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November 15, 2010

Becoming a Bike Commuter III: Neither Rain nor Sleet...

by Kyle Boelte

Bike_commuter3

If you ever considered biking to work but were kept away by worries about logistics, rain, or what your co-workers might think, you'll find a series of tips here on the Compass blog to get you to work on your bike at least once a week. Today's post is about weather. We already discussed picking out a bike and your first day.

Okay, so you're a bike commuter now -- at least some of the time. And you totally get it. Commuting is fun, you show up to work feeling great, and maybe you've lost a few pounds. But as the days get cooler and cold weather starts to loom, maybe you're wondering if you can keep it up. You can.

It's not all or nothing. Don't think just because you can't bike every day or every week you should give up on bike commuting altogether during the winter. When a snow storm hits, or you have extra responsibilities at home or work, taking off a few days is fine. No one's judging you. Just remind yourself how much you love biking to work when things clear up, and then get back in the saddle. Remember, people bike in Minneapolis (in what locals like to call MinneSNOWta) all year round!

It's raining! You wake up and it's raining. Should you leave the bike at home? Not necessarily. Rain is not a major problem for bikers, as anyone who's ever lived or visited Portland, Oregon knows. Just wear appropriate clothing (rain coat, rain pants, gloves) and give yourself a little extra time. Bike slower than normal since the roads are slick and your stopping power is reduced, and take the turns with caution. Paint on roads is slicker than the blacktop when wet, so stay away from paint when possible.

But it's cold! The key to cold-weather riding is limiting the amount of exposed skin to the wind. Since you're pedaling enough to generate heat, your core will stay warm. But your hands, knees, and head might get chilly. Wearing gloves, tights, and a wool hat under your helmet will keep you comfy. And wear a few core layers, so you can adjust warmth easily as the ride goes on. There are cycling-specific clothing options available, but you can also use your hiking wool and synthetics.

Today's forecast: snow. A little snow won't stop you from biking to work (but again, it's not all or nothing -- if you are not comfortable in snow, that's cool, take the day off). Snow can be slick and is best met with thick knobby mountain-bike tires. It can also hide black ice, so be careful – especially when riding over bridges, where ice forms first. Use a "beater" bike if you have one, and make sure to clean the muck off your bike to keep it functioning well.

Have a backup plan. It's best not to be forced to bike if the weather turns in the middle of the day. Before winter hits, know alternate options like which bus or coworker can take you home. Leave your bike at work for the night if you need to. If you park it outside, make sure it's secure and not sitting in a pool of rust-inducing water.

Have questions about commuting or finding the right bike? Ask them in the comments below.

 

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