Posts Tagged With: biking

Biking through a Wisconsin Winter

Ready to Bike!

Ready to Bike! [Side Note: I have now cleaned this mirror]

Thinking about doing some below freezing bike commuting?  First of, you are not crazy and if you are prepared then you will be fine so don’t talk yourself out of it before you even start!

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!

Happy Biking!

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Country Roads, Take Me Home

When we moved in this house in April, Jamie gave me the best present ever… a bicycle.  My trusty Schwinn and I have traveled all over this town and regularly take trips to the outskirts.  Never having gotten my driver’s license, I have always relied on either my feet or others’ kindness for getting to and from.  Riding my bike everyday has given me a new sense of independence and freedom.  I imagine it is similar to how a 16 year old feels when they first get behind the wheel without an adult in the car.  I cruise down the hilly roads of Viroqua, zoom past those on foot, and become intimate with the changing of the seasons.

My bike has given me the confidence to explore corners of town I never would have seen otherwise and to even head out of town to explore the beauty of country roads.  The Driftless Region, known for its ridges and valleys is a surprisingly bike friendly place.  I have never felt threatened or unsafe while riding on the roads here.  I like the attribute this to the high volume of Amish in the area.  I think that people are used to being on the look out for slower vehicles and know how to give ample space, etc.  With the shorter days I find myself riding in the dark a lot so I picked up some fancy blinky lights from the Halloween clearance section in November and keep my headlamp strapped to my helmet and on high in front on me.

With an uncertain future of oil scarcity or extreme gas prices, it seems smart to me that everyone has a bike.  A couple weeks ago I went to an event sponsored by Transition Viroqua where Mike Frank said [something along the lines of] every step we take towards resilience and away from oil dependence is making a transition. I really like that and sometimes reflect upon it while on long solo rides. How are you making transitions? Riding a bike or walking whenever possible is not only healthy but taking an active step towards weaning ourselves from oil dependency. It’s also super fun, low impact on your muscles, and pretty freaking hip as well!


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