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Illustration of child biking in winter
Illustration: Getty Images.

How to Bike to School Through the Winter

Experts suggest these tips for taking two wheels to school, even when the temperature dips.

Dress for success

Keeping little bodies cozy is the first step to a successful (and by that we mean whine-free) winter bike-to-school experience. Bundle riders in layers and winter wear. Remember that wind chill will be a factor—even if you’re not going very fast. “It might be 25 degrees and comfortable when you’re standing there in the sun, but as soon as you get riding, it’s significantly colder,” says Robert Pickels, advanced development project manager for Louisville-based cycling apparel brand, PEARL iZUMi. Also, don’t forget, helmets are still a must. Layering a cap underneath may compromise the fit and safety of the helmet. Instead look for helmet covers designed for winter riding.

Ready your rig

Before setting out, make a couple of quick modifications to your kid’s standard bike set-up. First, lower the seat by an inch or so to ensure their feet can reach the ground quickly if they encounter unexpectedly slippery conditions. Then, lower the tire pressure a bit. This will help tires conform to the ground, providing more traction.

Be visible

Some school commuters may need to leave before the sun is fully up. If that’s the case, make sure drivers can easily see you both. “I buy reflective tape and I let the kids go to town with it,” says parent and owner of SloHi Coffee + Bike, Adam Williams. “It’s a fun thing for them to do, and it’s dirt cheap.” Also be sure to attach lights to the front and rear of your rigs.

Pick the right line

It’s likely you and your child will encounter a range of conditions on your way. If dry pavement is not an option, go for pavement that’s wet​​—just be careful if the temperature is near freezing. Packed snow is fine too, as long as it has a matte look to it. “If anything is shiny, it’s often slick, even if it’s packed snow,” warns Pickels. Avoid it entirely or get off your bike and walk carefully across.

Don’t try to push the limits

Remember that it’s OK to miss a few bike-to-school days. If it’s really cold, gusty, or just too snowy, it may be time to turn on the car. Look at it as a long-term investment and choose your battles. “The reality is, I want (my kids) to keep doing it more than I care about them doing it every day,” Williams says.

Go-Get-’Em Gear

Every day is a bike-to-school day with the K Legend Insulated Jacket ($120) from Helly Hansen, which offers the protection of windproof, waterproof fabrics that still breathe. Diehards: Add in the K Rider 2.0 Insulated Bibs ($100) too.

The pros said it first: Lights and reflective layers are must-haves in low-light riding conditions. Bust out Woom’s FLARE Reflective Vest ($59), which blocks the wind, enhances visibility, and has style for miles. Pair it with their CYCLOPE Bike Lights ($39) to stand out even more.

Parents accompanying their kiddos should check out the equally stylish and functional falketind down750 Hood ($299, also available in men’s), a lightweight puffer by norrøna, which has its U.S. offices in Boulder. Pair it with our favorite hot pants, the fleece-lined (but not bulky)  Fireside Denim line ($159, also available in women’s) from DU/ER.

There’s no stopping young riders outfitted in Colorado’s favorite wool brand, Smartwool. Their ​​Kids’ Merino 250 Base Layer Pattern Crew ($60) and corresponding bottoms ($60) regulate temperature and manage sweat, while also keeping little ones cozy.

Fend off icy gusts with the low-profile Hemisphere goggle (starting at $129) from Boulder’s own Zeal Optics. Anti-fog and 100 percent UV protection will likewise protect little peepers from Mr. Golden Sun.

Snuggly gloves are essential to prevent a miserable commute, and with their waterproof shell and heat-locking, high-loft insulation, Dakine’s Avenger Gore-tex Kids’ Gloves ($48) are just the ticket.

“A hot drink goes miles,” Williams says. “It gives them something to look forward to.” Plan a quick stop to savor a warm bevy on your after school ride. Use the double-walled Vacuum Bottle ($22.95 for 0.5 L) from Louisville-based Primus to keep that cocoa steamy.

This one falls more on the wishlist than the essentials, but if you’re committed to pedaling all through winter (and will be getting out on some snowy weekend rides as well), the fat-tired El Oso Nino 20 ($650) from Diamondback Bikes is a worthy investment.

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