365 Days Commuting by Bike: Wait… You are going to bike in this?

Wait... You are going to bike in this- So you have decided to bike through winter. Your mind is made up and you are already getting everything in order to have a safe, warm, and successful winter ride. Everything should be dandy, right?

Unfortunately, I have begun to realize that the idea of biking through winter doesn’t seem to sit too well with my friends’, family members’, significant other’s, or volunteer acquaintances’ minds. Which leads me to believe that many of you who have decided to bike through winter may be receiving the same hesitant responses and questions that I have been receiving since announcing my intension to bike in the snow. Here is a list of some of the most popular questions, and comments I continuously here from the concerned parties mentioned above and my typical responses. I would love to hear the questions you receive and how you respond in the comments after this article as well!

1.       Isn’t it dangerous?

  • For this question I usually like to mention how all mode of transportation can be dangerous and when you are aware of the dangerous points you can make changes to avoid them or reduce the danger.
  • For me this means altering the path I take from summer to a safer and more bike path focused commute this winter.
  •  I also like a vehicle or snowmobile going out for the first time in the winter snow will make sure that my bike is tuned up for winter.
  • Like people who ride in cars but still wear their winter jackets;  I to will wear my winter biking apparel.
  • And finally like people who walk anywhere in the snow and ice, I too will keep an eye out for any potentially risky paths layered with ice.

2.       How will you manage to bike through all the snow and Ice?

  • The great thing about this question is I can talk about the wonderful amends Madison has made for its yearly bike commuters. In order to keep the paths open the City of Madison has to be sure that they are clear of snow for commuters. In fact, some fellow winter commuters in the office mentioned that the paths are sometimes cleared before the road!
  • As for the ice, once the weather hits the worse many winter cyclists, reduce air pressure, and increase the traction in their tires, perhaps even adding studs to their tires.

3.       Isn’t that bad for your bike?

  • Well actually, yes, it can be. That is why many cyclist have a winter bike, a “beater” or a bike specifically for commuting. You would never take you really nice sports car through a winter in Wisconsin and likewise I don’t plan on taking my prized road bike through the winter either. (More on this topic later 😉 )
  • Instead I will combat the cold and dirt with a bicycle that has fenders and is rough and ready.

4.       It gets dark in the winter…

  • Yes… it does. This is something that I realize I need to be prepared for even before it gets pitch black at 5:30 p.m. and it is the creeping reduction in daylight that I think should be all 365 day commuter’s concern. To combat this is as simple as beginning to make practice of riding with your lights on when commuting as early as the beginning of October. This way you will never run into that issue where you can see the road but the vehicles find it hard to see you.

5.       What if it is really cold?

  • I have to admit here I always hesitate a bit since the cold is really one thing I am dreading, but many people have commented here and on Facebook telling me that once you get going the cold really isn’t an issue anymore. They key seems to be keeping the core warm so that the blood can continue to circulate into your feet and hands. I have taken that to heart and often remind the questioners that biking is cardio exercise and that if I am not warm enough I just have to work a bit harder.

6.       Why don’t you just buy a car?

  • This is probably the most common question I run into when telling people about my winter commute. Apparently, it is very hard to understand why someone who could buy a car would decide not to in favor of biking in the cold.
  • Now I am pretty sure you cannot change people’s minds on this one, but I like to explain to them a few key elements that keep me on the bike such as:
  • When I bike I don’t feel obligated to get a gym membership. I torch an average of 300 calories a day just commuting.
  1. I don’t have to fill up on gas
  2. I don’t have to buy car insurance
  3. There is no need for a parking spot, which living in the city can get ridiculous or can be hard to find.
  4. I don’t have monthly car payments….
  5. And to top it all off my commute is on average 15 minutes shorter. It is hard to argue with the facts!

7.       Are you really biking in the winter?

  • Yup… I’m writing a mini blog series about it on SchwinnRed, so yeah it’s happening!

If you are or have ever ridden in the winter what questions do you receive and how do you respond to them? bundled up for winterKeep an eye out for an article about my hunt for the right Schwinn for winter and for a post that explores my preparation to stay warm this winter. (Hopefully I will find a more efficient way to stay warm then when I wore 4 layers in the picture to the right from when I went to visit the Ice Caves in Northern Wisconsin). Get out and Ride, Samantha C

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Biking to School: Why, When, and How

Many adults can recall a time when they took their bicycles anywhere and everywhere, sometimes miles from home without a backward glance from their parents. However, the times have changed and safety has increasingly become a well-founded concern for parents of young children.S13PH_21147

The dual questions of: when is my child ready to bike to school alone and will they be able to get from home to school and back safely continue to rise parental concern and leave parents asking is it worth the risk to even let them bike?

So let’s break it down!

