Navigating the Freeze: Can Ebikes Handle Winter Weather?

All mountain bike enthusiasts await the winter with a stab of sadness as it brings about the end of the riding season and the closing of specific trails. Commuters, especially e-bike commuters, dread the winter for obviously different reasons: commuting in the snow is no fun. But should the winter really hold you back from riding your e-bike?

Ebikes can definitely be used in the winter, although there are a few factors to consider. Firstly, lithium batteries don’t perform well in the cold, so you will have a shorter range. Extreme conditions below -4 degrees Fahrenheit can permanently damage your battery.

Ebikes can be incredible pieces of kit, so you may be understandably worried about damaging them. That concern may just keep you from enjoying a snowy sunset cruise. But it is possible, and a lot of fun, to ride your e-bike in the winter.

Even in winter, e-bikes can provide a solid workout. Learn more about the fitness benefits of e-bikes here.

How To Safely Use Your Ebike In Winter

You might be surprised to learn that winter e-biking is not only possible but actually quite popular. So, if you follow a few helpful tips, you and your bike should be fine.

Tip 1 – Your Battery Won’t Perform The Same

The first and most significant concern of your e-bike versus the winter relates to your battery. In short, lithium batteries don’t like the cold. Not even a little bit.

The first effect of the cold will be on your battery’s performance. This means you can expect your battery to have a considerably lower capacity and power output. In other words, if you like turning our power output to full throttle, you expect to be slightly disappointed in the frosty climate.

But over the lower output, the lower capacity is the snag that often leaves e-bikers stranded or peddling that heavy beast without assistance through the snow.

So, it may not be the best idea to grab your bike and head on your long commute without knowing exactly how the cold affects your range. So, instead, take your bike out for a casual ride in the cold first to see how the cold affects your range.

Some bikers buy or make insulating covers specifically for their batteries to help keep them warmer and slightly improve their performance. It may be worth getting one if you plan on riding in the cold often.

Another more controversial tip is to charge your battery to total capacity right before you go out for a ride. Many e-bikers avoid charging their battery to full capacity to help lengthen its life span, and that’s typically a great idea.

But if you are milking your battery for a bit more range in winter, it makes sense to charge it all the way directly before going for a ride.

Tip 2 – Your Battery Will Need More TLC

Lower performance in the cold isn’t as big a problem. But if it gets extremely cold, the temperatures could damage your battery.

Firstly, it shouldn’t need to be said but don’t store your beloved bike outside during winter. And definitely don’t store your battery in a freezing, non-insulated garage. Instead, bring your battery inside, and if you aren’t going to use it, store it at 50% capacity.

Secondly, do not attempt to charge your battery at temperatures close to or below freezing. At this point, you will cause lithium plating inside your battery, which is long damage that can’t be fixed.

So, if you have just returned from a freezing ride, and your battery temperature has dropped to freezing, bring it inside, wait for it to get to room temperature, and then charge it.

Finally, sometimes it’s just plain too cold for your bike. And probably for you, for that matter. Temperatures below -4 degrees Fahrenheit fall into this range, and on these extreme days, it’s best to leave your bike inside. And work from home.

Tip 3 – Get Some Grippy Tires And Warm Clothes

The next tip relates to the gear you use. Obviously, heading out in freezing conditions in nothing but your favorite lycra isn’t a great idea. So instead, get yourself a set of winter gear to keep yourself from freezing.

Secondly, if your trail isn’t covered in snow, it’ll be covered in mud. So your chances are that your favorite summer tires aren’t going to cut it. If you have a fat bike, then you can get away with deflating your tires to allow for better grip.

For all other wheel sizes, getting a pair of snow, mud, or other ultra-grippy tires is a good idea. These tires are much better at digging through loose, wet terrain to find grip.

Tip 4 – Wash Your Bike Regularly

To help road users stick to the icy roads, road workers typically throw salt over the road surface, which works well for that intended purpose.

Unfortunately, as the cars drive over the road, their tracks displace all the salt to the side, becoming a salty, muddy corrosive mess. It also just happens to be directly in the area where you and your e-bike would ride.

In other words, your bike can get caked with mud and salt during winter. If you don’t take extra care to keep your bike clean, it will quickly turn to rust or build up, damaging expensive components.

Sure, washing your bike in the snow may not be the most exciting chore, but in the long run, your bike and your wallet with thank you for the sacrifice.

Bonus Tip – Have A Beat-Up Bike

A final tip is to invest in an extra, non-electric ride that is already pretty beaten up but well-maintained. This may seem a strange suggestion, but when the conditions are too rough or the wet roads are just too nasty, you can save your e-bike by taking out your beat-up bike.

Conclusion

Although e-bikes can be used in the winter, their battery capacity and power output are adversely affected by the cold climate. So, you will not get as much power, and you won’t be able to ride as long. The battery can also be damaged if you charge it below freezing or use it at below 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Riding your e-bike in winter might expose it to snow and rain. Learn about the waterproof capabilities of e-bikes here.

Author

  • Miles Baxter

    Miles Baxter is an engineer with a longstanding love for bicycles, sparked by winning a mountain bike in a childhood lottery. Balancing a keen interest in mechanics with the thrill of biking, his career is a testament to the art of turning wheels and gears into adventures.

    Baxter Miles