You already know the benefits of commuting to work by bike—a healthy way to start and end the day, reducing your carbon footprint and no worries about traffic or parking. Perhaps you have been commuting to work by bike all summer and fall, and now you are thinking of keeping it up this winter. Don’t let our New England winters scare you off. Winter biking can be safe and rewarding with these five tips:
1. Use the right gear. You don’t have to invest in a lot of new stuff, but be sure you have the following items to commute safely and comfortably:
- Reflective gear. Remember that days are shorter in the winter and you may be commuting in the dawn or dusk, or even complete dark. Add reflective tape to your helmet (an absolute must), jacket, pedals and anywhere else you like.
- Lights. Make sure you have a good headlight and taillight, even if it is not completely dark.
- Layers. The key to staying warm is a good base layer, followed by comfortable clothing and warm socks and gloves.
- Fenders. Fenders help cut down on the dirt and salt that will get onto you and your bike.
- Emergency equipment. Bring your basic tools for a quick tire change or minor road repair.
2. Check your bike and tires. You don’t need to buy a new bike for winter, but you may not want to use your $3,000 road bike, either. An older hybrid or mountain bike is perfect, since slush and snow can wear on your bike, and bigger tires will give you more traction. t. Make sure the tires are slightly less than fully inflated for better grip.
3. Longer stopping time. Give yourself even more time to stop than you would in the rain. Ice and snow will affect your ability to stop and maneuver your bike.
4. Give cars more room. Don’t take chances, even if you know you have the right-of-way. That does not mean riding in the gutter, though. Take up a lane if necessary-- it’s your right. Remember that cars need more time to stop and maneuver on ice and snow, too. Drivers don’t always expect to see bicycles in winter, so you should use extra caution. If you do fall, try to fall away from traffic.
5. Clean and maintain your bike. Dirt, snow and even salt can ruin your chain and gears. Give your bike a good wipe down after every ride and check the tires. You may need to oil your chain more often in winter.
Winter biking is a great way to stay and shape and keep doing an activity you love. Follow the tips above for a safe ride, and instead of hanging up your bike this winter, you will have whole new season of riding to look forward to.