Winter cycling with kids

Whether you’re new to doing the school run by bike, or are a seasoned veteran cyclist, the idea of winter cycling with kids can seem a bit daunting. 

Winter presents its own challenges, from chilly temperatures to potentially slippery roads, but with a bit of planning and the right gear, you can overcome these obstacles and find year-round cycling to be rewarding.

The key is having a few things to help keep your children warm and dry on the bike, and to make your bike roadworthy in challenging conditions. This doesn’t need to be a huge investment, but get a few small things at the start will see you through the whole season and make life easier further down the road. A waterproof jacket, for example, is something that won’t break the bank and is hugely practical.

The Cycle Sprog team has lots of experience of trying to keep little riders warm during the winter months. In fact, it was actually looking for winter gloves that prompted Karen to start Cycle Sprog in the first place!

So if you’re not sure how to get going, you can tap into our expertise instead. This comprehensive guide will take you through all the essentials, including what to wear, useful equipment and accessories to add to your bikes, and maintenance tips to keep your bikes ticking over until spring.

Once you’ve finished reading through this guide and exploring all the useful content we have here, why not check out our Winter Family Cycling podcast for more!

Winter cycling with kids: A cargo bike seen from behind, parked up on a wintry path with children sitting in the front

What to wear for winter cycling with kids

For most parents facing a winter of cycling with their children, the main concern is keeping them warm enough, whether they’re riding their own bikes or joining you on yours. 

You should also be extra cautious with children in trailers or on bike seats and cargo bikes, because they’re not moving and are therefore much more susceptible to the cold. 

Here are the key things to keep in mind when choosing how to dress for your cold winter rides.

Winter cycling with kids: A little boy on his bike facing the camera wearing a Parker coat and a bobble hat

Layering is key

Dress your child in layers to regulate their body temperature. Multiple thin layers are often better than a single thick one, as they trap air and help maintain warmth. Ideally, combining a moisture-wicking base layer, an insulating middle layer, and a waterproof outer layer is the best option. 

If your child is wearing a school uniform a combination of school cardigan or fleece layer and waterproof coat is a great option.

A wind and waterproof all-in-one or puddlesuit with a zip is a great option for little ones and ensures the wind chill can’t get to them.

Waterproof overtrousers are a good additional layer for older children if they’re cycling on their own bikes.

Check out our guide on the best kids winter cycling jackets for more details and a list of products we recommend.

It’s also important for you as the parent to stay warm and dry as well! If you’re heading out in rainy conditions, we’ve got a great roundup of the best cycling ponchos.

B'Twin 100 kids waterproof jacket (£19.99)

Btwin 100 kids cycling jacket

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B'Twin 500 kids waterproof jacket (£34.99)

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Altura Spark kids cycling jacket (£39.99)

Altura spark kids cycling jacket

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Endura kids MT500JNR jacket (£42.00)

Endura kids waterproof cycling jacket

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Head and neck protection

A warm hat that covers the ears is essential, and consider a neck warmer or balaclava for additional protection against cold winds. 

We have a full guide to how to keep your child’s head warm under their bike helmet that goes into a lot more detail.

A bit of vaseline on cheeks and lips can help to protect your child’s face from the wind and cold.

Winter cycling with kids: A close up of a girl wearing a bike helmet and a snood around her face so only her eyes are visible
Winter cycling with kids: a toddler on a bike in a snowy street wearing a big puddle suit for warmth

Hands and feet

Invest in the best children’s winter cycling gloves to keep little hands warm. We’d also recommend that your child wears thick, warm socks and consider bringing along some hand warmers and a hot water bottle for cargo bike rides.

 Tigo Totes Warm weatherproof gloves (£17.95)

Tigo Totes Warm kids winter cycling gloves in black and orange

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Polaris Mini Hoolie Children's Cycling Glove (£23.99)

Polaris RBS mini hoolie winter gloves

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100% Brisker Cold Weather Youth Gloves (£24.99)

Orange 100% glove

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Kids Ride Shotgun winter pogies (£45.00)

child sized pogies for keeping little hands and fingers warm on a front bike seat

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Visibility

It’s a good idea to opt for brightly coloured clothing and reflective accessories to make sure you and your kids are clearly seen on the road, especially at this time of year when the days are much shorter. 

For more on this, we’ve listed 7 ways to make your child bright on their bike in the dark.

Winter cycling with kids: A father and child cycling in the snow, wearing hi-viz jackets

Equipment and Accessories for Winter Cycling with Kids

Don’t be put off by the idea that you’ll have to buy lots of stuff to get out on the road. These aren’t essential but they certainly can make winter cycling easier and more comfortable for both you and your children.

Winter cycling with kids: Two children standing over their bikes, turning back towards the camera

Mudguards

Fitting mudguards to your child's bike is crucial during winter, because they prevent mud and water from splashing up from the road surface, keeping both your child and their bike clean and dry. 

Many bikes we recommend come with mudguards as standard or an optional extra, while there are plenty of aftermarket guards available that just clip on to the seat post for a quick solution.

