Dos and Don’ts of Winter Biking
Even though temperatures have dropped, there is no reason to drop biking. With a little knowledge you can continue biking through the winter months.
Five years ago, I did something crazy. I signed up for a winter challenge called Freezing Saddles. The goal was to ride at least one mile every day between January 1 and March 19. I have always been a 70+ degree bicyclist so this was going to be a major feat for me. I imagined that I would need a lot of clothing to keep me dry and warm, but I found that you don’t necessarily want to overdress. In fact, there are some definite do’s and don’ts when it comes to biking during the colder months.
Do test ride your bike in cooler weather. During this exercise you’ll find out where you feel cold before you run out and buy hundreds of dollars’ worth of stuff. You may find after your ride that only your ears get cold and you need earmuffs or that your jeans will work just fine to keep your legs warm.
Don’t overdress. When it’s cold, we naturally want to bundle up, but when you’re biking you need less clothing than you may think. You will begin to warm up as you ride your bike. So, you want to dress in layers so as you warm up you can remove the outer ones. Consider wearing long johns, a long-sleeved T-shirt, a heavier long-sleeved jersey and jacket. As you warm up, you can remove the jacket or the jersey and still be warm enough for your ride.
Do cover your extremities. The first parts that usually get cold are your hands, feet, head, and ears. Make sure to find gloves to keep your hands and fingers warm. You may have some warm gloves or mittens already. If not, invest in a pair. Wear wool socks and if you have hiking boots, that can work well to keep your feet warm and dry. A hat or buff under your helmet works great to keep both your head and ears toasty and warm during your commute.
Don’t wear cotton. Cotton feels so good in the summer. It’s breezy and soft and comforting. But in the winter, you will sweat as you bike and cotton will absorb that sweat and hold it next to your skin making you feel colder. Instead look for merino wool items that wick moisture away from your skin, keeping you feeling warm.
Do keep your bike maintained. Make sure to keep your tires properly inflated. Clean off any dirt and gunk from the chain after a ride in the snow or rain. Check your brakes to make sure they are working properly before going out for your ride.
Don’t feel obligated to bike in seriously cold temps or inclement weather. Of course, we’d love for you to bike as much as possible; but it’s OK to take a different form of transportation when it’s too cold or precipitating. Or consider combining your ride with transit if the weather becomes too cold or snowy to ride in.
Do be visible. Daylight Saving Time ended and it’s getting dark sooner. As you ride and walk through Arlington County, we want to make sure you are visible. Contact us if you need bike lights or reflective gear.