A Quick Lesson In The Art Of The Two-Wheeled Winter Commute
Editor’s Note: A version of this post was originally posted last December in an inaugural post. It’s looks like snow will be upon us within the week and so I thought I’d resurrect it.
This year, I’m including a new poll:
What type of winter Bicycle Commuter Are You?
Originally posted 12/16/2009
What do I need for Winter Biking?
It’s an annual question.
The truth is, I’ve never really thought it through; I’m no expert. Usually, roads are scraped down to the asphalt and, besides the cold, there isn’t too much of a difference from any other time of the year. There are two basics to winter bicycle commuting: 1) layer (it’s easy to over-heat) and 2) don’t be dumb (winter is not the best time to challenge the worst designed streets in the city).
The rest will take care of itself, but here are some other specifics:
For the ride:
- Fender(s): Key for me. I hate that wet stripe up the backside.
- Tires: I’ve gone my entire life without studded tires–most riders do. This year I’m going to give them a try. December has been slippery. There are lots of choices…MyWHaT underwriter McClain’s on 8th will help. (They helped last year…but not always required)
- Lights: Less to see by and more To BE SEEN in these shortened days. My new favorites are the Reelights–always there, charged by the ride. (You’ll need more though).
For the Body:
- Good food: Internal fuel. Junk gets you nowhere fast.
- Base layer: Anything but cotton. Wool/Synthetic.
- Wind/Water Proof Shell: Anything with vent zippers under the pits is very nice.
- Head, Neck & Face: Key! Warm thin hat (under helmet), scarf (not too long) or balaclava. My arms and legs are usually fine, but if the head isn’t covered I freeze.
- Gloves: Wind and water proof preferred.
Or rather, not riding. Some days are just hell. Depending on conditions, I might just walk or take the bus, but sometimes I’ll take BATA bus one way and throw my bike on its racks. Of course, if it’s that wintry outside, I’d probably just stay home.
But, on the days you do ride, keep it smooth and relaxed. Falls typically happen when trying to stop or turn too quickly.
Bad balance + icy spot = rider falls down.
But its important not to be afraid to fall. It typically won’t hurt all that much and often results in laughter in the street. I don’t adjust my brakes in the winter and just let them go loose to prevent falls due to skidding. I’m going slow enough along neighborhood streets and don’t need to accidentally lock them up and skid out. That’s me, you may be different.
Oh, and about cars. Take up the lane. The edges are typically uncleared slushy messes. It’s a public road, meant for automobiles, bikers and walkers if need be. Use it.
If you have other questions, let us know. There are a many winter riders in Traverse City, and elsewhere, and each has their own tips.
What are some other tips of the trade for winter bike commuting?
Are we ready for a bike to work day/week in Northern Michigan? (We weren’t last year.)