefits, or at least the ones that had me convinced!
1. Push Yourself to Work Out Harder
When you make the decision to go out for a bicycle ride in the dead cold of winter, the natural response of the body is to immediately try to make you warmer.
The easiest and fastest way for it to do that is by moving, and moving fast.
That’s why winter cycling is one of the best ways to dramatically increase how fast your calories burn during a workout. Even the calories you burn sitting around and doing nothing are working at a higher rate! (Source)
Shivering also leads to burned calories, since it involuntarily makes your body move. There’s a higher chance of you being rewarded for moving your body in winter since it makes you warmer, so taking up cycling is a great way to achieve that!
I’m constantly motivated to go out for a bike ride because I know that riding in winter will lead to me not just burning more calories, but also working out much harder and pushing myself much more than I would normally do during the summertime.
2. Beat S.A.D
Okay, so as I already mentioned, Seasonal Affective Disorder hits me pretty hard during wintertime.
And as luck would have it, there’s actually a lot more information and research about it now than there ever was before (Source).
When I was growing up, no one in my family including me could ever figure out why I was always feeling so depressed during a season that I loved so much. It wasn’t until S.A.D came into mainstream media that I began to realize I had a lot of the symptoms!
Much of it has to do with the fact that the days are shorter, meaning less sunlight, and people tend to prefer staying indoors to avoid the cold.
This can often lead to depression.
Here is where cycling comes in!
Going out for a bike ride drastically improves my mood, since I’m out in nature, and more often than not there are people around me with whom I bike with.
Being out and about, surrounded by people is a natural mood booster, keeping any winter blues at bay.
Also, bikers usually tend to be happier people. This is due to a combination of psychological and physiological factors, since they spend time in nature and exercise so often, which leads to better health of the mind, body, and soul.
Ever heard of the runners high?
This is the phenomenon that people who regularly exercise, such as cyclists, or any other forms of exercise, experience whenever they’re taking part in said activities.
It adds to their moods being better than the average person but also increases the likelihood that they’ll continue exercising since they’re chasing that high for themselves.
3. Deal with Holiday Weight Gain Healthily
I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me, winter has always been synonymous with holidays, the festive season, meeting with family and spending time with them, and of course, good, hearty food.
Who can deny overindulging themselves during Christmas meals with the family, when you’re provided with the best, most delicious food, oftentimes things that you haven’t had the chance to eat the rest of the year or things that just don’t taste the same as your Mom’s.
People will gain weight during the holiday season. I’m sorry, but it’s just a fact of life.
There’s nothing to really be done about it, except for exercise.
And in winter, exercise is more of a chore than anything else.
That’s why cycling in the cold is such a great idea, because since I’m already doing it well before the holiday season begins, my mind and body are used to the cold that hits me when I go out for a ride, and it doesn’t feel as awful as it might if I decided to start during the holiday season.
Another way to counteract overindulging and making healthier choices is by encouraging others to do it with you. Go out for a group bike ride with your family and friends, and they might just notice the charm and benefits of winter cycling without needing to be convinced!
4. Build your Fitness & Health Up
Something I noticed alongside the obvious facts, such as feeling myself getting fitter, healthier, and just able to enjoy myself more, was that ever since I started cycling in winter, I was getting sick a lot less than I used to before.
Whether this had anything to do with cycling or not, I wasn’t sure, so I decided to do some research.
I found out that because I, as a bike rider, was spending less time indoors as compared to my friends and family members who didn’t bike at all, meaning that I had fewer chances of being in close proximity with others for extended periods of time, and there was much less exchange of germs, bacteria, and viruses.
So, I was right! Cycling in winter was making me get sick less often.
Another factor is spending more time out in the cold, being exposed to cold weather, causes the immune system to work harder and protect the body.
5. Save Gas, Money and the Environment!
Much of the cozy environment that I associate with wintertime has nothing to do with winter at all; it has to do with being warm in the cold.
With the heater on full blast everywhere I went, whether it was in my family home, my car, my office, or even the local grocery stores, I knew that after I braved the cold of the outside I would be rewarded with the warm embrace of a heater.
Of course, the bills had something else to say.
Winter cycling has dramatically changed my outlook on this warm coziness that I’ve always associated with the cold weather.
Now that I know I can easily bike to work, to the store, to my friends’ homes, I save a lot more money on gas.
Now that my body is much more used to the cold, doesn’t shiver at a winter breeze, is immune to the weather because of its fitness, I’m not as inclined to turn the heater up as high as it’ll go just to be warm.
I’m naturally warm! So I save on gas.
I bought a bike rack for my car, so that instead of driving everywhere, even if I drove halfway to my destination, I could bike the rest of the way, and save gas!
Once my mind and body became conditioned to feeling the winter cold in a certain way, it wasn’t so much about being warm and cozy thanks to a heater and gas, and I could enjoy the wintertime the way I’ve always wanted to.
There is another added benefit to this.
Saving money on gas is great, yes, but saving the environment, the Earth, because I’m using and wasting less gas is a far greater feeling. It really feels like I’m having a much longer-lasting impact than I had ever hoped to achieve with my decision to start cycling in winter.
