A few months ago, I offered some advice on thriving during winter in Stockholm. One of the main takeaways is to do as Swedes do: dress for the weather, and get out there.
The same logic applies to winter biking in Stockholm. And since the idea of cycling in the winter struggles to make a good impression on some people, I thought I’d share how it works around here and why I do it.
It’s normal here
It can be snowing, windy, or cold, and you’ll still find people commuting to work, picking up their kids, and using a bike for ordinary trips around town. The infrastructure is good, and it’s only getting better: The city’s urban mobility strategy is guiding ongoing improvements to widen cycle paths, expand the network, and generally make it safer and more convenient to cycle.
Overall, the city does a good job maintaining bike lanes in winter conditions. Many areas in central Stockholm have ground heating, which melts the snow. Areas without this are regularly ploughed, salted, and sanded; I have yet to find snow buildup or icy roads on my routes.
Dressing for the cold is the key. I go for layers, always with a windproof layer on top (and sometimes my full rain suit). Gloves, durable shoes, and a hat are also essential accessories. As for the bike, it doesn’t have to be fancy; a typical mountain bike or gravel bike usually has adequate tread on the tires (for example, mine’s a gravel bike). But, many people also buy winter tires with higher tread or studs for excellent traction.
Bike maintenance & storage
Winter conditions can be tough on the bike, but a little maintenance goes a long way. From my experience, the most important things are to keep it clean, grease your chain, and get fenders (shields you and the bike). Storing it indoors is also ideal; on campus we can access a shared bike garage with our apartment keys.
I usually describe winter cycling as normal cycling, except slightly slower and brighter. Going slower, especially on turns or hills, has helped me avoid any wipeouts. Also, using front and back bike lights is necessary to make yourself visible in darkness or snowy conditions. And – wearing a helmet is always recommended.
Why do I do this?
Biking isn’t everyone’s favourite. It happens to be something I enjoy, so I can justify the extra effort to bundle up in the winter to do it. I like that it wakes me up. I like that I feel warmer on a bike than I do walking through the city. I like getting a little bit of activity out of my commute. And I like that it saves me the cost of a metro trip. Of course, there are plenty of times I walk or take the metro too. But Stockholm’s winter temperatures and snow levels are usually mild enough that cycling is often practical.
Overall, it’s a matter of expectations. It was a little strange to me when I moved here, and now it’s just an ordinary part of my day. Might be the same for you someday..