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10 Worst Mistakes to Make Winter Riding

  • By Eszter Horanyi
  • Published Jan. 6, 2012
  • Updated Oct. 11, 2012 at 4:44 PM EST
When temperatures drop below 0 degrees F, keeping all skin covered is essential. Photo: Eszter Horanyi

Extreme Exposure

9. Wearing no or inadequate eye protection

Most cyclists wear eye protection to avoid irritation from wind and to block the errant rock from inflicting damage. In the winter, eye protection shields the eyeballs from the wind and helps keep the eyes from freezing. Frozen eyeballs can lead to temporary blindness and cause long-term damage if left unchecked. In extremely cold temperatures, normal glasses will fog due to the upward motion of the breath when the mouth and nose are under layers of skin protection but ski goggles work well both to keep the cold out and to help prevent fogging. Be sure to use ski goggles and not motocross goggles as moto goggles will fog and freeze.

10. Exposed skin

For most snow rides where the temperature is above 0-degrees F, the sun is out, the speed is relatively low, and the ride two hours or less, a little bit of exposed skin won’t end in disaster. But once the mercury starts to drop into the negatives and rides get longer, any exposed skin can become a liability. According to military training manuals, frostbite can occur on exposed skin within 45 minutes in -10 degree temperatures without wind and at 0-degrees with a 15 mph wind. To avoid the dangers of frostbite, make sure susceptible areas such as earlobes and nose tips are covered. Iditabike racers annually race through -40 degree temperatures for days on end, so there are plenty of options for dealing with the cold.

Winter riding doesn’t need to be miserable or cold. With a few simple precautions, it can be made quite pleasant. The key is to experiment with clothing and layers because a system that works for a sweaty person will leave another person frozen. The riding season doesn’t have to end when the temperatures plummet and those who take up the non-gravity fueled sport of running in the winter because they think that it’s too cold to ride simply haven’t discovered the right clothing.

Check out more suggestions for how to prepare for winter riding. 


Eszter Horanyi lives and mountain bikes in Crested Butte, CO.  She has dabbled in road racing, cyclocross racing, and cross country mountain bike racing, but has gravitated towards ultra endurance and multi day self supported racing in the more recent past.  She firmly believes that nothing tops a good ride with good friends on good trails, thus she spends her life in search of all of the above. All articles by Eszter.

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