SKS Velo Kids 20" Mudguard Set (£15.00)

   Winter cycling with kids is much easier with a set of mudguards, like this SKS Velo 20 inch Mudguard Set

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SKS Velo Junior 24" Mudguard Set (£18.00)

Winter cycling with kids is much easier with a set of mudguards, like this SKS Velo 24 inch Mudguard Set

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SKS Rowdy Junior Mudguard Set (£24.00)

Winter cycling with kids is much easier with a set of mudguards like this SKS Rowdy Junior Mudguard Set

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B'twin Rockrider MTB mudguard kit (£17.99)

Winter cycling with kids is much easier with a set of mudguards like this B'twin Rockrider MTB mudguard kit

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Winter tyres

You should consider swapping out regular tyres for winter-specific ones. Winter tyres will often have a thicker wall and more pronounced tread, so they can provide better grip on slippery surfaces, as well as additional puncture resistance. 

While the winter tyre market is less pronounced for children than it is for adult cyclists, there are definitely options out there for smaller wheels.

Winter cycling with kids: a young child seen from behind in a rain mac riding a balance bike through a big puddle
Winter cycling with kids: A boy on his bike in the dark, with a front light and a reflective jacket

Lights for visibility

With reduced daylight hours, lighting is crucial, whether it’s to see or to be seen. Take a look at our guide on the best bike lights for kids to keep yourself and your child visible and safe on the roads this winter.

Knog Plus wearable light (£34.99)

  

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Lezyne Femto Drive Light Set (£27.00)

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Elops Battery Powered Light (£4.99)

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Knog Pop i Front Light (£14.99)

Knog Pop i front light

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Winter cycling with kids, safely

It’s one thing to make sure your children are warm enough, and that their bikes are kitted out properly for the weather conditions, but when it comes to winter cycling with kids it’s important to do some planning and forward thinking as well.

Route planning

When you’re navigating fewer hours of daylight and potential black ice on ungritted roads, it’s very important to think carefully about the route you’ll take to school. 

You may need to divert from your usual route in order to stick to larger roads that you know will be gritted and safer to ride on than quiet backstreets that might still be icy first thing in the morning. 

Give yourself plenty of time, don’t set off too late, and don’t try anything too adventurous. Short and sweet is key, with an escape route. 

Winter cycling with kids: A toddler wearing a bike helmet and sitting in a child seat at the rear of a bike
Winter cycling with kids: A woman buckling up her daughter's bike helmet

Safety 

Something to bear in mind is that when the weather is at its worst, conditions can just be too bad to cycle safely with your family. Be mindful of extra debris in the road, and try to avoid big puddles as they can often mask potholes.

It’s also crucial to be able to judge when to ride and when not to ride. Pay attention to weather warnings, especially for ice. Obviously whether or not you choose to ride is down to you, and there are certainly people who get along fine doing so, but when there are severe weather warnings, really you shouldn’t travel unless it’s an emergency. So here at Cycle Sprog we recommend that you don't ride with your children if there's a weather warning in force, or if the overnight temperature goes below zero. 

As much as we love to ride our bikes and encourage others to do so, sometimes you just need to leave them at home. Use your judgement and stay safe.

Keep up morale

Most importantly, you’ll need to keep everyone happy on a winter bike ride. Whether you’re doing the school run or out for a leisurely cycle at the weekend, in these trying conditions you should go armed with treats to keep them sweet. 

Stop at cafes to warm up, bring flasks of soup and hot chocolate, and don’t be afraid to ply your youngsters with whatever it takes to keep them cheerful on a chilly ride.

Winter cycling with kids: A young boy wearing thick cycling gloves and a helmet, enjoying some hot soup from a flask

Maintenance and bike care in winter

When you’re exposing bikes to harsh weather conditions, including rain, freezing temperatures and salty gritted roads, its components will start to wear more quickly. A bit of quick and easy at-home bike maintenance and cleaning can help mitigate that and keep everyone’s bikes running for longer.

Winter cycling with kids: A close up of a disc brake rotor being sprayed with water

Washing the bike

It’s not the most enjoyable job in the world but it’s really important to keep your child’s bike clean over the winter, especially if they’re bringing it home covered in mud or grime from the roads. Failing to wash the dirt off can cause problems in the long term, with components wearing out prematurely, and costing money to replace. When it can all be prevented by keeping them clean!

  • Apply a warm, soapy solution using a soft brush, paying attention to mud-prone areas.
  • Clean the chain and cassette with an old toothbrush, and rinse the bike thoroughly.
  • Dry it with a clean cloth and then apply some chain oil to keep everything lubricated.
  • Don't forget to check for wear and tear as you go.

Tredz 8 Piece Cleaning Bucket Set (£34.99)

   A collection of cleaning products on a blank background

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Fenwicks Bike Cleaner 1 Litre (£6.49)

fenwicks bike cleaning spray

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Tredz three brush set
(£9.49)

three black brushes with red handles

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Peatys Link Wet Lube (£8.99)

Peatys link wet lube

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At-home winter bike maintenance

Not everyone has lots of time, so we don’t expect you to fully service your child’s bike at home over the winter. 

However there are a couple of small things you can do to keep it happy in challenging conditions.

  • Check the tyre pressure regularly and pump them up when they lose air, to not only protect the rims of the bike from unnecessary wear and tear, but also to make your child’s riding experience much more enjoyable.
  • Keep the chain oiled, especially if there’s been a lot of rain. This prevents rust and keeps the drivetrain operating as it should.

 

Winter cycling with kids: Two bikes left outside overnight, now covered in snow

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