Monday, December 7, 2015
Moving Toward Winter Cycling
Here are a few things I do to prepare for and keep active cycling through winter:
1. I get my bike ready. Tune it up. Lube it often. Put on treaded tires. Fenders required. Lights in front and back because you WILL ride much more in the dark of winter's shorter days.
2. I pull out my cold-weather gear. Heavy gloves. Neoprene shoe covers. Merino wool socks. I dress in layers, starting with a long-johns base layer. I like lightweight but warm fabrics. I wear a windbreaker or jacket over whatever else I'm wearing. I wear a head cap under my helmet. Keeping my ears, fingers, and toes uncold is critical for me. I carry a neoprene face mask, just in case.
3. I make sure my lights are in good working order and batteries are charged. I now have a USB-charged headlamp and taillight, so fewer batteries are needed. But I carry extra lights and batteries, just in case. I also carry a reflective vest and wear it when it is dark outside. I want drivers to see me clearly.
4. I now have waterproof bags and panniers and use them liberally. In this photo, I'm using a medium-size Sackville trunk bag and a small front bag. Both are well-made and have proven waterproof through a few rainy-day commutes.
5. One of the mistakes in winter riding is to over dress. If I'm sweating during a ride, I'm over dressed. It's self-defeating because I get cold from the sweat. So, I find it's better to feel somewhat cold on the first third or half of my commute than to be sweating half way through the 14-mile trek into downtown Indy. Again, embrace the wonder of layering.
6. Did I mention lights and reflective gear? I did. Let me reiterate: you not only want to see, you want to be seen--clearly, unmistakably, boldly. There's really not enough you can do, even to the point of looking silly out there on the road. Why? Because while most drivers are conscientious, they are not necessarily completely alert at all times to bicycles along the roadways. Some are quite distracted. I want to attract their attention. If they see me, they usually give me space. Usually.
7. Get ready for rain, sleet, and snow. My commute via bicycle is optional, but it is choice I like to make as frequently as possible. To the gear I've mentioned, I add rain gear. Nothing is more miserable to me than being cold AND wet. One or the other, I can handle; the combination is, to me, miserable. So, get rain gear that keeps you dry.
8. Snow calls for studded tires. They're expensive. So, unless cycling is your ONLY commute option, consider this carefully. I have friends who swear by them, but they're also kinda nuts. There are some clip-on or strap-on treading options for tires for snow, but I haven't tried them.
There you go. A few things to think about and get ready for to make it through winter without abandoning the joy of cycling. Have fun and be careful out there.
John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA