Yeah, it’s been cold enough here to keep a bear snuggled up in its den, if bears lived in Houston. But that doesn’t mean your two-wheeler needs to hibernate. With a few preparations, you can enjoy winter cycling. It’s an invigorating way to start the workday, and recreational riders may find the un-crowded trails of Terry Hershey Park trails refreshing.
Here are some tips to make winter cycling worthwhile.
1. Lighten up – Shorter days can mean commuting or working out in the dark. Invest in a light system. These days, good lighting systems are affordable, compact, often rechargeable and generate bright beams with the latest bulb technology. If you haven’t checked out bike lights in a while, you may be surprised. At least buy a blinking rear light and you’ll be seen a block away. Motorists aren’t expecting cyclists in cold weather.
2. Fatten up – First, think about fattening up your bike. Fat tire bikes are becoming a commuting ride of choice during drizzly winter days. Wide tires are less prone to sliding across railroad tacks, sewer grates and roads. Then fatten yourself up by layering to protect your core. It’s the key to staying healthy while exercising outdoors. A wicking base-layer shirt followed by a fleece top and a waterproof shell can get you through freezing temps and rain. A wind-shell pant can protect your pants, but if you’re riding long distances, long bike tights with a chamois pad help.
3. Hug your noggin – Wearing a skullcap (or even a bandana) under a helmet does wonders for keeping your body warmer. Hoodies backfire as a warming method by catching the wind as you ride.
4. Think scuba – Neoprene covers insulate airy bike shoes and can make the difference in whether a winter ride is comfortable or miserable. There are even insulated cycling shoes available, if it’s really cold. For commuters wearing shoes, adding a layer of thin silk liners will allow you to ride longer in cold weather. Slip on a pair of full-fingered cycling gloves and you just might enjoy those 35-degree rides.
5. Fend off rain – It’s one thing to get splashed in warm weather. When it’s cold, getting wet from wheeling through puddles can ruin your ride. Plastic fenders can be easily installed on many bikes; some attach to the seatpost. One ride in wet conditions with fenders and you just may leave them on full time.
6. When all else fails – Sometimes a cold rain is just too much to deal with after a long day at work. METRO buses have bike racks. Take a chunk out of your commute by hitching a ride on a METRO route as far as you can. Learn more about METRO’s bike racks and how to load your ride on them here.