Partly its my defiance to the weather. No one, not even old man winter is going to tell me I cant have fun in the snow on a bike. How is it any different than skiing? People enjoy being out in the cold skiing right? Partly its defying those people that tell me I shouldn’t be out on a bike in that weather. But mostly, ITS JUST TOO MUCH FUN!
– hey, where is everybody going??…
The truth can be anywhere in between those extremes, anywhere and everywhere at the same time. Not all icebikers ride for the same reason. Some of us are racers, others are commuters and still others are recreational riders out for a romp in the snow.
Here are a few other reasons:
- City traffic can make it faster to cycle commute even in winter than it is to drive
- Parking at the destination can be easier and cheaper with a bike than a car
- You are beset by poverty and bikes are cheap
- You love the outdoors
- You have a desk job and need the exercise
- You have Cabin Fever, and have to get outside
- You got a new bike for Christmas and can’t wait five months till spring
- You hate motor vehicles and all that they do to society and the environment
- Its fun fun FUN
- You work out all your aggressions and arrive relaxed
- You do some of your best thinking on a bike
- The weather is not that bad
- Out of the way dude, its a race!
- You’re too darn stubborn to stop now.
- Its just as easy to stay in training as to try to regain your form every spring
Now, we may have listed them quickly and trivially, but these constitute many of the deeply held convictions of winter cyclists from all over the world. (Those who pick at nits might feel compelled to point out that poverty is more often an affliction than a conviction).
- Never mind, we are not here to debate the reasons. The point is that the reasons for winter cycling are as varied as the cyclists themselves.If even one of these apply to you, and you like biking anyway, then winter cycling may be for you. Give it a try.
- I will never forget the arrival of spring weather the first year I cycled all winter. The sense of accomplishment was very personal. I couldn’t even explain it to any one, they thought I was crazy anyway. After that, nothing fazes me. Yes there are miserable rides (usually in horizontal rain, – not snow and cold), but these are rare. In subsequent years, the sense of accomplishment is more subdued, but the pleasure of the ride is greater, because I no longer have any doubt about my ability to do it.
Oh, in case you were wondering, my reasons were Fun, Exercise, and Stubbornness, not necessarily in that order.
How does one Get Started
The easiest way is just don’t stop.You cycle all summer right? Just keep it up. See how late in the year you can be out cycling, whether for commuting or recreation. There is no inherent reason to hang up the bike at a certain date.
Don’t think of it as attempting to ride all winter. Just think of it as riding today. Possibly tomorrow, conceivably next week, but definitely today.
In fact, you probably will not ride throughout your first winter. Most icebikers wimp out during the really harsh weather in the first year. This is because it seems daunting, and also it takes a year or more to figure out the clothing issues, find reliable equipment, and get it down to a science.
You will find that the weather is really not that bad, except when it IS that bad, which is not that often. The hardest part is getting started each morning (if commuting). You will find that it only sucks for the first mile. Then you are “into it”, not to mention warmed up, and your confidence is restored.
If it sucks for much longer than the first mile, you may have an equipment problem. You may need warmer gear, or maybe you are having trouble handling the bike on the slippery surface and studded tires would be really nice about now. It might be that you are expecting summertime speeds into the teeth of winter gales. That too is an equipment problem.
You need to invest in a different attitude. One that says you will get there just as reliably if only a tad later by going slower. Nothing is more uncomfortable than working up a drenching sweat when bundled up for winter conditions.
- Just ride on into fall, and (one day at a time) into winter. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!
- Pay Attention: Notice when a particular clothing combination is too hot or too cold and make a mental note of the temperature and wind conditions. If you are the methodical type record these and stick them in your computer database or something.After a while you just KNOW that when its just below freezing and expected to warm up, that the so-called heavyweight tights from hotebike will be about right, but don’t forget to bring the rain pants just in case, winter bike gloves, stocking hat under the helmet, medium weight shirt under the SHUANGYE rain jacket. That works for me, your needs will differ.
- Don’t delay getting what you need. Buy those boots, get those winter tights, purchase the light set, yes you feel silly in a balaclava but it sure is warm. Improvise or Invest. Each tank of gas costs $25 or more, so you can afford those items. You deserve them.
- Don’t restrict your search to bike stores. By and large they cater to the summer crowd. Ski stores (especially cross country) know about cold weather exercise.
- Don’t be a martyr. Wimp out when it is 40 below. If there are three foot drifts you might as well get some sleep till the plows catch up. Next year you can handle these, this year you’re learning.
- Watch it on ice till you get the hang of it. Slow turns, no sudden breaking or swerving. Again Pay Attention!. Notice that what looks slippery may not be, but that patch of shade up ahead may have a wicked patch of black ice in it.
- Ride where the traction is. The bare looking center of the roadway may have an invisible glaze of ice on it, while the side of the road with an inch of undisturbed snow will supply far better of traction. Test the traction with your rear brake, short squeezes only, just till the tire breaks traction.
My favorite advice: Have a nice big cup of coffee before your start.
Finally, if you are going to fall, you are going to fall in the winter. If you hit a 50 mph car head on while doing 20 mph there is no reason to expect a helmet to save your life. But falls are what bicycle helmets are designed to handle.
So until you are sure of yourself, when going on the roadway in winter or on lake ice, wear a helmet even if you have a “thing” against helmets. Don’t worry about crashing in the deep snow. Its fun! But remember there are often rocks under the snow.
Aren’t You Cold?
More than once I’ve arrived dripping with sweat only to be asked “aren’t you freezing out there”? This question is usually asked by someone who drove to work in a toasty single occupant vehicle, which was parked in a garage all night, but never the less, they got bundled up in a down jacket for that 30 foot walk from the car to the office.
The answer is: Not very often. You are more likely to get too warm. Biking produces a lot of heat. If you do get cold, ride faster, it makes more heat.
Problem areas: hands and feet. Unlike when walking, your hands and feet are locked in the same position while biking. You can wiggle your toes and fingers if you feel them getting cold, but this, at best, will simply delay the need to get to some place warm.
If you have a long way to go, stop for some coffee, sit by the radiator. Your hands are hard to re-warm if they get cold, so if go for extra warm gloves and it should not be too much of a problem.
For various suggestions, please refer to our winter clothing page. Or contact me directly, I will try my best to provide you with satisfactory products
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