I’ve spilled a lot of virtual ink over the years assuring people winter can be a good time for riding your bike, if you’re prepared. On that note, I’m linking a not new, but still accurate article about cyclists riding through the winter in Minnesota.
It starts with “They know you think they’re crazy. But riding a bike during a polar vortex isn’t lunacy, winter cyclists say—it’s fun.”
“It’s pleasant,” said Melissa Wenzel, who commutes to her job at Minnesota’s Pollution Control Agency in St. Paul about 7 miles each way on her bike. “I’m actually more cold in a car that hasn’t been heated up than I am on a bike, because you’re moving.”
Those of us in Lincoln who do this would agree. An important aspect of your setup is to know how to avoid sweating. Also- “The breakthrough for me was realizing how good clothing has gotten,” said Benjamin Fribley, who bikes about 23 miles a day to and from work, year round. “Hands and feet are the real key. Once you can keep your hands and feet warm, you can do anything.” I absolutely agree with this, and would add a breathable face covering paired with non-fogging goggles. An important part of the hand preservation part is pogies, mittens for your handlebars.
Of course if you have a short commute of just a mile or so, you might not even need all this, as by the time you’re warmed up, you’re already there, so just a winter coat might do it, with some decent gloves. Generally, you shoud dress for ten minutes into the ride, when you’re warmed up.
The next thing is staying upright. Studded tires are the best way to do that. More from the article:
“It’s important to slow down a little, too. “The studded tires give you a lot of grip, but they don’t give you complete immunity,” Grasse said. This is especially when bike paths or lanes aren’t properly plowed, a regular gripe among Twin Cities winter riders. Plowed streets can also be narrowed by snowbanks on either side, forcing riders to vie for clear road space with auto traffic.
The other key is visibility. Biking through a Northern Midwest winter means shorter days, with morning and evening commutes in full darkness. That means reflective clothing and lots of lamps on both your bike and helmet, so you can see the road and drivers can see you.”
You can read the rest of the article for yourself. Why do we do it when we could probably drive or take the bus? We like it. It feels good to be outside and comfortable in the winter.Starting out is a mental game, with a lot of what ifs. Once you do it and figure out how to prepare, you feel capable and comfortable, maybe even a little sorry for those confined to their cars who don’t know what they’re missing.