January 18, 2009

How to commute in the winter on a bike.

I have been commuting to work on my bike for the past 4 years. I love it, saves you money, keeps you fit and healthy and is a great way to avoid that dreaded morning commute stuffed in with hundreds of others on the train. Over the years I have learned a lot about cycling in the city, such as how to dress comfortably and be safe. Every year when the temp gets below freezing or close I hop on the train and watch my love handles get bigger, thinking to myself man my clothing must have shrunk. This year I said no to the growing love handles and did some research on how to be comfortable commuting on my 16mile round trip in below freezing temps.

Even if you are new to the idea of commuting on a bike I have great tips so you can be prepared for any time of the year.

The truth of it was I had to sink a little cash in updating my bike wardrobe for the winter, my wool hounds tooth knee length coat or fluffy earmuffs were not going to work on the bike.
Some basics you should have no matter what the temp is when you are on your bike.

1. A HELMET!! I thought I was too cool for one until I got doored (a car door swung open into me as I was speeding down the road) I was not badly hurt but was bruised so badly I could not wear pants for almost 3 weeks. Yes it will ruin your hair and yes they are not so cute but your good looks and stylish hair wont save your life if you get into an accident. I sweat a lot, so I went with one that has more vents for my head to breath.

2. A blinker light! When riding you are invisible but a little blinking light at night will bring attention to you. You should have reflecters on your bike as well.

3. A bell, I think it is the law in NYC, and I don't have one, instead I yell and think I gotta remember to buy a bell. It helps alert people whose backs don't see ya coming, very helpful on the bridge!

Cold Weather gear to make you much more comfortable.

I needed a coat so I looked around for one with reflective piping, arm pit ventilation, windproof, water resistant . I found one for less then $100. I found that getting a shell is the best bet so you can layer or not when needed. Also make sure the back comes down lower, nothing is worse than your coat riding up in the back and freezing air on your bare back skin.

When it is below freezing I where a fleece under the shell.

I realized the benefits of moister wicking clothing and bought a couple long sleeve shirts. They make you so much more comfortable, you don't want cold clammy sweat against your skin in the cold!

I got a wicking hat that fits under my helmet. I get horrible headaches form the bitter cold wind blowing into my ears. The helmet keeps my head warm but not the ears.

On the bottom half I tried wearing my silk long underwear and was freezing. Get your self a pair of biking tights. I wear them under my jeans and they really keep your legs form turning into red icicles.

Gloves! get a pair that are windproof and have a place to wipe your drips, I know it sounds gross, but every time I am puffing over the Williamsburg bridge and my nose has major dripage action I am thankful for that feature!

Even if you are new to the commuting on a bike I have great tips so you can be prepared for any time of the year.

I use a messenger bag and plan on converting to a pannier this year I hate how my back gets all sweaty in the summer. I change my clothing at work, splash my face with some water put on some makeup and no one can guess I just commuted from Bedstuy to Midtown on my bike.

So all of you don't be scared off from your bikes because the temp dropped, with the right gear you will be totally comfortable not to mention a little extra cash in your pocket and and few less pounds on your body!

Let me fess up I don't bike in the snow or rain, I can deal with the cold but not on the precipitation!

Below are a couple sites that have some good deals.


Good luck and be safe!


Jess said...

Wow, you go from Bed-Stuy to Midtown? That's so impressive! Kudos to you. =)


Ikyoto said...

I'm not quite ready to commit to the commute, but it does make me feel a little more inclined to give winter biking a try. I'd been intimidated before.

May Luk Ceramics said...

Good for you!! My other bike is the subway.

mellowbeing said...

Very cool - thanks for the tips. I just started biking in the city myself so it's good to know these things. I can't wait til it gets a bit warmer.. and less icy.. :)

molly shoelace said...

you are so brave!!