Filed under: Advocacy, Bike Paths, Commuting, How To, Lifestyle
The elation of not having to deal with riding in subzero weather is amazing, uplifting and very welcome.
It really isn’t hard to ride in below zero temperatures. Put some layers on and go.
My winter beater (named the ‘Wynott’) has been reliable all winter. More reliable than my summer bikes. No flats, no chain problems, no brake problems (no brakes), no gearing problems (1 gear) and only one day I had to walk the bike (1 block) because the snow on the road was impassable (I did slog my way about 10 blocks before just not being able to find a track). Not bad for my 5 miles per day commute plus 3-10 miles for entertainment rides (music and bar hopping mostly). I did have (normal?) saddle problems on longer rides (cheap saddle) and will skip the graphic description. Solved with bike shorts.
So, as one of the ‘extreme’ riders, I admit to a little hardship. I admit that riding year round takes effort. It just takes putting in your head that this is how you get around. I suppose the same thing could be used if you only had a horse for transportation. Think of the maintenance on that vehicle!
The big drive for me to use a bike as transportation is the money and time I save (yes, I said time). If I had a car, I figure I would have to work a second job to be able to spend money the way I do. Plus time and bloody knuckles fixing and maintaining a late model car (there goes my Saturday or Sunday afternoons). I have been there and done that on cars. We always had two. Now with just one, I keep it better maintained (I can afford to pay ‘the man’) and it lasts longer (this one is 10yrs old and will probably last 10 more).
I do seem to keep bring up the same thing when I write about bicycle commuting. Sorry, guess it emphasizes the truth of it. I admit to have an ‘ideal’ commute, but then, I live and work where I do on purpose. I chose a job near my home. I chose a home near the places I need and want to go to. Sometimes it takes time and planning, it did for me. Now I have it. If you want it, plan for it, execute the plan, then, enjoy the benefits. End bicycle commuting rant…;-)
Springtime is upon us. It will snow again, it’s still a bit chilly, but at least we can remove ‘Polar Vortex’ from everyday use.
Filed under: Commuting, DRBC, Events, Gear, How To, Lifestyle
I live in Wisconsin. The weather changes. Duh. Nothing new, it’s everyday. We get melting heat in the hundreds with humidity that you can almost swim through. We get rain and storms that cause flooding (that you literally swim through) and we get cold. This year we seem to be getting plenty of that. Subzero temps have been the norm for weeks now. I seem to be one of a small group that has decided to simply deal with it. This group, by the way, is growing. We don extra layers, mittens, facemasks and goggles. The snow for skiing and snowshoeing is really good, the fat tire bike group has over a dozen riders each week, I see fellow bicycle commuters everyday. The city is doing their normal job on the streets and they are passable. I ride daily and haven’t had to deal with ‘too much snow to ride through’ yet. Outdoors in Wisconsin, in Winter, is still good, add a layer.
I was looking through my calendar and realized how much I do outside in the winter. I have been going out more lately as the temps dropped. Every night for almost a week I was getting home around Midnight. That’s not normal, guess there’s just too much fun stuff to do. Rode to PSB on Wednesday for a free pint, strapped the skis to the bike Thursday for ski night at the golf course, great music downtown Friday and Saturday night, Sunday, skied at the golf course early, then rode to a friends for the Superbowl, snowshoed for a couple hours with them before the game.
I find the key to everyday outdoors is stay warm and have some lighting. The skiers use strap on head lights to light the trail at night. Bikes of course have bike lights and reflective stuff. When the moon is out, snowshoeing by moon light is amazing.
The cold is just cold, use what works. The darkness is defeated by simple cheap lighting. Friendship in the cold grows, the experience together is more intense. Enjoying a hot toddy or coffee afterwards just sounds good. Chatting about ‘the crazy headwind’ or how ‘noisy the snow is at this temperature’ becomes normal conversation.
Don’t be afraid of the cold dark Winter, warm it with activity, friendship and fun. Before you know it, we’ll be swimming through the humidity of Summer…
Filed under: Advocacy, Commuting, Gear, How To, Lifestyle
I have seen cyclists use about anything when riding in the winter. Mountain bikes, cross bikes, old Schwinns, even skinny tire road bikes. They all work. Some are more adept to the road conditions. I think a low center of gravity is the less ‘skiddish’ an more enjoyable ride. I have a fixed gear bike that has a high center. I leave it hanging until the streets are dry. My steed of choice for any of my daily winter commuting is an old cheap mountain bike that is 3 sizes too small for me with studded tires…and a fixed gear rear wheel. I also don’t have brakes. I do take simplicity to a bit extreme this way, but then I also love fixed gear bikes. That’s another article…
So, let me start with clothing, then the bike and bits.
