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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Winter biking, easier than you think

Image of bike lane on a foggy morning in Davis, California
From the Daily Camera (Boulder, CO), 01.18.09:

Winter Biking: It's easier than you think
For most of us who ride our bikes to commute, it's no problem in the spring, summer and fall, when temperatures are balmy and the sun shines. When the thermometer drops and the daylight is abbreviated, though, many of us put the bike away and turn to the auto. But with a little planning and precaution, biking during the colder months can be rewarding, invigorating and can even help save a little money.

No question, there are days when snow and ice make biking a challenge. But here in Colorado, our 300 days of annual sunshine usually result in clear roads most of the time. In fact, many commuters find that biking gets them to their destination faster than driving, especially in slow winter traffic. While winter riding requires more fluid and attentive riding, you don't have to be a professional cyclist to handle winter conditions. There are a few things to be aware of, though, especially with Boulder's new Winter Bike to Work Day quickly approaching on Jan. 21. (Read more.)
With an historic inauguration now behind us, and Groundhog Day on the near horizon, cyclists in the frigid north can be hopeful for the arrival of warmer weather.

In the meantime, winter still presents challenges to bicycle commuters. This inspiring article by the executive director of Community Cycles in Boulder offers great encouragement, with advice on clothing, equipment, and travel routes. The author also correctly advises greater caution bicycling in winter. Bicycle commuting is very enjoyable all year round, in all seasons, provided adequate preparation. Winter cycling presents a number of challenging conditions, such as the low-visibility foggy streets in the picture above, a typical winter riding challenge in California's Central Valley.

Beyond cold, winter cycling means lower visibility, with dimmer light and shorter days. Get a headlight, rear lights, and high visibility clothing. Think about reflectivizing to your bicycle, or even adding a personal laser bike lane. Street surfaces are also more hazardous during cold weather. When riding, anticipate slower braking, slicker street surfaces, and slower turns. Be more attentive for broken pavement and potholes, and metal surfaces are slippery when wet.

Days are slowly getting longer, winter is slowly winding down. Keep hope alive! Keep pedaling.

Image: Paul Dorn. Winter fog in Davis, CA.
Visit: Sluggish economy has more metro Detroiters biking to work in winter, Detroit Free Press
Visit: Bike commuters brave the elements to stay in shape, Dallas News
Visit: Riding bikes in St. Louis cold is crazy, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Visit: Arctic blast will send temperatures below zero, Charleston Gazette (WV)
Visit: Winter bike trail fashions, Dr2Chase Blog
Visit: Bike commuters laugh at the cold, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Cold weather no barrier to bicycle commuting, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Brr: Tips for cold weather cycling, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Stay flexible during winter cycling, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site


Steven Vance said...

Chicago and the Active Transportation Alliance held the annual Winter Bike to Work Day yesterday, January 20. It's held on January 20th every year because the coldest day in Chicago on record was on January 20th, 1985.

Anonymous said...

Yup, I did the Chicago Winter Bike to Work Day, although that's really every day for me. Commuting in the winter is not so terribly hard; I'm surprised that the vast majority of Chicago cyclists abandon the endeavor for 4-5 months of the year. I highly recommend studded tires for those who give it a try.

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute. Photograph from California? Article from Denver?

I have a bit more respect for Steven here and the Chicago winter biking.

I bike in upstate New York in the wintertime, and it's a real challenge - nothing to gloss over. From slush, black ice, to thinner roads with cars coming much closer to the bike, NO bike lanes, and snow over the markings of lanes anyhow, it's a completely different kind of challenge, especially up where we actually get a lot of snow.

Steven Vance said...

Thanks, Clifford, for the support. Biking this winter has really sucked because of the super cold temperatures. It's not the ice, snow, or salt. It's those damn temperatures and that horrid wind.

I've said it many times before - a completely windproof jacket is REQUIRED apparel if you even think about going outside on a bike. And if you buy something that claims it's windproof and it's not, TAKE IT BACK.

Stick with the big names on that one, like Windstopper from Gore.

Paul Dorn said...

@J. Clifford: thanks for your comment. I've frequently blogged about cold weather clothing, and tried to make this post about the actual road conditions (poor visibility, slippery surfaces, and as you mention, slush and crowding.) Hence the photo from Davis. Happy riding.

Steven Vance said...

Motorists will respect cyclists more when they outfit themselves with the right equipment (lights!) and follow the rules.

Motorist respect means they give you more room. Which makes it just a tad easier to deal with the less room you get in the bike lane.

Anonymous said...

yep!! yep!!

Anonymous said...

I stay warm riding my bike in the winter by wearing heated clothes ( This is the first winter I've owned them and I wish I had discovered them sooner! The controllable temperatures make it possible maintain a comfortable body temperature during my rides.

Bike Reviews said...

For winter biking, a jacket with side laces and a belt would allow you to fine-tune the jacket to fit snugly against the upper body. Maintaining body temperature at balanced level is important for a cyclist to avoid the risks.
Bike Reviews

Intervalsecrets said...

I have come across this articles its very good information provided I would love to cycling in winter.

D, Morrison said...

If you guys feel like complaining about your winter commutes, come on up to Alberta, Canada and have a go. The auto culture up here can be militantly anti-bike, and some days it sits around -40 degrees, which means you're cold no matter how hard you push. It's all worth it though, just to see people's faces when you tell them you don't even own a car.