Making Treads: 10 Tips for Winter Biking

By Mark Stonehill

Though your average Joe Plumber would call it lunacy, riding a bicycle through a Minnesota winter is more realistic than you think! With a bit of planning, riding in December is just as safe as riding on a fine spring day (though, we admit, they are not exactly the same experience). Here are a few of MacBike’s suggestions for a pleasant winter ride:Wear layers: not cotton, not too many. It may come as a surprise but the biggest problem with winter biking is overheating and sweat. Wear a few breathable, non-cotton layers with an outer layer that breaks the wind and keeps you dry.

If you feel comfortable at the start, you’re probably overdressed. You should feel a little chilly at the beginning of your ride. Don’t worry, you’ll be glad at the end of your ride when you’re not drenched in sweat. If you’re really having trouble getting warm, stop coasting. Pedal faster!

Lose the backpack. Backpacks can be hot and uncomfortable, especially if you’re going a few miles. Racks and panniers (which hang off the sides of the rack) are a good solution for any season.

Mittens! They’re your hands-you know what fits best.

Lights and reflectors. Both a front and back light, preferably blinky ones, are a must. It’s much easier to get caught in the darkness in the wintertime.

Brakes: two of them. These are necessary in any season, but particularly in winter.

Studded tires. These start at around 50 dollars each and can do a lot to prevent you from slipping on ice. However, the most important thing to do is be cautious on icy patches of road (this means having a front light at night!) and avoid bad roads.

Go straight. If you find yourself riding on ice or slick snow, don’t try to swerve off of it. Just slow down a bit and ride straight through it.

Get some fenders. Swing by during our open shop hours and we’ll teach you how to put these on your bike. If you’re riding all winter, you may need a tune-up as well.

Experiment! Doing your own thing is ultimately how you’ll find a comfortable way to ride in the winter. If you’ve tried everything and still don’t feel that it’s for you, there’s no shame in waiting for a bus. But keep in mind that dancing at the bus stop to keep warm is a lot like pedaling!

MacBike meets every Thursday at 8 p.m. to discuss, advocate and wrench. Open Shop Hours (from 6-8 p.m., preceeding the meeting) are held in the basement of 30 Mac, between the WMCN and MacWeekly offices.