Good morning! I wrote a piece on winter biking a few years ago – for a zine called “Dames on Frames.” Here is a slightly modified version of that piece. Enjoy and keep the rubber side down!
On Winter Biking: My top five biking tips
I’ve been commuting by bike year-round since our move to Minnesota in 2001. This is my ninth winter. I usually opt out of biking approximately 5 commutes per year.
Item #1 – PRACTICE! Get used to riding on crap so that when you are faced with crap plus dorky driver, you know what will and will not work. Get onto the side streets that still have lots of white pack and slush etc… Consider going out to a park and riding in the snow on the baseball fields... Find an empty parking lot... Once you’ve done it a few times, it just doesn’t seem as big of a deal.
Item #2 – You can’t steer / turn on ice, so just forget about trying. Keep forward momentum going.
Item #3 – don’t stare at your front tire when you hit a patch of heavy slush or some other kind of crap. Power through the slush/crap and look forward at least 10-20 feet. Use your butt to steer – not your hands. LOOK WHERE YOU WANT TO GO cuz that is where you’ll end up.
Item #4 – biking in fresh powder of up to six inches is a BLAST!!!! For me, if my pedals can clear the snow, it’s bikeable powder. Once the pedals don’t clear the snow, it’s just plain hard work although crashing is easy and pain-free (mostly) in such conditions. Getting up hills can become a problem simply because it’s really hard work!
Item #5 – DOUBLE YOUR LIGHTS at night. I use a red blinky on the back of my helmet or backpack and another on my bike. I add another blinky to the trailer, when attached. I use a rechargeable bright white light in the front. I usually have a backup battery light in my bag. The back-up has proved useful when I find myself riding with a lightless friend or when my rechargeable runs low. In the end, more is more. In addition, I use a lightweight, homemade backpack that has foot-long reflective stripes. I figure that anything I can do to make it easier to see me is a good good thing.
PS - in case five items were not enough....
Item #6: the only way to dress is to use layers. ...
[For more of Lee's winter clothing tips, visit her blog and read her full post, here! -Lowrah]
Personal safety: 1) Guy-ification: otherwise known as obscuring your WTF-ness... People tend to mess with dude-appearing folks less... So, I guyify. When I have long hair, I tuck it into my jacket. I wear gender-neutral clothing. 2) When cycling in sketchy areas, I keep my u-lock handy. 3) I recommend riding with a buddy at night and staying away from lonely trails. A good group to ride the greenway with is Trail Watch, which patrols the Midtown Greenway most evenings of the week. One comment at winter skill share was that if you hang out for a couple of minutes on the greenway, someone nearly always comes along. Most of us are very open to riding with someone...
Falling: Yes - we all fall. Don't feel bad! I fall at least a few times each winter. Usually, I fall because I am not paying attention. Return to item #1 - practice! Keep your hands on your handlebars - sticking your arm out to catch yourself can cause broken wrists/arms/collarbones. If you keep your hands on your handlebars, you'll land on your side... better absorbing the energy of the fall over a larger area of your body. You'll have winter clothing on, so road rash is nearly never a concern. I strongly recommend helmets!
Lane positioning: Don't ride too far to the right! You want to stay out of the crap-lane - i.e., the right-most portion of the road that contains slush, plow leavings, and other bits of crud. In addition, you want to avoid that seam between the gutter and the asphalt, which can be hidden under even a thin layer of snow and/or ice. Hold a nice line as your are riding. On a snowy day, the best line is in the right-hand tire track of the motorized vehicles....
Lee has a lot more to say about winter biking. Check out a REALLY sweet and informative blog post about bike choice, studded tires, over on her blog, here.
Please contribute by posting your experiences and tips in the comments!