Bike Life

Extreme winter biking with your Bunch!

View of Bunch Bike on a snowy road

My family uses our bike year round in Edmonton, Canada and it gets cold and snowy here!

We have about 4500km on our bike since we got it in June 2018. I ride it in snow up to 1 ft deep, and I've ridden it down to -35 F. I have 4 kids aged 10, 8, 6 and a toddler!

(Looking for winter weather tips in a milder climate? Click here!) 

Why bike in winter?

Everything you love about cargo biking in spring/summer/fall continues to be awesome in winter. We use the bike for bike adventures all winter and I love it.

Keeps me active, keeps us out of the car, keeps the kids excited to go outside - it's all good.

We started off slow, but went completely car free about a year ago. My family estimates that we've saved around $25,000 per year since then! We were even on the news.

In my opinion, the trike format shines in winter. I have a two-wheeled cargo bike as well but I don't use it once there's snow on the ground. Not the trike - it's so stable that you can push through snow - it's a tank!

I do have tips & tricks I've learned along the way - for anyone else interested in serious winter riding.

Preparing your bike

The only change I make to the bike is to put winter tires on. We bought Schwalbe Marathon winter tires our first winter and they are great. If you will be riding on ice, I highly recommend them.

We use the rain tent whenever the temp drops below 23F (or warmer if it's really windy) because it helps creates a greenhouse effect inside the cargo area to keep kids warm, and keeps them from getting chilled by the wind.

Avoid folding or crumpling the tent when it's very cold - let it keep its shape.

Preparing your kids

I take the kids to school, to the park etc in the bike all winter. With the right gear, I have no issue keeping them warm to -15F for a couple hours outside.

If it's any colder than that, I only do the short school run. Since the kids aren't pedaling or doing any work, they get colder faster than the rider.

In milder climates, the rain tent alone will keep kids pretty warm - you can get by with just a winter coat and don't need the layers, gloves, etc that you would need if they were biking in a more exposed child seat.

If you live in a serious winter climate, you have all the gear you need already - put the kids in their snow pants, mittens, scarves/gaiters etc that they already have. If it's super chilly, put layers on under their outdoor gear.

The only kid gear I purchased specifically for biking was a snowboard/ski helmet as it has built in ear protection and I found it hard to get toques on under bike helmets and still have the helmet fit right. They also have fleece gaiters (neck scarf) to pull over their faces when it gets cold.

For added warmth on really cold days, I put blankets in the box around the kids, and I've also used the chemical hand and foot warmers to keep the extremities warm. Blankets store nicely in the benches, and can be pulled out as needed.

Preparing yourself

Like with the kids, the only special gear I've bought is a ski helmet to keep my head and ears warm. I bought mine with a visor to keep my eyes from freezing as well, but ski goggles work here if you have those. I have a fleece neck gaiter to keep my nose and cheeks warm as well.

To keep hands warm, any windproof mitten works. I prefer mittens to gloves as my fingers stay warmer, but some people like the control over the throttle and gearing that gloves provide. Lobster claws are a good compromise, but honestly, if just starting out, use what you have and see what works.

There is a bar mitt that will work on the Bunch Bike and it helps a lot - but it requires you to be very familiar with your bike controls already because you won't be able to see the screen while it's installed!

For feet, again use what you have. I bike in my winter boots (usually just my light ones, but on the -35F days, I wear my big clunky Sorrels. The pedals handle those just fine.

What to wear

Dress in layers until you get the feel for what your body needs when it's cold. I dress as though it's about 10 degrees warmer than it actually is, as I will get warm as I ride, and I'd rather be a little chilly to start than overheat part way through the ride.

My commute to work is 5 miles, and I have 3 levels of clothing, depending on temperature. If you plan to ride when it's cold, get a pair of fleece lined wind pants, but test the texture of the outside material on the seat, as some are slippery and you spend the ride trying not to fall off the seat (ie what my snow pants do to me.)

For women who bike, there are some really cool snow skirts that keep the thigh warm (which is really the only part of the leg that gets cold) that are excellent. I've borrowed one from a friend, but not bought one yet because they are pricey). Also, fleece lined leggings under a dress are incredible. I have several pairs and love them.

I need to wear a suit at work, and with the right layering I can ride in my suit. I can leave the suit jacket and shoes at work or bring them in the bike. I keep a brush and basic makeup at work and can clean up after the ride in less than 5 minutes. For grocery store or playground trips, I don't care how I look at the end, so it doesn't matter.

Riding safely on winter roads

In winter, slow and steady is your friend, although the trike is very forgiving if you make mistakes, in a way that a 2 wheel bike is not.

Weight in the box is also good - more weight means more traction and stability.

Just pick your path and steer, and take corners slowly and wide. Ice and the trike is not an issue, especially with studded tires.

Take downhills slowly though, as it's easy to go much faster than intended when icy.

On icy uphills, I power up the e-assist to max, and expect the back wheel to slip a little. Just keep pedaling, and keep your rear on the seat as you need your weight to keep the back wheel from slipping.

When it's really cold, I don't shift much (or at all). I use the battery to give me more power, as it's easy for a shift to slip when the cables are frozen.

If it's below -15F, the bike, gears and brakes will feel stiff (aka frozen) when you first start riding. They will loosen as the ride goes on, but take it a little more slowly at first.

The battery does not last as long in cold weather- it's about 30% less than it would be above freezing. Do not leave the battery outside in the cold. (I did that once and had no power at all to get home. Also, no lights. It was a mistake I will not make again.) I will take the battery into the grocery store with me when its cold, rather than lose the capacity for the ride home.

Winter prep for babies

For anyone wondering how to dress the really little ones for cold weather Bunching, this is what I did with my 8 month old at -27 C (-17 F) and -35 C (-31 F) with windchill on a snowy, blustery school run today.

Step by step of baby getting dressed for winter bunch bike

I keep him in his sleeper to keep his body heat in, but put a pair of socks on inside the sleeper.

Touque & mitts & scarf go on next, fleece booties and then the bunting snow suit with fold over mitts and booties is the core outer layer.

A fleece blanket with waterproof layer is next (I have the Lark Bike Blanket, but any blanket you can tie in place works).

The Bunch rain tent to keep out wind is next.

He was out for about 35 min dressed like this and still has warm fingers, toes, legs etc. Still toasty and warm 😁



Reading next

Why does the Back To School sale end on a Tuesday?!

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.