Nov 29 2008
You don’t have to live at the North Pole to be deep in winter. Since late October here in the northern foothills of New York’s Adirondacks, it’s been snowy, cold, icy, or rainy—often all within a 24 hour span—and of course there’s the wind. (Isn’t there ALWAYS the wind?) What’s a cyclist to do? Give up and ride the Bike to Nowhere (eg, a stationary bike), instead? Or grab the steed by the horns and ride? That depends. If you must ride or starve, you ride. If you simply don’t like to give up, you ride. But if you DO ride, ride smart.
Studded snow tires are a start. They won’t prevent you from riding on dry roads on those rare occasions when you find them, but they’ll save your bacon if you must ride on ice. It’s surprising how good a grip you have with studs, but remember that when you stop, your feet aren’t studded. If you DO forget, you’ll remember in a hurry as you look up from the ground. I’ve not tried it, but perhaps it’s possible to ride while wearing traction devices like Yaktrax®. Otherwise, be careful when you bring your bike to a stop.
Time to change to studded tires
Wear shoes that have at least a bit of grip and tread. Roadie shoes aren’t winter shoes. Mountain biker shoes can be. I’ve worn the same pair of Performance MTB shoes for three years and I liked them so much I bought a spare pair. My first pair are still going strong, though are showing some signs of wear. I’ll swap them for the new ones in spring. Whenever that comes.
Dress and outfit your bike for the weather. In cold temperatures, I would rather carry more than I need than to have less than I need and risk hypothermia. A pannier or trunk will carry excess clothing. And I carry a Cold Weather Survival Kit when riding in temperatures that would lead to hypothermia if I had to stop and make a repair of change a tube.
Whatever your beliefs about cyclists’ rights on the road, the fact remains that you’re the one who will be hurt or killed if a car pulls out in front of you because the driver didn’t see you. Drivers don’t expect to see cyclists in winter. HELP them see you. Outfit your bike with lights—at least a blinking tailight (aka blinkie) for riding in minimal visibility during the day. And light that lets you be seen from the front is a big plus during the day. If you ride at night or when it’s snowing, raining, or foggy, get the best, brightest lights you can afford. Reflective clothes help drivers see you, too. Do whatever you can to be seen
Can they see me?
Riding a bike in snowy, icy winters demands, first and foremost, that you be extra careful. Keep warm, ride safe, be prepared. It’ll keep you alive.