The New Home Economics

Winter bike commuting

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winter bike commuter

Well, it’s here. Wintertime in Minnesota. (Yep, that’s me under there.) I’ve been out on my Nishiki (now converted to a single speed) at least 8 times. I only wear the goggles when it’s less than 10 degrees (F).

Here’s my winter biking get-up, for temperatures well below freezing:
– wool socks, under lightweight “walking” boots
– tights, under super thick fleece sweatpants
– wicking shirt + long sleeved t-shirt + fleece jacket
– balaclava
– thin gloves under awesome 80s chopper mittens that Adam found for me at Savers

Many people like to include windbreaking tops or bottoms, but I find that I get way too overheated when I do that — especially after a few miles of biking.

I have to be honest and admit that the start of this, my second year of really dedicated winter biking, has been uninspiring. Last year at this time I was all “yeah, I’m hardcore!” and “this is an awesome challenge!” and “I’m burning 8,000 calories right now!”  This year, I’ve been dreading it since early November.

I tried a few different routes the first part of December. Chicago Avenue was pleasant in the morning, but really busy in the evening. Bloomington Avenue was busy both morning and evening.

This week, I went back to my normal bike route —it involves mostly neighborhood streets — and it went better.  I see two choices in winter bike commuting:

1. Move slowly because of slippery conditions.

2. Move slowly because of slippery conditions and have cars rushing closely past you, scaring you out of your wits.

For me that’s a no-brainer, though I know other people feel differently.

The most important thing I learned last year was to slow down and embrace the fishtail. At first, every time my rear wheel would fishtail even a little bit, I would panic and put my feet down. An hour later I would arrive at work, totally exhausted.

You’re not going to wipe out every time you fishtail a little bit, and you will be much calmer when you realize this. Think of yourself as a cyclocross rider, or remember how it feels to drive your car fast down dirt roads. There’s a little bit of shimmying, but if you just roll with it you’ll be fine.

Oh and one more thing: I love my studded tires. They make a huge difference.

Anyone have advice for staying the course with winter biking? How can I get that hardcore feeling back?

Update, 12/28/2011: Lucky for me (but unlucky for my perennial plants), the little snow that we got in early December melted quickly.  It’s been dry and unusually warm and I’ve been taking my fixie bike, and wearing the same number of layers I usually wear in October. What a strange year! I’m sure it’s not likely to last…

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