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What are some good options of bikes for winter riding?

I am looking for an inexpensive option for winter riding in Chicago?

2 Replies

@Spoo72 Thanks for reaching out!

Winter is a great time to ride your bike, even in the cold midwest! I've ridden my bike year round for a while now (many years riding in winter in Alaska) and can say that winter riding definitely has its challenges but is worth it if you love to ride!

At this time, due to unprecedented demand, manufacturing delays, and extended shipping timelines, our options for available bikes is very limited. In the models we do have available, finding the correct size can be a challenge. As an example, we currently only have one model of hardtail mountain bike available, the Co-op Cycles DRT 2.2, and only in size extra-small and small. Our most affordable mountain bike, the Co-op Cycles DRT 1.1, will not be back in stock until early next year. For a road/gravel hybrid option, the Co-op Cycles CTY 1.1 is looking like it may be back in stock in the coming weeks. Your best bet is to keep your eye on our website pretty frequently, we are getting stock in, particularly in our most affordable bike models, and selling through them quickly after they land on our site.

Here are a few more thoughts about winter riding:

Your riding style, distance, time of day, terrain, and condition of the terrain (I seem to recall salting of the roads being common in Chicago, at least when I lived close to the city many years ago), are all factors that will weigh in to how you want to approach winter riding. For any winter riding, the three most important considerations are:

  1. Staying warm. Layering is key, plus a good outer layer to stop the wind. I prefer a waterproof outer layer as that will also be windproof and gives you protection from rain or road spray as well. This Expert Advice article, Tips for Winter Bicycling, has some great info on what to wear.
  2. Being seen. Front bike lights can run a broad spectrum of power and brightness. Basically there are two categories: one that is designed to make you visible, and the other that is designed to help you see the road/terrain in front of you. For winter riding we definitely recommend the latter, even if you're riding in the city and it is well lit. There are so many variables to look out for on the road in front of you in the winter you'll appreciate any extra light that helps you see. Personally, I use the NiteRider Lumina Micro 650 Front Bike Light on the front of my bike and the Planet Bike Superflash 65R Bike Taillight on the back. They're both affordable, work great, and are usb rechargeable so you don't need to worry about batteries.
  3. Traction on the road. Depending on the bike you get and how it handles the challenges of winter riding, you may want to upgrade your tires. Studded tires are a good option for icy conditions. If you're riding on hard packed snow you may be able to get by with a tire that just has deeper lugs for more traction.

Hopefully this helps guide you in the right direction. Don't hesitate to reach out if you have more questions!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Some good tips from @REI-JohnJ but I'll add a couple. The Tips article he posted touches on these but I wanted to call attention to them:

  • Regardless of what exact bike you end up on, try running it with less pressure in the tires than you would in summer. This lets the tire bend and squish more to conform to the surface and with greater contact for more traction. It does slightly increase the risk of flats from pinching the tube against the rim, so it's a balancing act of not letting out too much air.
  • Even fat tire bikes can struggle in some conditions, especially ice. John already suggested studded tires which are great, but a lot can be done just by adapting your riding and being very slow and smooth with your inputs. Jerking the handlebars is often a good recipe for the bike to slip out from under you. This can take balance and practice to get good at.
  • Even the nicest bike is ruthlessly attacked by the increased moisture of winter conditions, especially road salt. Chains and other parts like gear cogs are inevitably going to rust and need replacement, though it can be prolonged with frequent maintenance. Like cleaning and re-lubing the chain weekly at minimum level of maintenance, maybe even after every ride. It's not unheard of to just keep a secondhand "beater" bike to take the punishment. If you're hauling the bike by car anywhere, many opt to skip roof or hitch racks and make it fit inside so it's protected from the road spray.
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