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Bicycle Commuting in the Cold

Jack Frost is nipping at your nose, days are shorter, training time is precious, and gas prices are still high. Sounds like the perfect time to embrace a cold weather cycling commute. Here are some tips to make your trip back and forth to work warmer, safer, easier and more comfortable.

Forsake Fashion: You may not look like a runway model, but bright and reflective cycling clothes make you more visible to cars. Choose an outfit that will be easy to see, and make sure you have at least two functioning lights (front and rear) on your bike. Also, remember that automobile drivers may have a hard time seeing you at dawn or dusk, so be extra aware and ride defensively.

Carry an Extra Light: Don’t get caught in the dark. Carry an extra light in case one of your primary lights burns out. Commuter bike lights are inexpensive, lightweight, and can come in handy when digging an extra piece of clothing from the bottom of your pannier or backpack.

Put Bags on Your Bike: If possible, use panniers or trunks to get gear off your body and onto your bike. This makes clothing adjustments easier, and keeps you more nimble just in case you do need to quickly avoid a wayward car or hazardous patch of ice.

Dress in Layers: Because your commute is likely during a time of day when temperature fluctuates, dress in layers so it’s easy to make adjustments. Also, remember that a warm core means warm hands, so if you’re using gloves but still having trouble keeping your hands warm, try adding a layer to your core. Plugging up helmet vents with foam or packing tape is another way to prevent heat loss.

Carry Extra Clothing: Just in case the weather turns ugly, it’s a good idea to carry a few extra layers, some gloves, a balaclava and insulated tights.

Invest in Rain Gear: Riding on cold wet days in one of the biggest challenges the cycling commuter faces. That’s way a good set of rain gear is a must. Look for breathable, waterproof fabric with plenty of vents for temperature regulation. Also, make sure your rain gear is loose enough that you can add layers and a hat if the temperature drops.

Eat and Drink: Proper hydration is just as important in winter as in summer. To keep your sports drink from turning into slush, use an insulated water bottle. Your water will stay cold, but not freeze. Don’t use hot water to fill your water bottle. Room temperature is fine. Also, remember that your body burns extra calories to keep itself warm, so don’t forget to eat.

Get Winter Tires: For a more comfortable ride and fewer flats, mount a pair of wider tires on your bike. And if you plan on riding on snow or ice, ask your bike shop about studded bike tires.

Enjoy: Watching the sun rise on a quiet winter morning is one of life’s great pleasures. That’s why taking a little extra time to ride instead of drive can turn a bleak, urban commute into a relaxing and enjoyable experience. Plus you get a good workout in.

Urban and Commuting