Saturday Night Bike Blogging: Winter Bike Commuting

Uhhh … how do you do it? Anyone know?

I started this cycle commuting in Newcastle, Australia, where there is no winter, in the Northeast Ohio sense of the word … and restarted it at the end of May here.

So I have some vague ideas, but no firm knowledge.

Waddya reckon?

As always, this is also a cycling open thread.

According to the editor at BicyclingLife.Com:

  • It’s not unpleasant
  • It’s not cold
  • It’s not dangerous

It’s Not Unpleasant.
The same person who will ask you if you’re crazy (a common theme) if you arrive somewhere on a bicycle on a snowy winter day will be just itching to get their ski gear out and head for the mountain. Per hour spent, skiing must be hundreds of times more dangerous than winter cycling.

Winter riding is a great form of exercise, and very enjoyable. Many people enjoying cycling purely for the fitness elements and often with the goal of losing weight. In fact, a lot of these cyclists use a cycling calories calculator to track their progress. The air is crisp and clear (except when it is snowing and everything is soft and rounded). The countryside is white and pure, and even SUV drivers give you wide clearance.

It’s Not Cold.
Contrary to your expectations, the biggest problem with most winter cycling is not keeping warm. The hard part is keeping cool enough. Cycling in any weather generates a great deal of excess heat. The first mistake of those new to “ICEBIKING” is to dress too warmly.

Dressing so as to get rid of excess heat and sweat is “The” principal learning curve to master for enjoyable winter cycling. It took me a year, but that was before the advent of web sites like ICEBIKE where this information is consolidated.

It is only when temperatures dip to below Zero (F), (-20C) that being warm enough requires some planning. Even then, most winter cyclists keep right on riding until -20F and some to -40F. I will address this below.

It’s Not Dangerous
Many folks expect winter cycling to be fraught with peril. After all, they know how hard it is to control their car on icy roads. Yes, slipping and crashing on ice can happen, but you learn to handle your bike so as not to induce sliding, and Studded bike tires provide awesome traction.

There are the occasional crashes but because of extra clothing and a slippery surface to land on, these usually result in less injury than would be sustained by a bare limbed cyclist on dry pavement. Road rash is just about unheard of.

In the winter of 98/99 the ICEBIKE site conducted a survey of winter cyclists with an automated web based survey instrument. One of the questions asked about the worst accident that respondents had experienced while cycling in winter. The results were surprising.

Only slightly over 4 percent had ever required medical attention for a winter cycling accident. Fully 70% had never been injured at all! Not so much as a sprain.

However, this isn’t to say that accidents don’t happen; it’s inevitable with the number of cyclists on the road. Cycling injuries aren’t just limited to winter and unfortunately, do occur all year round. This isn’t necessarily due to carelessness of cyclists, but the motorists that join them on the roads. Luckily, if cyclists are injured by no fault of their own, they can contact solicitors altrincham for assistance in making a claim and achieving justice.

The main site appears to be ICEBIKE.

The keys seem to be studded tires, if snow is on the road, warm shoes, and not too warm clothes.

But … well, any experience?

Is the Pony/Pie/Hide rating system too cutsie?

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    • BruceMcF on October 27, 2007 at 9:42 pm

    … pony hitching post.

    … slipped up, get it … oh, never mind, how about, “how is a raven like a writing desk?”

  1. When worse came to worse, I could pick up my bike and carry it over the drifts of snow and walk beside it along icy sidewalks road ice while those shackled to cars have to wait for someone to push, pull, or dig them out. I didn’t have to worry about jumper cables or dead batteries.

    I did occasionally bail on biking an opted for a lift from a friend or hop the bus. While a warm ride at night was welcome, it left the problem of how do I get around in the morning?

    All in all, the worst thing about winter biking in Minnesota was the dark nights with drivers not looking for bikes and the cold fingers… I’m glad I’m not doing it anymore. Cold rain is still more enjoyable than a frosty, icy night.

  2. that reminds me of the ice motorcycle racing, I guess they still have it.  They put metal studs into the tires that are about an inch long and go real fast in an oval.  Looks like fun but I wouldn’t want to fall or get run into. 

    And people wonder why there is global warming.

    The new farm is located by 2 lakes that will both make good bike rides, one is smaller and will be a nice warm-up ride ands the other one is big enough for a real serious workout.

  3. I have Nokian studded tires with 196 studs in each one.  I feel safer on my bike than I do walking in icy snowy weather.

    • koNko on October 28, 2007 at 6:45 am

    In China we bike all year. I personally prefer the auntum/winter since the weather is cool. It’s safe provided you ride soothly & skillfully, the only caution I’d make is be careful of black ice on tarmac streets.

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