Although the weather this time of year in this part of the country makes it challenging, you should try to keep commuting by bike through the winter. It’s easier than you think.
Consider the distance of your typical commute and whether or not you are in an area that does a reasonable job of clearing the snow and ice from the roads and paths. We are fortunate in Madison, Wisconsin, to have numerous city agencies responsible for different sections of the bike paths, so often the path may be cleared even before the side streets have been plowed.
You also have to choose what’s best to wear. In November, Madison Bike Winter held its fourth annual fashion show, demonstrating not just style, but also giving attendees some great ideas for clothing and accessories, much of which they may already have.
Recommendations: Dress in layers you can easily zip and unzip as you get going and warm up. Invest in a good pair of gloves or mittens that are windproof and keep your hands warm while also allowing your fingers to be able to move, shift and brake. Be sure to keep your feet warm and dry as well, either by wearing a pair of winter boots or by putting windproof shoe covers over your shoes. And don’t forget nice wool socks.
You should already have a good winter jacket. Just be sure you can bike in it. And you will want to keep your head and face warm, either with a balaclava that fits under your helmet or a combination of a hat and gator or scarf. Also recommended is a pair of rain pants you can quickly throw on and take off.
Some bike commuters say their eyes are sensitive to the cold, so they wear ski goggles. If you get some, make sure they do not fog up or you will limit your visibility.
As for what to ride, consider a “beater bike” to avoid the wear and tear, not to mention the corrosion, that the bike will endure through the winter. If you use the bike you generally commute on, just give it a little extra love and attention more frequently through the winter.
Wipe your bike clean and dry, especially after a snowy and slushy ride, and oil the chain, dry and clean the wheel rims to ensure proper braking, and make sure your cables and shifters work properly. A good set of fenders, both front and rear, are invaluable when riding in wet conditions. And studded tires are worth every penny.
Even in winter there are often fair weather days on which you can ride quite comfortably. If it isn’t one of those days, see if you can put your bike on the bus or train.
Be sure to check out Madison Bike Winter on Facebook, for more tips, suggestions and events. Keep on biking!