Winter Riding: How To Stay Safe and Enjoy Your Ride
As a bicycle courier in Chicago, I dread the winter riding season—with all of its snow, sleet and 30 mile an hour winds—it is enough to make you want to hibernate eternally underneath warm covers.
As an incentive to ride the rigorous roads of Chicago’s downtown and face its chilly wrath with confidence, I stuff all my clothes for the morning in my pillowcase and sleep a full eight hours, preserving the warmth as much as my body will allow.
A typical winter day in the city involves rain, wind, snow, ice, slush and a narrower terrain or road to tackle it all on. Don’t be afraid to take up an entire lane if you’re nervous, best to play it safe no matter what the circumstances are.
My checklist to stay safe this winter:
- Full fenders: whether you’re on a road bike or a beach cruiser it is always wise to protect your backside and your front. As soon as moisture hits your skin you are susceptible to a full days worth of misery. It really depends on the tire size and bike you plan to use them on but in general SKS long boards are amazing, keeping you dry on most rides. SKS race blades don't offer the same coverage but are better at fitting in tight clearances.
- Keeping my bicycle clean. Call me crazy for riding my full carbon Cannondale Synapse road bike up until the weather gets too out of hand, but its my work bike and I treat it as if it were my most prized possession. There's going to be a lot of wear on all the bearing and parts.
- Ride slow and avoid potholes, bridges, alleys, unpaved roads and any construction. Brake early and thoughtfully and take your time on turns. If I have to dismount to get across a grated bridge filled with enraged motorists, it’s a much better option than risking a potential slip.
- Lighten Up! Get the bright bike lights out for the winter as it gets dark early and you would be surprised how little a motorist can see when behind the wheel. Reflective clothing is always a safe bet. Do some research on high visibility apparel before you make a decision on what to wear. There are many options out there that don’t require you to wear a fluorescent yellow safety vest.
- Protect your eyes, ears fingers and toes. For your eyes try goggles or yellow tinted glasses for those dimly lit rides in snowfall. For your ears try a wool cap that covers the back of your neck and ears (this is a life saver.) For fingers doubling up on gloves is always an option, that or some heavy-duty lobster mitts. And for toes I go two pairs of merino wool socks covered by some waterproof socks. Keep those puppies dry.
- The best advice I can give for keeping warm in the winter is to ride hard, try to get your blood pumping. This helps aid in circulation, keeping your body temperature up and your extremities nice and warm.
What else has saved me so far this season?
It is form fitting, water-resistant, versatile, light and warm. It has a storm flap in the back and the shoulder and sleeves are reflective for night time riding. A secret pocket on the left arm holds your ID, keys, some extra cash... magnetized and made of Epic Cotton, this is a jacket that stands alone in its ingenuity and attention to detail.
The Bookman light is perfect for someone constantly on and off their bike. It takes no time at all to strap the lights on the front and rear, click, flash and go... and they're easy to slip off in a pinch as well. Their portability and bright color make them a hard item to lose during a hectic day.
This jersey is so warm, I can get away with a pair of thermal bib tights and the jersey in even the chilliest of winter mornings. It's wicking merino wool fabric keeps me dry, warm and smelling fresh. Also, it looks amazing with anything. This is definitely a jersey I can wear to work, class, dinner and a movie. It's accessibility is unbeatable.