I won’t lie. I’m a wimp when it comes to the cold. Having spent the last 10 winters in more temperate climates on the west coast, I knew that figuring out how to cope with Detroit’s signature chill would be a work in progress.
The same held true for biking around the city in the winter. I’d proven to myself that I could deal with rainy weather. But ice? Snow? Another Polar Vortex? Scanning articles online and browsing my favorite outdoor retailer’s website didn’t help. This looked like a costly venture with more stuff to buy. Yuck! But instead of stocking up, I did what I knew how to do best – just keep riding. And it turns out that might have been the biggest part of the secret.
Now don’t get me wrong, winter bicycling in the city is different. But I also discovered that there are some reasons it is – gasp! – better than the alternatives. Here’s what I mean:
The bike and clothes you have already are fine
The rule that applies in better weather also applies when the temperature drops. You’ve been commuting the rest of the year in street clothes, so why stop now? If you start with your closet, you’ll probably find that you already have most of what you need to stay warm when riding to work or to grab groceries. You know the drill: jacket, gloves, scarf, and hat. Ladies, learn to love the magic combination of boots, wool socks, leggings, and skirt!
For those who love gear, Copenhagenize has a great post about not overcomplicating winter cycling. Give it a read before you buy anything else. Bonus: check out the end of the article for tips on riding in the snow.
It’s probably not as snowy as you think
Speaking of the white stuff, our hardy cyclist friends in Oulu, Finland, face around a foot of snow per month in December and January and earn their city the title of “Winter Cycling Capital of the World.” That means the rest of us are probably going to be ok. Rochester and Buffalo get a little slack, but the average number of snow days drops off quickly for most cities in the US.
|Rank||Place||# of Snow Days|
|1||Rochester, New York||66|
|2||Buffalo, New York||61|
|8||Salt Lake City, Utah||35|
|15||Providence, Rhode Island||19|
Riding still beats many of the other options
On a bike, you’ll warm up faster and be outside in the cold for a shorter length of time than if you were walking. By not driving, you’re still skipping traffic jams, parking fees, insurance, and the other nastiness that comes with a car. If you typically switch over to transit during crummy weather, consider this: some research suggests that people who have recently ridden on a bus may be six times more likely to get sick than those who don’t use public transportation. Dedicated bus riders may develop stronger immune systems, but it’s the casual riders that end up getting slammed.
It does get dark earlier, so if you don’t have this already, the gear you might consider purchasing is a good set of lights with rechargeable batteries.
Biking to work is one of the best ways to incorporate physical activity into daily life. Better still, people who exercise outdoors are also more revitalized, energetic, and engaged and report feeling less tense and depressed. Not too shabby!
So what do you think? Are you already a winter rider? Think you’ll give it a try? What’s your secret weapon to staying warm?