Ride On: 10 tips for a safe winter bike commute
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:
- 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!).
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!