When the sun is shining and the weather is nice, commuting to work by bicycle sounds like a lovely idea. As the leaves begin to change colors and the temperature drops many people give it up and search for other means of transportation. We say: Stick to it! Being outside and riding your bike continues to have many positive benefits on your body and health no matter what the weather is like. Are you ready to face Jack Frost like a champ! Get yourself and your favorite mode of transportation prepared for the fall and winter commute (it will be over before you know it!).
Prepare Your Bike
- Proper Working Headlight – Visibility is a serious issue, especially in the fall and winter when the days are much shorter. At the very minimum, you need a front flashing white light and rear flashing red light. The truth is, the more lights you have the better. Consider lights that clip into your spokes or something else so drivers from the side can also see you. Don’t forget to change the batteries on a regular basis!
- Sturdy bike – Fenders and stable tires are the main thing. Or consider a classic Dutch Style bike like they ride year round in Amsterdam!
- Strong Lock – Cable or chain locks used in combination with a padlock often freeze over during the winter. Strong U-locks that freeze over can be a nightmare. What is the solution for a lightweight, dependable lock that won’t be bothered by the cold weather?
- The titanium bodied TiGr Lock – TiGr Lock bike locks are the solution you need to keep your bike safely locked up and easily accessible when you are ready to hit the road. To lock the device you only have to press the lock in with a touch of your finger and it unlocks its unique key.
- Carry-All Bag – You’ll probably be wearing layers of warm clothes and trying to transport important documents or a change of shoes for the office. Consider trading in the backpack or messenger bag for a study side mounted pannier to keep your things safe and dry.
- Proper Lubrication – Making sure all of your moving parts are properly oiled up will protect them from the dirt and mud to guarantee a smooth ride. Some commuters even switch to single-gear bikes for the winter to best protect mountain bikes or road bikes with multiple gears. In any case, it’s a good idea to carry a small spray bottle of lubricant in your bag for days when everything starts to stick.
- Invest in Winter Tires – Depending on the type of bike you are riding and the typical weather for your area, it might be a good idea to change out your tires for a more durable option. You can choose from thicker sidewalls to reinforced breaker belts or even wider tires. As a bike commuter, you are looking for extra comfort and grip on those bumpy, icy roads.
Prepare Your Body
- Wear a Base Layer – Keeping those wheels turning and maintaining your balance takes hard work. Even when it’s cold outside you will be working up a sweat. Keep your core warm and your work clothes dry by wearing a great quality, sweat-wicking base layer shirt. High-quality merino wool shirts are often a bit pricey; expect to pay around $50 for one shirt. The good news is that you only need one because you wear it under everything else.
- Keep Your Throat and Neck Warm – Neck warmers, scarves, balaclavas, whatever your choice, make sure it protects that area between your chin and the top of your jacket. The fall air might feel cool and refreshing but that winter chill can bite.
- Invest in Rain Gear – If your area is prone to wet weather in the fall and winter pick up a great, lightweight rain jacket. You want one that is easily stored in your bike bag for those emergency occasions. Rain pants are also a great thing to have on hand, or be prepared on rainy days with a pair of waterproof cotton trousers designed with cyclists in mind.
- Pack Gloves – Let’s be honest, trying to work with frozen fingers just isn’t a viable option. Your hands and fingers come in direct contact with the cold. For very cold locations “lobster” style gloves are highly recommended since they keep your fingers close together to generate the most warmth.
- Head Gear – While wearing a helmet is your number one priority, you also need to think about how to keep your head warm. You might need to adjust your helmet, or buy a larger one for the colder seasons, to make room for a tight fitting skull cap or ear warmers underneath. The low budget option, however, is to just tape the holes on your helmet closed to trap the warm air inside.
Prepare for the Road
- Ride in the Plowed Lanes – In cities that are commuter friendly, they often keep the bike lines regularly plowed after a snowfall. Stick to the bike lanes when possible. If there is no bike lane and the roads are too narrow for passing, pretend you are a full-size vehicle and take the lane. Be aware when taking the lane, it is important to use all of your hand signals and proper lights.
- Take Your Time – Just like other vehicles on the road, you need to be aware of your surroundings when riding to work or school on your bike. Occasionally squeeze your brakes to keep them warm and free of debris. Look out for signs of ice and make wider turns. If the area you are going through looks too tough to manage, dismount your bike and walk for a short ways.
- Take Public Transit – There will be days when the weather is just plain awful, blistering cold or pouring down rain. Many buses and trains have the ability to hold bikes somewhere in or on the vehicle. It’s OK to surrender on those horrible days and catch a ride with your bike in tow for the commute home or from your way to the office that morning. Cross your fingers and hope for better weather the following day.
- For the Ladies: Wait to Put on Your Makeup – The point of wearing makeup at work is to put your best face forward. Unfortunately, while commuting on your bike you might smudge your foundation under a warm balaclava or sweat off some of your mascara. Go natural on the way to the office, sneak into the bathroom to dab off your beads of perspiration and put on your glowing look for the day.
Don’t let the colder seasons scare you away from staying active and fit. Being aware of the equipment and apparel available for cold weather cycling is half the battle. On those days when you just think it’s not worth it anymore to ride your bike every day, remember back to why you started doing it in the first place. Leave yourself encouraging notes to power through the winter. Keep a jar for the money you would have spent in parking tickets or gas wasted sitting in a traffic jam. Before you know it, the days will get longer, the frost will go away, and all of those warm-weather bicycle commuters will be impressed with your strength and perseverance.