Commute by Bike This Winter

Biking to work in the winter can be a little intimidating.  The slick conditions and freezing weather can make it less than appealing.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.  Commuting by bike in the winter can be just as enjoyable as it is in the summer; you just have to be prepared.  GearJunkie.com has come up with a list of tips to help you with your bike commute this winter.  If you do end up a tragedy of the slick snow and find yourself injured, remember KT Tape is here with our long list of kinesiology taping applications to help pick up the pieces and get you back on the road. From The GearJunkie: Bike tires hum on snow, and they buzz on ice. But they rarely slip when you’re going straight. Gears click and shift the same in almost any weather. Just remember the lube. And the cold wind? With the right clothing it’s not an issue, according to regular wintertime riders. Untold thousands of people in the U.S. pedal year-round to work or school, commuting on city streets and plowed trails. New cycling equipment, better apparel and a growing awareness of the feasibility of wintertime riding has caused a jump in participation. “I used to count bikes as I rode in the winter, as they were so rare,” said Dave Olson, a 57-year-old electrical repairman from Minneapolis who has commuted year ‘round through blizzards and below-zero temps for 20 years. “Now if there’s new snow, I can see the tracks of at least 50 riders.” In Minneapolis — the nation’s No. 2 cycling city after Portland, Ore., according to the U.S. Census Bureau — Olson is among as many as 3,000 people who commute through the cold months, according to the City of Minneapolis Bicycle Program, a division of the Public Works Department. “In the spring, summer and fall there are close to 15,000 bicyclists traveling throughout the city,” said Don Pflaum, the city’s bicycle coordinator. “Approximately 25 percent of all bike commuters ride year-round.” The attraction? Parking is free. High gas prices do not apply. In a storm, two wheels and pedals can be faster for getting around the city than a car struck in a traffic jam. Winter riding is not without hardship. Evening comes early, forcing workers to pedal home in the dark. Snowdrifts squeeze side streets, eliminating a comfortable side lane for bikes. Frozen fingers and feet are common issues for the unprepared. But dress right, use fenders and lights on the bike, maybe add studded tires, and commuting in the bleak months can be comfortable and efficient.   “A bike is a lot more stable in the winter than people think,” Olson said. Not convinced? Here are 10 tips to help you ease into the wintertime cycling scene: 1. Follow the plow Unbeknownst to many summertime riders, bike trails are regularly plowed in many major metro areas. For example, in Minneapolis more than 50 miles of trail is plowed after a snow. 2. Ride straight Believe it or not, the medium during most winter commutes is often the same dry pavement as in the summer. Sand, salt, sun and snowplows eliminate ice and snow from roads in the days after a storm. But for slippery stretches riders should slow down and stay loose. Brake only on the rear wheel to avoid spinouts on slick surfaces. And be prepared to take your feet off the pedals if the bike starts to tilt. 3. Watch out Cars are less aware of bikers in the winter months. Ride defensively. “Make eye contact with drivers,” said veteran commuter Dave Olson. “Make sure you know they see you.” 4. Choose the right ride Don’t use your $3,000 LeMond or full-suspension mountain bike in the snow. Sand, salt and grit can destroy suspension and gears. Instead, go with an older bike you designate for cold-weather use, adding fenders, bright lights and winter wheels. Cyclists like Josh Klauck, a sales manager at Freewheel Bike in Minneapolis, employ some of the best single speed bikes in the winter, as they have fewer moving parts and require less maintenance. 5. Cold and clean Unless you plan to clean it off, keep your bike cold and store it in the garage. A room-temperature bike in new snow can cause ice to form on brakes and gears more easily. Also, keep your chain and gear cassette lubricated for best operation. 6. Go Studs Carbide-studded tires can increase grip on snow and ice, and riders like David Mainguy, a 42-year-old psychotherapist in Minneapolis, swear by them. “Ever since I wiped out on black ice, I don’t ride without them,” Mainguy said of his $50 Nokian brand tires. 7. Protect your core Any outdoorsy person knows that layering is the key to staying warm and managing sweat in the cold. According to Klauck, the best configuration for biking includes a wicking base layer on top followed by an insulating fleece or similar mid-layer, then topped with a waterproof and windproof shell jacket. “That’s good to 15 or 20 degrees for most people,” he said. For the legs, Klauck skips the insulating layer on most days, going with long underwear topped off with a shell pant. “Some people wear bike shorts over long underwear, too,” he said. 8. Heads up Jacket hoods are a no-no, as air funnels in as you move, inflating a hood like a sail. Instead, riders like Mainguy and Olson wear balaclavas and sunglasses or ski goggles. “My eyes freeze without protection below 20 degrees,” Mainguy said. Tight-fitting (but warm) fleece skull caps are popular. Top it off with a helmet, perhaps sized larger in winter to fit over all the insulation. “The key is to cover up all exposed skin while keeping your goggles from fogging,” Mainguy said. 9. Warm hands and feet Switch out gloves for mittens or bifurcated “lobster”-style handwear, which keep fingers close together and warmer. Winter boots, not bike shoes, are best for the coldest days, but use platform pedals with aggressive tread for good grip as you crank. Above 20 degrees, many riders get away with bike shoes, employing neoprene covers to add insulation and buffer warm air. Some companies, notably Lake Cycling, sell winterized (read: insulated) bike shoes compatible with clipless pedals. 10. Use public transit Many metropolitan trains and public busses allow bikes, letting riders surrender on the worst days and hop a ride home. Bike near a bus route and you have bail-out points should the commute prove too long or laborious in the snow. Article from GearJunkie.com by Stephen Regenold