Learning From My Winter Cycling Failures

I really love biking in winter, as I recently wrote, but I have experienced a definite learning curve.
Here, I have compiled some of the lessons I’ve learned over many years of winter cycling. I would love to hear your mistakes (or “learning opportunities”) too!
  1. Optimal winter routes are not the same as summer routes.
  2. Laboratory goggles are less effective eye protection in subzero weather.
  3. Balaclava-hair is even worse than helmet-hair.
  4. Soup will freeze and burst in your bag at -20 F, and then all your stuff will smell like soup all day.
  5. In St. Paul, the Parks Department maintains the bike paths, so if you want to report an icy or unplowed path, select the “Parks and Trails” category on the See Click Fix website (not “Snow and Ice Sidewalks/Roads”).
  6. Street plows are supposed to maintain on-street bike lanes, but there’s apparently no point in reporting unplowed bike lanes on See Click Fix (“Snow and Ice Roads” category): they never even acknowledge the request, let alone fix it.
  7. Unprotected on-street bike lanes are generally unusable in winter (at least in St. Paul).
  8. Wearing eye makeup can quickly lead to makeup running down your face, because frozen eyelashes eventually melt.
  9. Fully cleaning your bike regularly is a great idea, but at minimum wipe and clean your chain after snowy/rainy rides or it will rust very quickly
  10. More socks aren’t necessarily better, because they constrict your feet (but getting larger sized boots allows enough space for extra socks).
  11. Falling is OK, but if you keep falling over and over, it might be time to turn around and go home.
  12. Bar mitts can fill with snow if you are unlucky in your bike parking choice.


Bicycle handlebars with a snow-filled bar mitt attached. Teal bike with basket and picnic table in background

After work one day, I found my bar mitts filled with snow. Now I try to angle my handlebars away from the prevailing winds

Jenny Werness

About Jenny Werness

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Jenny (she/her) is a carfree, bicycling, tree-loving St. Paul resident, with a Ph.D. in organic chemistry. She believes that our rapidly changing climate should be of utmost concern to all of us. Board of Directors of streets.mn, 2019-2024; Executive Committee - Content Manager.