- Thu, 01/05/2012 - 04:00
- 0 Comments about 9 tips for winter bike riding
Bike commuting can seem like an easy choice in fair weather, but snowy, cold winters can melt even hearty cyclists' resolve: Days are shorter; roads can be slick, and it's just plain cold.
Steadfast winter commuters Pia Sabina Valeriana and Morgan Matter,volunteers at Derailer Bicycle Collective in Denver, and Alex Clark, a volunteer at FM Community Bike Workshop in Fargo, North Dakota, recently offered their tips for surviving winter on a bike:
1. This advice might sound like it comes straight from mom, but dress in warm layers.
“I think an outer shell is critical,” said Valeriana, who has bike commuted through the winter for 30 years. Valeriana also recommends a good pair of gloves and a thin hat to go under your helmet.
Little things – like wool socks – can make your ride much more comfortable, Matter said. After all, who wants cold toes?
2. Some people have special bikes for icy weather, but really, you can ride whatever bike is available that you're comfortable on. Valeriana has ridden a vintage cruiser for the past several winters – in both Colorado and New York. The heavy, green bike is her favorite winter ride yet.
“I feel more confident,” she said. “If I fall, I'm not going fast, so I probably won't hurt myself as much.”
Matter spent years riding a road bike through the winter.
“I did it and I thought I was real brave,” she said. “Then I got a mountain bike, and it makes me feel more comfortable.”
If you're sticking with your road bike, letting a little air out of road bike tires can give you more contact with the road and better traction, Matter said.
3. For those who want to build a bike just for winter, Clark said this is not the time to splurge on fancy parts.
“Don't ride anything you can't replace,” he said. “Winter is rough on bikes and despite best efforts, things will get worn out and rusty. It's best to not get attached to things.”
4. Ample chain lube and cleaning will reduce some of that damage, Clark said. Use rags and a toothbrush to clean your chain regularly.
5. “Fenders are a godsend,” Valeriana said. “It's so nice. You don't get the racing stripe up the back, you know? You're drier. For years, I would just be soaking wet.”
6. Even more than usual, being visible to drivers is important.
“Cars won't be expecting to see you, and with reduced daylight, keeping it well-lit is more important than usual,” Clark said.
If ever there is a time to take a whole lane, it's when the roads are icy, Matter said. Drivers can see you better, and if you fall, you have more space than you would if you were on the shoulder.
7. The best way to start riding in the winter is to push yourself to get out and ride – but don't expect to set any records for speed and agility.
“Start slow,” Matter said. “Don't take hard turns on ice.”
Sometimes having a buddy is helpful, she added.
8. That said, you should know your limits.
“You will fall,” Clark said. “It will hurt. Living car- free is empowering, but there is something to be said for humility, too. If you feel uncomfortable with the weather or with your skills, you should catch another way home.”
9. Clark reminds winter riders to have fun and offers these words of encouragement: “If you are even considering riding your bike through the winter, you are cool in my book. Remember the reasons you started riding, and don't let the weather get you down.”