I ride daily, my commutes vary in time and length so I try to be ready and versatile. My 2 mile ride to work is less layered because my work uniform is not good cycling clothing and it is a pretty short ride. I mostly use rain pants and a warm layer coat and high viz shell coat, warm hat or balaclava (facemask), winter boots. I keep street shoes at the shop. The pogies allow for thin cheap gloves (the end stand, one size fits all type found in department stores). I’m thus ready for rain, wind and cold. Non work day riding finds me wearing more like the following.
So, (right to left in the picture) there is an underarmor type long sleeve, a thin wool sweater, thin down coat and hi viz rain/wind coat. Jeans, wool socks, bike cap and helmet with the holes filled with foam I had left over from the extra pads. Sorell type boots. Rode all morning (about 30 miles with stops in between for errands), kept warm and was even getting a bit sweaty at 20°F. I add a thin layer like a long sleeve t-shirt over the first layer if the temp is below 10°F and have a thicker down coat for below zero. Usually the gloves and pogies are good to about zero, then I use ski type gloves.
Probably missed something, but you get the gist.
My bike is a custom beater built up on a department store mountain bike frame (named ‘Wynott’ as an opposite to my Wyatt fixed gear). I built up a 26″ fixed gear rear and have stainless chainring and cog. Not needed, just had them. Any drivetrain is good if it is kept lubed up. The seat is kept so my legs are flexed too much but I am close to the ground and more stable. Tires are 160 carbide stud tires. Carbide vs steel. In mixed riding (some exposed pavement, some packed snow and ice) go for the carbides. If you are riding on ice and packed snow, steel is less expensive and will work as well. The big key is maintenance. Either leave it frozen outside or bring it in and rinse it off with a pitcher of hot water to get the salt off. I do both, the water will cause you to need to lube the drivetrain more often. As you can see, Wynott is not fancy. Use any bike you have, but maintain it and it will serve you well in the cold and snow.
The bits. Platform pedals big enough to hold your snow boots. The pogies are hunters muffs. I got two and zip tied them to the handlebars. I have ATV mitts on a different bike. The fenders, front one is bolted on and has a DIY extension, the back fender is zip tied on. Lights of course. That about covers it.
On to the ride…
Filed under: Advocacy, Commuting, Gear, How To, Lifestyle
How do you write instructions on how to ride a bike? Riding is a doing thing, start, learn, smile. I can think of a tip or two.
When encountering ice without studded tires, go around or coast over it, but be ready for the slippage.
Plowing through snow. The Eskimos have all these words for snow, they don’t have one for the sandy, loose piles cars make. You know the stuff, like stepping on sand, but with a slippery component. My tip, avoid it or keep momentum up and coast through. Skinny tires slice right through that stuff. Fresh snow that has been driven through or walked over…ugg. Nearly impassable sometimes. Fresh snow with no tracks, great. Pedal right through.
The biggest thing about riding in winter, at least try. Keep an eye out for an organized ride if nessassary, but at least try it. It makes the cold season shorter and is great for relieving cabin fever.
I went for a ride today. There was an annual ride happening and I wanted to check it out. I left the house after putting on the appropriate clothing, stopped to put some bills in the mail and then chose my route to the ride. I arrived early enough to roll down to the local bar/restaurant for a bloody mary and get a banana from the gas station. The ride started on time with 9 of us rolling north into a nice north wind with mostly dry pavement under the tires. We arrived at the end of the road and stopped to chat and grab a picture to record the New Years ride. We rolled down hill with a tailwind most of the way back and each rider pealed off and headed for home as we reached their turns. The last 3 of us went down to two as I decided to stop at the home store to get a couple items for home. While I was wandering the isles a couple of friends called and we decided to meet at the Legion for a drink and food. After a couple Guinness, we headed in our home directions. I arrived home before dark with about 30 miles on the saddle.
Sounds like a typical ride, no big deal, do it all the time. Well, yeah. I do. And I enjoy it even though it was 5°F, I was riding my winter beater fixed-gear 26″ studded tire bike. This thing is no speed machine, but it does take the winter abuse pretty well. It’s geared low, but not that low. The routes to the ride were snow covered and of course half into a Midwest winter north wind. I stopped 3 times throughout the day and each time I had ice on my beard that took me a couple minutes to melt off with my hands. I was the last to arrive at the stopping point on the official ride (half mile behind the ‘peloton’). Normally, I would push the group with my summer fixed gear bike (geared high) and charge up hill with all the challenge it is to mash a big gear up hill, but it is cold out. Sanity rules out and slow is better as sweating makes you cold and the ride back would have been hypothermia for me. Sounds bad. It wasn’t. It was fun. Outside, bicycle, friends and a beer or two. Yeah, it was a good day.
Happy New Year fellow cyclists, get out and ride, any time, any weather. Riding is always good.