Biking to work this morning, I excitedly noted the temperature as I passed the hardware store’s large blinking sign– 9 degrees Fahrenheit Sometimes you have to just give yourself a pat on the back and biking when it is 9 degrees outside definitely warrants some back patting! It didn’t even feel that cold but I am sure that is because I was just so excited to be back on my bike! For the past couple of weeks we have been getting pretty regular snow here. Snow combined with lots of temperature variation has made the roads an absolute mess. After one scary situation with a car (I’m fine, Mom! Don’t freak out!) my trusty bicycle was sentenced to the garage for a while and instead I took to walking everywhere. I’m not afraid of the cold. In fact, I find that I thrive in these long winters! I could never live somewhere tropical. Besides, all my jobs are within a mile and a half of my house so it’s not like I have to go super far anyway. The roads have cleared nicely now and yesterday was my first day back on my bike. It felt great to be moving fast again!
The most important thing to remember when winter biking is to have as much skin covered as possible.
If you are particularly sensitive to cold then I suggest getting something to cover your face. [Make sure not to obstruct your vision!] On the days I have biked with a subzero wind chill I am usually find just wrapping a scarf around over my mouth and nose. Never under estimate or forget about windchill. If it feels cold when you stick your hand out the car window on a hot summer day then just imagine how cold it feels to have your whole body against that wind when it is freezing out! COLD!
It’s also important that your ears are covered. A beanie under a helmet can often times be good enough but wearing a special ear covering headband under my hat under my helmet is de-luxe.
Gloves are imperative for winter riding. I wear fleece mittens that are convertible to fingerless gloves.
As far as the rest of your clothing goes I think that really depends on how far you are going and the terrain you will be going over. My ride to work is pretty evenly split between uphill and downhill with a long down hill at the end. I follow the same ethic I do for backpacking which is start cold. I find that if I start biking in my fleece and down jacket then I will be sweating bullets by the time I get to work. Today I simply wore my work clothes (jeans and a flannel shirt) with a heavy fleece and scarf over top. If I am going for a longer ride then I add a wind proof layer on both top and bottom like a wind breaker or rain jacket. Several days I chose to where a long sleeve with a fleece vest and my down jacket.
It’s really up to you and it takes a while to learn your preferences. I am a big supporter of working with what you have instead of buying new fancy stuff. “Cotton Kills,” we outdoor educators always say so if you can try and have synthetic or woolen layers closest to your skin!
Lastly, REMEMBER TO ALWAYS BE SAFE! Wear a properly fitting helmet, bright clothes at night, and make use of lights and reflectors during dawn, dusk, and night hours.
Biking during the winter is extremely rewarding and super fun. I was really nervous at first because I don’t have a fancy bike or fancy tires but it has truly been a great winter of biking. I’ve pushed my limits and my comfort zone and have had a blast!