6. Look at Cycling in a New Light
One of my absolute favorite things about starting to cycle during wintertime is how it has changed the way I see the world.
During the summers, I had decided to start winter cycling, since my workdays ended at a time that didn’t leave me a lot of room for going out for a ride. It was definitely eye-opening and is something I plan to continue after winter.
Much like that, winter cycling has made me view the art of cycling as profoundly personal and meditative.
There’s nothing that can compare to how I feel when I go out cycling in winter, whether it’s during daytime or nighttime, and the world I see when I do.
Winter changes our scenery so dramatically, so picturesquely, that it’s like going out to witness a whole new world. I’m romanticizing it, I’m sure, but it’s hard not to.
Cycling isn’t like driving. I’m much more exposed but in a good way.
I feel the wind in my hair, I hear the rustle of the leaves, I see animals burrowing in trees and in holes, and it ignites a sense of creativity in me that isn’t really there when I’m driving in a car, or walking around.
I have a vessel, a vehicle, that’s taking me to a world that reminds me of Narnia, but is very much my own neighborhood!
And sometimes, it’s a neighborhood that I would never have dreamed of venturing into during other seasons, but now it looks like a place I just have to explore.
7. Peace, Solitude & Quiet Beauty
There’s something special about cycling in winter that has very little to do with the weather.
Since most people willingly choose to become couch potatoes, to warm up by the fireplace or heater, or just cozy up to their loved ones under a blanket, the roads are emptier.
And those unlucky few who are still on the roads?
Their road rage is suddenly gone! Poof! They are no longer angry at the world because the world is meeting them with such peace, quiet, and serenity. Such beauty.
No more having to stay constricted to one lane, having to worry about my safety and wellbeing, wondering whether I’ll be hit with a flurry of angry words if I want to turn into a lane or street.
Everything has that snow-silence. And it encourages people to appreciate it without disturbing it.
Tips for Winter Cycling
Let Some Air Out of your Tires
Cycling in cold weather requires a little bit of extra maintenance on your bicycle.
Tires that are just slightly saggy can help give better traction on the slippery winter road and save you some serious skidding.
Careful of the Curbs
If your riding track or route is covered in snow, it’s best to think ahead and steer clear of the curbs, since more often than not they’ll be hidden under a mound of snow.
This is a simple and easy way to avoid any unnecessary accidents!
Get The Right Gear
Okay, winter gear is a bit more heavy-duty than other seasons, but that doesn’t mean you can use it as an excuse to avoid biking at all.
Have a sturdy helmet, gloves, shoes, under and outer gear, and you’re good to go.
Keeping them all in one place, rather than strewn about the house, is also a big motivator since you know you can just get ready in one go. Here’s a great video about essential cold-weather cycling clothes:
Don’t Dress To Impress
Winter cycling is a sport and a form of exercise, before anything else.
If you’re doing it because you want to be dressed the same way that you’re able to during the summer, spring, and autumn seasons, you’ll fall off your bike pretty fast.
And by that, I mean you’ll be shivering so much that you won’t be able to stay on the bike.
Dress For Warmth
There’s no need to overdress.
Just make sure that you’re well covered over the majority of your body; people often forget gloves, scarves, and hats because they assume that their torso is the only thing that they need to keep warm, but once you’re riding and the cold and bitter wind is biting at your face, your eyes, your nose, your ears until you can’t feel anything except the bite?
That’s when you’ll regret not taking covering up seriously.
And at those moments, there’s nothing to really do except just cycle back home in the same cold, biting, windy weather!
Ride For Your Life
It’s not an easy task, getting motivated enough to get up, put on your thermals, then your riding gear, and venturing out into the cold for a bike ride.
But once you do it, there’s nothing that will make you want to stop except maybe hunger.
Cold Weather Cycling Mindset
Think of winter cycling as something that you’ll be rewarded for every time you’re at home, or at a party, or with friends, and someone asks you what you do as a hobby; this will be the conversation:
Oh, you ride your bike daily during this weather?
And it doesn’t make you feel cold?
And you’re healthier and fitter than you’ve ever been?
Wow, that’s pretty impressive. I wish I was as cool as you!
Now, doesn’t that sound like something worth feeling?
Cycling communities are growing everywhere in the world.
As more and more people become conscious about their health, the environment, and the fact that we are the ones solely responsible for our future, communities around cyclists are raising awareness, creating bonds, and helping others in every way that they can.
So, join a Facebook group, Whatsapp chat group, or even a physical club!
Not only will you meet people who encourage and motivate you to do better, but you’ll also find yourself surrounded by people like yourself, and might even make lifelong friends, or meet your soul mate!
Worried about the random aches and pains that pop up after cycling in the winter?
It’s been proven time and again that taking a nice, hot bath or shower after any form of exercise, whether it’s at the gym or on the bike in nature, has an anti-inflammatory effect on your body, relieving pain and muscle aches immediately.
So, I hope I’ve been able to inspire you to finally get up, get out and take up winter cycling for all its benefits, whether they’re helping your mind, body, or soul.
Just like my friends who gave me the push to begin taking winter cycling seriously as a beneficial mode of exercise, I hope this blog pushed you to do the same!