This is our second installment about winter riding, The Commute.
So what’s happened to your New Years resolution, “No more winter blob and blahs for me”? Yes, you promised yourself to start riding earlier this year… and you even rode on New Years day!
But then the excuses started:
It’s cold! It’s dark!
There’s snow and ice on the roads!
There isn’t enough daylight!
I’ve got too much work to do!
There’s an “I Dream of Jeannie” marathon on TV!
That extra 15lbs makes me look cuddly!
We have a simple solution to all of these laments: bicycle commute to work!
And you can do it comfortably and safely, but first you have to:
Make the commitment: This is the most important step. Your mantra should be “I go to work by bike, I go to work by bike, I go to work by bike, I go to work by bike…”- not maybe I’ll go to work by bike. If your resolve starts to dissolve, remember your enhanced mood and self-satisfaction after each commute.
Allocate the time: It will take longer. In the winter you’ll likely ride slower and it will take longer to get bundled up. In planning your days include not only your ride time but also time to clean up plus add a little extra for the odd flat tire.
Get the right clothes: We talked about this in “Dressing for the Cold”.
Now to the practical side of the commute. Our commuter extraordinaire Christopher Danz (50 miles a day in rain, sleet and gloom of night) has these tips:
- Think about running wider tires (ed.: if your frame will allow it)– even a 28mm tire helps if you hit some ice or slush. Cyclocross tires are a good choice: Ritchey SpeedMax Cyclocross Pro Tire (#50-3210) or Michelin Mud 2 Cyclocross Tire (#50-7429) might fit in your road frame.
- Use a heavy lube to keep that winter grime off. We like Finish Line Cross Country Wet (#70-6514) and Pedro’s MTB Synlube Chain Lube (#40-0205).
- Regularly clean road salt off of your bike! Don’t just let it sit on there.
- Consider fenders – they will protect your vulnerable components – whether personal or bike related.
- Think about using a mountain bike for your road commute if it’s icy or if there is fresh snow. The bigger, knobbier tires will keep you upright.
- Snow tires with hardened steel spikes are the only thing for ice.
- Don’t forget the lights! It gets dark quickly in the winter. Having an extra blinky light on hand can save your life. For urban commuting, we like the NiteRider Sol LED Headlight (#40-3810). It’s plenty bright and won’t break the bank. For a tail light, take a look at the Cat Eye TL-LD1100 Taillight (#40-3882). It’s bright, light, lasts a long time and has 260° of visibility.
If you are a winter commuter, you know the right equipment and the best practices. Share your hard-won knowledge below with the newbie or the fence-sitter. Who knows, it may park one car or turn a bad commute into a good one!