365 Days Commuting By Bike: Mini Series

snowI once saw an info-graph that depicted bike commuting in terms of the seasons and your physical state of being during those seasons; only allowing just a sliver of “brief delusional joy” which fell in what the designer must have imagined was a ridiculously short period of Spring and Fall; however I feel the need to mention that some years in Wisconsin we don’t actually experience either of these seasons… at all.

49fcfdc4684ba5dd8f3463bcf0fd338dNow in all honesty there is a lot of truth to this info-graph and as the real season wheel begins to turn toward a brief Fall interlude I find myself sweating thinking about the upcoming Winter months. “Absurdly Freezing” the graph says. Again I wonder if they have ever biked in a Wisconsin Winter, but the point is clear biking in the cold is going to take some adjustments.

I started my daily commute to work last March as soon as I determined that the bitterness of the cold was almost completely over and the roads were clear enough of snow.  This year, however, I no longer have a carpool to easily get me through the “Absurdly Freezing” period of Winter. That combined with my love of a challenge has led me to delve into the idea of not only stretching out my commute as long as possible, but actually tying it to the start. In other words I plan on biking straight through the absurd Winter!

The good news is I will be taking you, SchwinnRed readers, along for the ride.

This Thursday I will be talking about clothing transition from Summer to Fall and about little subtle changes that you may run into with the slight seasonal differences.

Future article will discuss, choosing a Winter bicycle, prepping your bike for Winter, dressing for Winter, and posts about my experiences that will inevitably occur.

If you have any ideas about topics you would like me to cover I would love to hear them! Please feel free to comment below with your suggestions or email me at socialschwinn@pacific-cycle.com.

Now get out and ride while we are still in the tiny window of “brief delusional joy.”

-Samantha C.

6 thoughts on “365 Days Commuting By Bike: Mini Series

  1. I loved the winter all three years I commuted by bicycle. Tips I can provide are:

    1) Studded tires. I cannot say enough good things about them, but they are worth every penny. Or, make your own. As for riding over ice- that’s easy. Beware of refrozen rutts. On snow, try to keep your grip on the bars looser, instead of white-knuckling the handles. Your balance and ability to ride out slips and slides improves DRAMATICALLY with practice. My first winter was spent on skinny slick tires very carefully riding, and I still fell 5 times. The following winter, 1 fall, only because I didn’t realize I’d come off the edge of the path, and then hit the edge and my tire could not climb the slick surface. Winter after that- zero falls and gleeful days spent pedalling over snowfalls and through slush puddles with studs. Winter is AWESOME.

    2) Mittens > gloves. I ended up frustrated at not being able to find a glove combination that actually kept my fingers themselves warm, and literally traced my hand onto some fleece one day. The fleece mittens worked so well, I never bothered to buy real mittens. Below 0F, I added a second small pocket cut to cover only my fingers and up the back of my hand.

    3) Over-sized shoes. Similar to gloves, I was having major trouble keeping my feet warm in all kinds of snow boots. What solved my problem? A $3 pair of boots in size 8 from Goodwill. I wear 6.5, and they were simply leather boots with no insulation, and a thick rubber bottom with a chunky heel. They were actually slightly TOO large, but I could comfortably fit my thick wool socks and a thin pair. Never once did I have cold feet again, even at -14F (I felt very badly for a coworker who got frostbite!

    4) A breathable coat, or layers. Layering never worked for me, but what did was a giant green fleece-lined cloak that I made. Nobody could figure out how I was actually not freezing with that thing, but I was often way more comfortable in the cold than they were. Basically- you want to be warm enough that the cold isn’t bothering you, but you can feel it. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll warm up once you start pedaling too- likely, you’ll overdress a lot before you find a system that works for you. Don’t get too hot, because then you’ll sweat and soak your inner layers. Wet clothing is very cold once you stop moving! Don’t underestimate the power of a cold wind. Try not to leave any skin bare, and cold wind in the eyes produces blinding tears, so try goggles if it becomes a frequent problem. You’ll want sunglasses for snow glare.

    5) If you need to ride with traffic on snowy days, it is often better to stay in the right-most wheel track. Sidewalks are often unplowed and icy, and forget finding a bike lane. If you can, great, but if not, being in the wheel track not only gives you a safer path, but drivers can see you better, and will also pass you wide enough that their own tires will cross the center mush into the other tracks, rather than ride through the center mush and fling it all over you and your bicycle.

    6) Bright lights, all the time. If it is a nice clear day you can not have them, but I would put mine on anytime I was near car traffic on a cloudy day, and especially when snowing. Drivers who share your commute time do get used to seeing you, but take no chances. invest $13 for a Take-a-Look mirror that attaches to your glasses, hat bill, or helmet edge. Invaluable for keeping tabs on what is going on behind you.

    I think that’s it! Don’t forget you need to drink water even though it isn’t hot anymore. Have fun! Enjoy those crazy looks you get from people, and make sure you tell them how much fun you are having. Not once did I ever regret riding my bike to work, but there were several days when I wished I’d turned down the offer of a ride with a coworker.

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    • Well Aimee, You just ruined Samantha’s winter project by covering everything in a nutshell. All good common sense advice. I used to do a lot of winter riding back in the day. It all depends on the bike you use and your own comfort level. 😉

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      • /shrug. It’s also all covered in earlier posts on this same blog which are even linked at the bottom of this one.
        Biking Through Winter: Ryan & Steve
        But Won’t I Freeze?: Winterized Biking 101, and
        Is My Bike Snow Proof?: Winterized Biking 101.

        Just because it’s all been summarized doesn’t mean readers won’t enjoy her story. I know I will, because I’ve moved back to Florida. Even with reading all the information I could find beforehand, I loved getting out there and seeing what worked and didn’t work for me personally- because it is always different from person to person.

        Samantha, if I ruined it for you, feel free to delete my comments 🙂

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  2. Readers,
    Thank you for your interest in my journey biking through winter! I hope that I will be able to both learn from all of your experiences as well as entertain and provide a few tips for all of you!
    My next post will be this Thursday and is inspired by the bit of cold weather we had here lately (which I was not prepared for).
    Thank you again for reading SchwinnRed!
    -Samantha

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  3. Aimee, Your logic matches mine. But most people don’t. So Schwinn may find it necessary to have repeats..You are lovely with your sincere intentions. 🙂

    Like

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