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How to transition to winter-weather cycling

Posted  3 months ago  in  Trending

3 MIN READ - Chicago, like the rest of the United States, is experiencing an unprecedented bike boom as people seek out both an open-air mode of transportation and a fun activity that gets them out of the house. Also, mass bike commuting is a great way to keep vehicle congestion to a minimum. For any new riders—or riders who are new to cold weather—follow these tips on how to transition to winter-weather cycling. It’s a great way to get back in the Loop.

1. Layers are your friend

There’s nothing worse than accidentally over-dressing for a bike ride, and arriving at your destination feeling sweaty and a little silly. So check the forecast, and embrace layers. You don’t have to buy a whole new wardrobe (nobody’s asking you to be Lance Armstrong!), but use what you have to be sure you’ll be comfortable from start to finish. A shirt, then sweater, then jacket (rain resistant isn't a bad idea) on a particularly cool day is the way to go. That way, once you get moving and warmed up, you can remove layers and stay comfy.

2. Yes, you should bring your gloves

There’s no apparel cyclists hem and haw more about before every trip than gloves. But you’ll never meet a cyclist who’s regretted keeping a pair on them just in case. You’ll meet plenty who wish they’d worn a pair. Don’t be that cyclist. Just bring your gloves. You don’t need fancy new cycling gloves (unless you want them!). Whatever you throw on for a walk is good enough for a ride.

3. Meet the wind with a warm embrace

Keeping your face, ears, and neck warm is a must, especially on a particularly brisk and windy day in the Windy City. You may want to invest in a gator or balaclava as an easy one and done solution, but if that's a little too intense for you a turtleneck, hat, and a face mask will do the trick! 

4. Take hi-viz to a whole new level

As long as cyclists have to share road space with drivers, there is always some level of risk in this activity. But make yourself as visible as possible, especially as the temperature starts to drop and the sun sets earlier. Some drivers forget that cyclists really do ride all year-round, and they aren’t as vigilant when driving. Be sure you have front and rear lights charged up and ready to go for every ride, and consider other hi-viz gear, whether bike accessories or apparel. Additionally, don’t underestimate the usefulness of a bell. Be loud (visually or otherwise), be proud. Being a little obnoxious could keep you safe.

5. Watch for leaves

It seems obvious that riding through ice or snow could be a hazard, but wet leaves are a sneakier nemesis to the city cyclist. They can be extremely slippery, so especially if it’s a damp day, slow down, and avoid leaves in your path.

6. Don’t overthink it

Cycling is still an activity that can feel gatekept, especially if you’re new. Don’t get caught up in wondering if you have the perfect bike gear and apparel, and don’t overthink cycling in the cold. There are parts of the world where year-round cycling is a normal way of life; there’s no reason that can’t be the case for you if you just take the plunge. Through a little trial and error, you’ll find what works for you. And when you’re flying past gridlock on your way back in the Loop, you’ll be glad you did.

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