Biking to work in the spring and summer is a joy, but you'd have to be nuts to do it in the winter, right? Not at all, say "icebikers," diehard cyclists who pedal through sleet, snow, and dark of wintry night with a little extra gear and a lot of finesse. Here are some of their strategies:
Mix and Match
Features built into cycling gear are useful in warmer months but can leave you cold and damp in the winter. Enthusiasts at icebike.org recommend turning to items designed for other sports, such as hiking. To keep your toes from going numb on the pedals, opt for lightweight, waterproof boots roomy enough for wool socks. Or try a pair of water-repellent, insulated booties that fit snugly over cleats or regular shoes, available from rei.com and performancebike.com.
Play It Safe
Bright, reflective clothing and lights are so important for winter cyclists they almost go without saying. What else can you do to stay safe on a cold-weather commute? Dressing in layers can limit your range of motion, so opt for a helmet-mounted mirror, which allows you to scope out traffic without craning your neck. Try to brake and turn on drier patches of road, and use only your rear brake to minimize swerving and skidding when forced to stop on slippery ice.
Baby Your Bike
Water, ice, road salt, and mud can accelerate the deterioration of a bike's moving parts and brake pads. For a ride that stays shipshape whatever nature pelts, slams, and splashes your way, ramp up your bike's maintenance. Chicago-based bikewinter.org suggests installing front and back splash guards, cleaning wheel rims as soon as they acquire gunk, and lubing moving parts at least once a week. If batteries or battery-powered lamps detach easily, bring them inside when temperatures drop below freezing to prolong their life.