Skip the Ice and Snow & Ride Through the Winter

erin potter bikearlington
Erin Potter Tweet Us @BikeArlington@BikeArlington January 6, 2016
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Erin Potter is the Program Manager for BikeArlington. She appreciates Arlington’s low-stress street and trail network, which allows her to get places easily by bike.

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If you're not a fan of biking in the snow, that's okay. You can skip the ice and snow and still bike most of the winter here in Arlington, VA! The winter percentages show that 93% of days had a high above freezing.

It was a really small number like that that changed my perspective on biking in the winter. For years, I had biked through hot summers and rainy springs…but winter? In Chicago? Seemed to be a nonstarter.

Until a more weather-savvy friend of mine a friend asked me, “So why do you stop riding in the winter?” And I said biking in the snow seemed sort of terrible. And she said, well, that’s fine. Just don’t bike in the snow. You’ll still be able to ride most of the winter.

biking after a snowstorm

And then I mumbled something about being afraid of below freezing weather. And she said, well, that’s fine. Just don’t bike when it’s below freezing. You’ll still be able to ride most of the winter.

While I don’t remember the real numbers that she shared, sometimes all you need is a perspective shift. For me, knowing that my big reasons were actually sort of small, and that sitting out for snow or freezing weather still left me rideable winter days… I decided it was worth trying. Biking in the summer made me happier and healthier and was cheaper than my other options—why not try it in the winter?

Man bikes peacefully through a snowy scene.Turns out—winter biking wasn’t as hard as I had built it up to be. And I sort of loved it, after figuring out a few key things:

  • It’s all about layers —and most of them I already had in my closet.
  • If I’m warm in my apartment, I will be too hot riding my bike.
  • Gloves are worth splurging on.

Because my winter bike adventure was kicked into gear by a weather-related statistic, I thought it would be fun to run the numbers on Arlington. Curious how many days in Arlington are plagued by snow and cold? Read on!

Snow*

16 is the number of days (out of 121) that there was snow on the ground last winter.**
14 is the number of days (out of 121) it was actually snowing.

Freezing Temps***

93% of winter days had a high above freezing
66% of winter days had a low above freezing

So you could sit out freezing temps and snow, and still be able to ride about 2/3 of winter comfortably.

For more specific winter riding tips:

And if you want to make biking in the winter a fun game with a good community of people, check out Freezing Saddles!

Happy riding, and let us know what you do to make cold weather riding easier!

Footnotes:
*Data was from Reagan National Airport, as recorded by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Snow data was from December, January, February and March of 2014-2015. Last winter we experienced more snow than our three year average, which is 12.6 days that were snowing and 12.3 days with snow on the ground).

**Number of “days with snow on the ground” is measured by NOAA, what they call “snow depth” and refers to accumulation.

***Freezing temperature data included was averaged from December, January, February and March, from 2012-2015.

Disclaimer of Fun: Statistics is not my day job. Spreadsheets with data and calculations are here, for those curious.

Do you have a great commuting story? We want to hear from you. Email info@bikearlington.com.

Photo Credit:

Sam Kittner/Kittner.com

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