AGE:

lilly1The age a child starts biking to school is a big concern for many parents, but there is really no right answer to this because every child is different and develops at different times. For some children this can be as early as third grade or perhaps younger, for others it may mean middle school is the best time for them to begin biking. Therefore, it is important to go by what feels right to you as a parent, for your child, and your family. A great way to learn if your child is ready is to start by biking with them to school. This way you can see where their skill level is at and if there are things they still need to learn you can teach them as they go. After you believe they might be ready you can always do what my father did and follow them, secretly, in the car to reassure yourself that they are in fact ready to bike on their own.

Another great way to let your child ease into biking to school is by starting out young and giving them levels of freedom. Perhaps first they are just allowed to bike around the block alone. Then to a nearby park; each time increasing the distance and practicing this new form of communication.

If you are not comfortable with your student biking alone it is possible that a bike train in your community already exists or you could create one. A bike train is a group of children who bike to school together every day and are led by an adult supervisor. For more information click here.

Fact: According to the Safe Routes to School website: “In 1969, 48 percent of children 5 to 14 years of age usually walked or bicycled to school. Compare that to 2009, where 13 percent of children 5 to 14 years of age usually walked or bicycled to school.

SAFETY:

lilly2Many parents’ biggest fears are about traffic and safety and living in an area with high levels of traffic make this quite understandable. To address this concern it is good practice to ask yourself if biking to school is a possible option for your child, for some parents who live far away or in a very busy town the answer may be no, but perhaps there is another route to school that is safe for your child. If a safe route exists you can ride with your child and teach them how to ride the route safely; where the stop signs are; where they should be riding their bike; and areas where they may have to be more cautious.

Secondly, more general safety concerns can be prevented by teaching your child both the rules of the road and safe practices such as wearing a helmet every time they are on their bicycle. These lessons can be instilled early and be non-negotiable rules when your child is on their bike. For more educational information about safe riding and how to correctly wear a helmet check out the Bicycle Safer Journey which provides videos and quizzes to educate your child and have them sign the pledge to wear there helmet every time they ride their bike on Helmets on Heads

HEALTH:

Lilly3Finally, it is easy to say that there are just too many concerns and questions to deal with or that the risk is not worth it, but conceder this. According to Momentum Magazine “studies demonstrate that a 30-minute walk or bike ride to school greatly increase a child’s ability to focus in the class room”. To top that, the USDA recommends 60 minutes of physical activity for children each day. With the staggering numbers reported pertaining to childhood obesity and inactiveness biking proves to be a potentially successful way for children to not only hit their levels of active minutes each day and maintain a healthy weight, but also be more focused in school.

RESOURCES:

For more information check out these great resources!

Safe Routes to School: http://www.saferoutesinfo.org/

Bicycle Safer Journey: http://www.pedbikeinfo.org/bicyclesaferjourney/

Helmets on Heads: http://www.helmetsonheads.org/

Get Out and Ride!

-Samantha C.

 

Fast and Furious: Finding the Perfect Bike

Now that I committed to riding, the next step was finding the perfect bike.  Knowing that my intentions were to ride at least three to four times a week, about 10 miles a ride, I immediately gravitated toward a road bike.

Schwinn makes an excellent women’s road bike, so I decided to get the Fastback 3.  It is a women’s specific bike, and based on my size, 5’2”, I knew I would need a small version.  The frame is lightweight aluminum, so I could also easily load and unload it from my vehicle.

The 24-speeds would allow me to easily change/adjust the intensities of my workout (be all Fast and Furious and stuff), but let’s be real, they also provide for a much needed reprieve when I am doing hills or other more challenging terrain.

The saddle is also specifically designed for women to provide comfort on those longer rides that I would build up to.

And did I mention I dig the colors and graphics package…you had me at lime.  Check it out:IMG_20140616_143438_018-1

So I went ahead and ordered the bike.  Within a few days it arrived and was set up.  One of my co-workers Ben assisted in building it out for me.  Check out this step by step photo slideshow we did of Ben setting up the Fastback 3 below.

He also helped with fitting to me.  This is an important part of the cycling set up process. You want to make sure your seat is at the right height, your bars are adjusted, and of course you have the right amount of air in the tires.  Ben suggested that I want to keep 90 psi in the front tire and 100 psi in the back tire.  He also said to check them after every couple of rides to keep me riding smoothly.

milissa surpriseHe was great about replacing my clip-in pedals, with regular sport bike pedals.  Clipping-in is a goal I will work up to and one that this lady was not about to do on her first voyage out.  Call it intimidation; I just say it is smart.  I want to get a feel for my bike—get comfortable with different riding conditions/experiences—and then I will start clipping-in.  Watch for a future post on clipping-in!

This picture about sums up my excitement for this bike.  I felt like I was a child again and it was late December.  Man am I stoked!!!

Let’s Ride!

Milissa

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