Ride On: 10 tips for a safe winter bike commute

winter cycling safety

Posted by: Jen Craft PT, DPT

Though the weather outside is frightful, there’s no reason to place your bike in storage for the winter and give up on your commute. With a little bit of prep work and extra considerations for safety you can absolutely stay on two wheels this winter. Below are 10 tips to help you have a successful bike ride this winter season:

  1. Bundle up. Wind chill has a sneaky way of making it feel a whole lot colder than it is outside. For example, the thermometer might read 32 degrees but a cold front of wind can make the air feel 10 degrees colder. It’s best to dress in layers and be overdressed rather than underprepared (and frosty!).
  2. Pack an extra set of dry clothes. Dry socks, underwear and pants will mean the difference between being cold and soggy or dry and comfy all day.
  3. Cover your eyes. If you wear glasses you already know how annoying it can be when raindrops cover your lenses and blur your vision. A brimmed running or cycling cap under your helmet can keep the flurries out of your eyes so you can focus on the road. To prevent your glasses from fogging apply a layer of anit-fog or make your own with toothpaste or dish soap (the internet has a plethora of DIY suggestions).img_0330
  4. Gloves are a must. Two pairs of gloves are even better. Heavy, warm ski gloves are great for keeping your knuckles warm while you ride but warmth usually also comes bulk. If you need to change a tire or make any other adjustments to your bike during your ride you’ll be thankful for packing a thinner spare pair of gloves for fine tuning.
  5. Consider your tires. Riding with mountain bike or studded tires will provide you with more traction on slick roads. There are even tire chains that you can purchase for your bike, much like the ones you put on your car tires. Another option is to slightly under inflate your tires to increase the surface area contact with the road. Be careful not to lower the pressure so much that you’re at risk of a pinch flat.
  6. Shine on. Remember that it gets dark much earlier this time of year. In July it’s easy to enjoy the daylight into the early evening hours but in the winter it starts getting dark after 4pm. Don’t forget both your front and rear lights so you can safely be seen!
  7. Fenders are your friends. Fenders over your tires will prevent the icky street slush from splashing up onto you as you ride and are well worth the investment. cycling safety sign
  8. Mind the rails. Snow and slush on the roads can make streetcar and train tracks less visible after a storm. As always, approach the tracks at an angle but also be mindful that the metal of the rails can be slippery. Try keeping your bike as upright (vs angled) as possible when crossing the tracks to avoid wiping out.
  9. Stay hydrated. Just because you’re cold doesn’t mean that you’re not thirsty. Remember to rehydrate after your ride just as you would any other season.
  10. Be aware and enjoy yourself. Confidence and awareness of your surroundings go a long way towards keeping you safe on the road. Enjoy the fresh air and rush of adrenaline that a bike ride can give you and don’t let the weather get you down!

Get a Proper Bike Fit to Cycle with Confidence

Get a Proper Bike Fit to Cycle with Confidence

Bike to work

Bike to work

 

Did you know Bike To Work Day is happening next Thursday? Whether this is your first biking or your hundredth, a proper bike fit assessment can help you prevent injury and improve performance. No more neck pain, lower back aches and hand numbness. Learn about the benefits of a bike fit and top things to look for when optimizing your bike to meet your biomechanics.

Benefits of a Proper Bike Fitting

  • Lower back pain and knee pain are the most prevalent injuries with cycling. A comprehensive bike fitting will take into account your individual biomechanics to prevent injury and aid you inreaching your peak performance.
  • Prevent Injury by establishing neutral positions that reduce stress on your body. This is especially important if you have recurring injuries.
  • Improve performance by finding comfortable positioning that will allow you to exercise more effectively and build strength.
  • Master your technique by making sure all of your body is working in sync for a more seamless ride.
  • Experience a more enjoyable ride because you will have peace of mind, you will be comfortable and will start feeling improvements, which will help motivate you.
Image take from http://www.jimlangley.net/wrench/bicycleparts

Image take from http://www.jimlangley.net/wrench/bicycleparts

Mechanics of a Bike Fitting

Even with small changes in your bike fit, you can expect exponential changes biomechanically. There are multiple parts of a bike fit and depending on your pre-existing areas of pain, you can ask your physical therapist to hone in on those areas. Below are common pointers we give to cyclists of all levels who are looking to improve their cycling posture. Before making multiple changes, please talk to a professional to get their insight on how to better optimize your bike fit.

  • Bend your elbows. Having bent elbows will help absorb shock through your upper extremities and reduce stress on your cervical spine.
  • Maintain a neutral spine. This helps keep you from hyperextending your neck by trying to maintain an upward glaze. Without proper trunk alignment or thoracic spine extension riders often experience hyperextension injuries in the head and neck region from trying to maintain an upward gaze without proper upper back mobility.
  • Find your handlebar sweetspot. Poor handlebar positioning may cause stress on your spine as you try to sustain a proper position. It may also result in hand pain or numbness due to your grip.
    To keep a neutral pelvic alignment, don’t tilt your saddle downward. A downward tilted saddle may put unnecessary stress on your wrists. It may also impact your erector spinae, multifidus, obliques and quadratus lumborum if your muscles have poor endurance.
  • Find your saddle sweetspot. Oftentimes riders change the angle of the saddle for comfort rather than actually assessing if you have the right saddle fit for your body type. Before changing the position of your saddle we recommend finding the right saddle fit first. When you ride your knees constantly maintain a semi-flexed or mid-range contraction, which can put stress on your hamstrings. When a saddle is placed too high often times this places the pelvis in a posterior tilt creating a biomechanical shortening of the hamstrings. This can lead to muscle strains or even numbness and tingling in your legs during long rides.
  • Wear padded gloves and proper shoes. During long rides you may grip more tightly or apply more pressure with your feet while pedaling. Wearing the proper gear is just as important as your position on your bike to reduce stress and let you enjoy your ride.

Get a Bike Fit Today From Your Physical Therapist
Physical therapists are biomechanical experts and look at your movement from a holistic view. They will be able to analyze your bike fit and how you fit on your bike keeping in consideration any previous or recurring injuries you may have to get the most out of each ride. Our physical therapists will work with you one-on-one to make adjustments as needed to improve and build strength.