Winter Biking 2021 - Get Out and Ride
Greg S. Winter Riding Tips
Now that winter is here, it might be tempting to conclude that biking is over for the season. Time to hunker down inside and wait for those first nice warm spring days to come. Well, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. It is possible to continue biking right through the winter season, although it does take some planning and adjustments.
You have perhaps noticed that more and more cyclists are riding in the winter season. I began to consider this option a few years ago.
Although I enjoy going to the gym and participating in group cycle classes (not an option at present due to Covid), I found myself also wanting to enjoy the nice crisp outside air. One of my sons purchased a fat tire bike and let me try it, little did he know it would cost him some of his inheritance. I enjoyed the feel of the bike but wasn’t sure if I was ready to take the “purchase plunge”. After many trips to the bike store, asking lots of questions, and mulling things over, I decided to buy my own fat tire bike. I bought a Trek Farley 5, but there are many other options. Check out REI or your local bike shop for fat tire biking classes and most include the fat tire bike rental.
Probably the main consideration in winter biking is having an appropriate bike. If the roads are dry, there is no reason to not continue to ride your “warm weather” bike. Make sure your bike is tuned and tires properly inflated, and off you go. However, once the roads acquire snow, ice, salt, etc., it’s a different matter. Studded tires are pretty much essential when riding on ice. I have a set of studded tires for my fat tire bike and feel quite comfortable riding on slippery surfaces. Wider tires are also important for better traction going through loose snow. I think anything about the size of a mountain bike tire or larger might suffice, but probably the wider the better. So, in general, I would recommend a fat tire bike, or a mountain bike with wide tires. Again, probably best to also have studs in the tires.
The next consideration is, obviously, staying warm. The key is having appropriate layers. I find that it is pretty easy to keep most of my body warm by layering up appropriately. If you have a bike bag, you can always take off a layer if you find that you are too warm. It’s most difficult for me to keep my head and hands warm. I usually wear a balaclava and stocking cap. If my head gets too warm, I remove the stocking cap. The balaclava keeps my ears and face toasty. I also wear ski goggles, to keep my eyes warm and reduce sun glare. I purchased a pair of bar mitts to provide more protection for my hands. These attach to the ends of the handlebars. I wear a normal set of gloves also and find that my hands stay quite warm. I use standard flat pedals on my bike, and normal winter boots. There are special winter cycling boots available, but they are pricey.
Lights are important, as is colorful and reflective clothing. Drivers are perhaps not expecting to see cyclists in the winter, so adhering to safe riding practices is probably more important than ever.
I ride pretty much anywhere that I would ride in the warm months…just not as far! Riding a heavier bike with wider tires is definitely more tiring than riding the road bike. My favorite off road places to ride are Lake Elmo Park Reserve and Minnesota River Bottoms Trail. Theodore Wirth Park has a very good trail system and Lebanon Hills has a great mountain bike track. Most of the mountain bike trails in the area are available for year-round riding. It is not difficult to find some fun places to ride, either off road or otherwise.
Get out there and ride, hope to see you in the snow.