Well, the snow has arrived and so has my Schwinn Searcher 2. I have to say I feel like I was pretty prepared for the whole thing. I had several zip up layers to keep warm or ventilate as needed, and several layers of bike shorts, spandex and wind proof pants to protect my legs; however, there were several things that only experience can teach you.
The following are my five recommendations for keeping warm and on top of the snow this Winter.
1. Lights Lights Lights!
I cannot stress how important it is to have a nice strong pair of lights. I was amazed at how quickly the days began to shrink and I found my morning and night time commutes to be less than ideal for lightless riding.
The strategy of flashing lights in the morning and solid light at night, which I picked up from several commenters on past posts seem to work the best. The thought behind not having flashers on at night is because the flashing can produce a sort of strobe effect, which I think we can all attest doesn’t sound like the safest idea at night; however, in the morning when it is lighter the flashes give that added attention you need.
2. Frozen Toes.
For some reason the toes always seem like the first to catch a chill when it is cold outside and biking is no different. My running shoes that I used all Spring, Summer, and Fall just aren’t cutting it with the cold. For that reason I plan on investing in some lined boots to help keep them warm.
A lot of other people rely on wool socks and shoe covers, which are also an excellent option for keeping your feet comfortable.
3. The Face.
Another area that is hard to keep warm is your face, neck, ears, etc. I personally have found the most success with wearing a headband and then wrapping two scarfs around my head, neck, and mouth, similar to a facemask; however, with the scarfs, I can easily loosen them when my face gets too warm.
A second popular option is to wear a balaclava and while I have never worn one, I can see the benefits and simplicity of slipping one of those on.
4. Cold Hands.
My hands seem to always be uncomfortably cold, and biking in the Winter definitely does not help that situation out. Since my hands are so cold, I tend to double layer a pair of gloves under a set of wool mittens. I know this is probably not the most efficient for switching gears, etc., but I manage and my hands thank me.
Other options that are a bit more bike practical include the lobster glove which is like a two prong mitten especially designed for cyclists as well insulated gloves.
Sliding on the ice can be pretty terrifying the first time it happens on your bike; however, it is good to know that most sliding can be avoided with practical means and a few winterizing upgrades.
The main points I learned about how riding technique changes when snow and ice are on the ground is to brake a bit earlier and slower, and stay centered in your balance should you start to slide.
Another excellent investment is to put on some studded tires to increase traction on slippery spots lurking under the snow.
With just a few weeks under my belt, I can honestly say that riding in the snow and cold was not even close to being as awful as I assumed. The truth is you can stay really warm quite easily, and it is actually kind of nice to get outside in a season where you spend more and more time stuck indoors. Plus it’s always kind of fun to astonish people you meet when you tell them you’re still on your bike all Winter long!
Please comment below with stories of your Winter riding experience or with any suggestions you have to make winter riding simple, easy, and fun!