January 15, 2013

Cold Weather Bike Commuting Q & A

It’s the winter and you’re still riding your bike – awesome! You’re probably finding that family, friends, and co-workers have been peppering you with questions about it. You’ve likely heard, “How do you stay warm?” Argh. Asking a cyclist that question is like asking a vegetarian, “Where do you get your protein?” Though annoying, it requires a thoughtful response.

I’ve found there are a few questions I’m asked over and over again. While it can be tempting to give a curt response, use this opportunity to be a bicycle advocate. Who knows, maybe you’ll inspire someone to give bike commuting a try.

A: I generate a lot of heat pedaling my bike – actually, it’s easy to become overheated in winter clothing! I feel cool for the first five minutes, but then I warm up and am comfortable. You might be surprised by how warm you’ll get from a little exercise.

A: Most days are clear and require nothing more than the sunglasses, gloves, and warm clothes I wear in the winter, regardless. I pull out my warm mittens for freezing temps and reserve the use of my ski goggles for when it’s snowing.

A: Nope, I use the same bike year round. It gets a thorough cleaning and any required maintenance in the spring. I’ve had tires dry rot, but the bike itself has held up well.

A: Ice can be dangerous whether biking, walking, or driving. Luckily, icy conditions aren’t the norm. When it is icy, I give myself extra time so that I can go at a pace I feel comfortable with. In particular, I avoid making sharp turns on ice or snow and I find no shame in dismounting and walking over a slippery patch of ice.

A: It’s only stressful when motorists in my immediate proximity drive inappropriately for the conditions or blare their horn at me. It was way more stressful for me when I drove during the winter. Riding in the snow is actually quite fun and stress-free on bike paths and low traffic roads. I’d (obviously) choose biking over driving in the snow.

A: Get in the saddle and go. Don’t dress too warmly, take your time, and have fun.
Note: I’ve received a lot of advice (usually unsolicited) about biking in the winter. Generally this advice is focused on things I need and mostly makes a simple thing seem both complicated, as well as overwhelming. All you need is a bike.

Thoughtful responses can go far in demystifying riding a bike in the winter and to help others see that it’s not for some extreme sect of cyclists.

1 comment:

  1. I love your Q&A, and I can't really think of anything to add. People seem to ask me how long (i.e., until when) will I cycle to work. Lately my answer has been, "The past couple years I started walking in October, and started riding my bike again in March, but this year I'm trying to ride more through the winter as the weather permits."

    Since I live 2 miles from my office I can easily walk as well as cycle. I find that temps under 25F are just a bit cold for me on the bike, and that's when I walk. Coworkers still think I'm crazy for walking, LOL.