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In this article I’m going to be sharing my 9 top tips for riding an e-bike in the winter. All the advice shared below is gained from my own personal experience of riding various electric bikes over a typical British winter time and involve riding in heavy rain, ice and snow. I’ll also be including some helpful winter e-bike maintenance tips – look after your bike and it will look after you!
Riding an Electric Bike in the Winter 9 top tips
The tips below are not in any particular order but if you do everything below, then you shouldn’t have any nasty surprises. Winter time in any country in northern Europe can be particularly harsh, and in the UK we get more than our fair share of rain with areas in the north of England and Scotland always getting a fair amount of snow.
If you’re going to be using your e-bike for commuting in the winter months you’ll want heed the advice below as it will make your journey to work easier – there’s nothing worse than arriving at work cold and wet first thing in the morning!
1. Wear appropriate clothing
Sorry if this one is obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many people don’t wear appropriate clothing for winter riding. I’m guilty of this myself and have learned the hard way so you don’t have to!
The problem with the UK and other countries in the northern hemisphere, is the weather can be deceptive. What may seem like quite a pleasant day can turn very quickly (definitely don’t rely on weather forecasts).
If you’re planning a longer journey, always make sure you have warm clothes and waterproofs available. If possible wear waterproof shoes, and if it’s cold I recommend getting neoprene wetsuit gloves under you outer gloves.
You’ll also want to be visible, especially if your route includes riding on busy roads – the more visible you are the better.
2. Charge your e-bike battery at room temperature
There’s a rule of thumb with electric bike batteries and that is always charge them at a comfortable room temperature – ideally 18-20 degrees centigrade.
If you’re bike has been outside in cold temperatures for some time, don’t just bring the battery (or bike) inside and start charging as the battery will still be cold. Allow time for the battery to warm up to room temperature before commencing charging. Doing this will not only prolong the life of your e-bike battery but help keep it optimized.
You can ride your electric bike in sub-zero temperatures, but remember, the colder it gets the less energy efficient your battery becomes and it’s not unusual to lose as much as 20% range in cold winter temperatures.
3. Fit the right tyres and have the right pressure
During the winter months, the country lanes around where I live seem to stay wet constantly. You will also find the roads and lanes strewn with more debris, particularly thorns and the like. For this reason, I recommend a good quality puncture resistant tyre that has a decent bit of tread. For more info, check out this article on the best tyres for electric bikes.
Winter tyre pressures will be different. I run my tyres at a lower pressure when the roads are wet and muddy as the reduced pressure will give you a bit more traction – you don’t want hard, overinflated tyres on wet, slippery roads!
4. Slow down
You definitely need to adjust your riding style if you’re anything like me. I tend to ride quite fast in the warmer drier weather, but with the winter comes unseen hazards.
Apart from obvious things like snow and black ice, the two crashes I’ve had over the last three years were caused by diesel spills (and me riding a bit too fast). Because I live in a very rural area, there’s lots of farm machinery going here and there, plus a lot of older vehicles on the road. Diesel, when mixed with water produces a surface just as slippery as ice and it’s all to easy to slide off when making a turn or negotiating a bend.
The accident above happened when I was test riding a Ribble CGR AL e, bloody typical that I came off riding someone else’s bike! Thankfully the only damage was a scuffed derailleur on the bike and I had a sore shoulder for a couple of days.
5. Clean your e-bike regularly
The problem with road muck in the winter is it’s often got salt and other corrosive materials in it, plus the muck itself will have an abrasive action on your bikes drivetrain (chain, derailleur).
If you have access to an outside tap and hose, cleaning your bike should only take 5 minutes or so, and it’s time well spent – even if you have to do it after every ride. If left, this can accumulate and over time will reduce the performance and service life of your components significantly.
It’s worth getting something like Muc Off bike protect which acts as a water dispersant and is good to use on components post-wash. I did this all through last winter on my Vitus Mach E hybrid and it still looks as good as new and I have only needed to replace the chain and brake pads so far (after nearly 2000 miles).
6. Maintain your Electric Bike
One thing that has always shocked me is how some owners just don’t take of their e-bikes. I’ve had bikes back in for servicing after 6 months of winter use, and it’s shocking the condition some are in. Bald tyres, brake pads down to the metal, really worn chains and other components plus completely plastered in muck.
Having ridden bikes and motorbikes for years, I’ve always put a priority on maintenance – look after your things and they look after you! Neglect things and they generally let you down.
I can’t emphasise enough for the need to regularly service your e-bike. Winter riding really speeds up wear and tear not just on the drivetrain and tyres but also the brakes. If you don’t have the time, inclination or space to do the work yourself there are lots of good bikes shops out there will service your bike for you.
Remember to keep your electric bike in good and safe working order, otherwise neglecting your e-bike may cost you more than just money.
7. Fit some mudguards
If your electric bike doesn’t have mudguards fitted I would highly recommend you fit them. I can guarantee you that a good set of full-length mudguards will make a lot of difference. I’ve ridden on the muddiest of Cornish back lanes in the winter and there’s nothing worse can getting cow s**t spraying up into your face from the front wheel!
8. Ride a suitable e-bike
I have ridden all types of bike over the winter months, and I feel that the most suitable e-bike really depends on where you live and ride to. I tend to prefer more of a hybrid bike that has clearance for wider tyres. You don’t necessarily need front suspension although it can help if you’re plagued by pot holes on your regular route. Even if the bike you ride is more road-orientated, you can still usually fit 32mm or even 35mm tyres.
9. Check the weather
Another obvious one, but it’s easy to get caught out riding in the winter. Although you can’t rely 100% on weather forecasts you can get a rough idea of how the weather’s going to be. I always use the Met Office app to find out what the weather’s doing.
If you step outside in the morning and almost slip on ice, then you’re going to have an even tougher time staying on an e-bike. Snow on the other hand isn’t so bad if you have the right tyres an lower pressures. The main hazard riding in the snow is going to be other road users.
Strong winds and heavy rain are also risky, especially if you’re riding an exposed stretch of road with a strong side wind. Tailwinds are great, but the inevitable headwind can be tough (although an e-bike will help take the strain).
The important thing is to read the conditions – if you don’t feel comfortable riding in certain weather, play safe and don’t risk it.
My thoughts on winter riding
I enjoy riding all-year round and winter riding certainly has its challenges. If you can stay relatively warm and dry, that’s a good start. Make sure you stick out like a sore thumb – the more visible you are to other road users the better. If you don’t have mudguards or lights, you should definitely fit them as even during the day it can get pretty dark sometimes.
There was a time that I was more of a fair weather rider but I’ve embraced the bad weather and learnt to live with and accept it as part of riding a bike. If you stayed indoors every time it rained in the UK, you’d hardly get out on your e-bike over the winter.
Follow the above tips for riding an electric bike in the winters months and you won’t go wrong. If I’ve missed any out, please feel free to share in the comments section below.