Winter Bike Commuting: 10 Tips to Ride Safe

5. Cold and clean
Unless you plan to clean it off, keep your bike cold and store it in the garage. A room-temperature bike in new snow can cause ice to form on brakes and gears more easily. Also, keep your chain and gear cassette lubricated for best operation.

6. Go Studs
Carbide-studded tires can increase grip on snow and ice, and riders like David Mainguy, a 42-year-old psychotherapist in Minneapolis, swear by them. “Ever since I wiped out on black ice, I don’t ride without them,” Mainguy said of his $50 Nokian brand tires.

7. Protect your core
Any outdoorsy person knows that layering is the key to staying warm and managing sweat in the cold. According to Klauck, the best configuration for biking includes a wicking base layer on top followed by an insulating fleece or similar mid-layer, then topped with a waterproof and windproof shell jacket. “That’s good to 15 or 20 degrees for most people,” he said. For the legs, Klauck skips the insulating layer on most days, going with long underwear topped off with a shell pant. “Some people wear bike shorts over long underwear, too,” he said.

8. Heads up
Jacket hoods are a no-no, as air funnels in as you move, inflating a hood like a sail. Instead, riders like Mainguy and Olson wear balaclavas and sunglasses or ski goggles. “My eyes freeze without protection below 20 degrees,” Mainguy said. Tight-fitting (but warm) fleece skull caps are popular. Top it off with a helmet, perhaps sized larger in winter to fit over all the insulation. “The key is to cover up all exposed skin while keeping your goggles from fogging,” Mainguy said.

9. Warm hands and feet
Switch out gloves for mittens or bifurcated “lobster”-style handwear, which keep fingers close together and warmer. Winter boots, not bike shoes, are best for the coldest days, but use platform pedals with aggressive tread for good grip as you crank. Above 20 degrees, many riders get away with bike shoes, employing neoprene covers to add insulation and buffer warm air. Some companies, notably Lake Cycling, sell winterized (read: insulated) bike shoes compatible with clipless pedals.

10. Use public transit
Many metropolitan trains and public busses allow bikes, letting riders surrender on the worst days and hop a ride home. Bike near a bus route and you have bail-out points should the commute prove too long or laborious in the snow.

(Stephen Regenold writes The Gear Junkie column for eight U.S. newspapers; see www.gearjunkie.com for video gear reviews, a daily blog, and an archive of Regenold’s work.)

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