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Mountain Bike Tips & Trails : Prepare For Winter Biking

Part 3: Essential Cold Weather Cycling Emergency Kit

Cold Weather Biking Series
Where To Ride

Being prepared for unexpected emergencies on the trail will help to ensure a fantastic bicycle ride and safe return home. The following preparations, tools and accessories should be used and/or packed along as part of your basic cold weather cycling emergency kit.

Before you leave home:

Check the weather forecast. Be prepared for sudden drops in temperature or precipitation. It may be warm, clear and crisp when you leave home, but weather can change quickly, especially if you are biking in mountain country.

Bike Check. Fixing a flat bicycle tire in the cold is no picnic. If you were an airplane pilot, would you just get in the plane and take off without doing a complete systems check? Prepare your bike for cold weather biking and follow a Winter Bike Maintenance routine. Be aware of common mechanical problems, like frozen shifter cables, that can happen when riding in snow or cold temperatures. Know how to deal with them.

Basic cold weather survival skills. Cyclists are at a higher risk of developing hypothermia and frostbite than a cross country skier or runner. The greater speed of bicycling increases the wind chill index, (temperature combined with wind speed). The Wind Chill Index is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by the effects of wind and cold. The greater the wind speed, the faster the heat is carried away from your body, causing skin temperature to drop. High winds can cause serious weather-related health problems, even when temperatures are only cool. The first defense is prevention. Know the symptoms of, and how to treat these common winter sports threats.

See CDC (Department Of Health & Human Services) Extreme Cold : A Prevention Guide


Essential Cold Weather Cycling Kit:

  • Extra clothing "base layer".
  • Spare socks, extra fluid and food. Take along a small lightweight thermos of hot liquid. Broth is good. (no coffee, tea or anything caffeinated and definetly no alcohol)
  • Take along extra batteries if you have gear that requires them.
  • Emergency fire starting tool (butane lighter) and waterproof tinder.
  • A small can of de-icer spray. It can rapidly de-freeze ice/frost in bike lock keyholes and can be appied in low-temperature situations.
  • Disposable heat packs which may come in handy for a variety of situations or emergencies. They come in hand and foot varieties.
  • Bike Tool kit/patch kit/pump/spare tube (see: Bike Basics: Repair Kit).
  • Duct tape. This versatile item is a must for any bike trip. You can use it to repair a broken clip strap, and even a bit of duct tape can be used on a cold nose in a pinch.
  • Cell phone.
  • Compass and map / GPS Unit.
  • Space blanket. These are lightweight and fold up small. These also come in handy as insulation between you and the cold ground, if you have to stop to fix a flat.
  • If we've forgotten to list something, you include it in your kit then.


Nothing takes the place of good sound judgement. Know your physical limits. Plan your distances accordingly. If you get too cold, and nothing seems to be warming you up, it's time to go home. It's always best to ride with someone else, and let others know where you're going and when you expect to return.

Disclaimer: Bikekinetix uses reasonable efforts to include accurate and up-to-date information on this web site; it does not, however, make any representations as to it's accuracy or completeness. It is your responsibility to prepare yourself with the latest information.


Prepare For Winter Biking Part 4: Winter Bike Maintenance And Preparation >