Tis’ the season where most cyclist decided to pack up their bikes and turn in for the winter. After all who would be crazy enough to actually bike through the snow, ice, and cold?
In order to get a taste of what winter bike riding is really like we decided to interview two of our employees here at Schwinn who are both avid winter bike commuters. Together they roughed through over 25 seasons of winter riding!
Ryan Shiroma, who you may recognize from the cover photo of our winter clothing blog post, also spends his free time racing bikes. From 1997 until 2010, he consistently averaged about 20 mountain races a year. Ryan also raced road bikes for a short time. Picture to the right racing in 2004, he still races mountain or cyclocross regionally. He says that after being surrounded by bikes every day at work he is finding the motivation to increase the amount of events he attends in the future.
Steve Kotajarvi, who helped co-write the article about winterizing your bike is a true bike enthusiast. He enjoys riding bicycles every chance he gets, both recreationally and for commuting to work. Steve also spends his free time restoring bikes back to their prime condition. He is currently working on a 1937 Schwinn C47, which is pictured at the end of this article. Steve is the proud owner of three adorable pugs Winnie, Teddy, and Leif pictured alongside Steve to the right.
Schwinn: Why when most people tend to put their bikes away did you decide to continue to bike through the winter? How long have you been winter commuting?
Ryan: I’ve been biking more than 10 years. The decision was originally based on winter training for the summer mountain bike season. I rode outside to minimize the amount of time I needed to spend on the trainer. Now that I’m not racing as seriously, I continue to ride because I enjoy the fresh air, exercise, and gas savings. In addition, I don’t have to scrape ice off my windows or brush snow off my car.
Steve: I’ve been biking in winter probably around 15 years. I think I just gradually started riding later into the season as I acquired the right gear to make it possible. Plus it just feels good to ride.
Schwinn: Do you have a different type of bike that you use in the winter versus the warmer months?
Ryan: I don’t have a winter specific bike, but I do have special tires that I use for snow or icy conditions.
Steve: I used to, but now I mix it up a bit when the weather permits. With dirt jump bikes, park bikes, commuters, classics, mountains, I particularly like the fat tire bikes, and also full suspension bikes. Everything!
Schwinn: How does your biking technique change in the winter?
Ryan: I tend to ride slower to avoid the wind chill that comes with higher speeds. The added weight and increased rolling resistance from the studded winter tires also contributes to the slower bike speeds.
Steve: Gearing up takes a little longer and typically the bike will be heavier so expect to add about a 25% increase to your commute time. I also try to stay very light on the bike when riding on snow and ice. The tires will wander in ruts that you can’t see under the packed snow so learning to stay above the bike helps keeps you upright.
Schwinn: What sort of comments do you hear from people who know you ride your bike in the winter?
Ryan: Most comments relate to being cold or slipping on the ice.
Schwinn: Do you ever slip on the ice?
Ryan: Since I have studded tires I rarely do, but I am also pretty good at layering my clothes just in case.
Steve: People who don’t ride usually say things like “you’re nuts.” People who do ride usually say “good morning, or good evening, or on your left.”
Schwinn: What is your favorite thing about winter biking? Least favorite?
Ryan: My favorite thing about winter biking is not having to use my car. I only have to change my oil every 18 months. My least favorite thing about winter biking is the shorter days. Because it is often dark during my commutes, staying safe and visible to drivers is a challenge.
Steve: Riding in a big snow storm is my favorite. It gets kind of quiet, as if the falling snow flakes absorb all the sounds of the city, it’s very peaceful. I also like it when snow shoots out of the front of the fender like a snow thrower!
Least favorite; salt, it gets all over everything and wrecks parts.
Schwinn: Any good stories that have happened while on your bike in the winter months?
Ryan: Bring spare clothes. There have been a few days over the past years where I have forgotten to bring regular clothes to work. I’ve had to stand around in boots and winter riding layers all day.
Steve: One thing I’ve noticed is that every year I see more people riding their bikes in the winter and commuting in general. That’s a good thing.
Schwinn: Why do you think people are so hesitant to ride their bike in the winter?
Ryan: I think most people see bicycling as a seasonal activity. Once the bike season is done, they put the bike away and get out the skis or snowshoes.
Steve: I think most people imagine that the person they see riding the bike in the snow is cold, but with a few simple items it’s pretty easy to be quite comfortable. It doesn’t take long to learn how to dress for the changing weather conditions.
Schwinn: What is the number one tip that you would tell someone who is just beginning to ride their bike in the winter?
Ryan: Stay visible. A good headlight and taillight along with some reflective clothing go a long way towards keeping you safe.
Steve: Keeping your skin covered and keeping the cold air out is the number one thing; an insulating layer with a wind proof layer over the top works best. Oh and wear a helmet!
Get Out and Ride!