17 December 2013

How I do it: winter bicycling

The number one question I get asked when it's made known that I ride my bicycle everywhere is:


A lot of people mention my scooter (pictured in my bio on the right) and wonder if I will ride it in the winter. That, my friends, is a big fat NO.

My scooter, as fun as it is, is definitely a fair weather vehicle for me, since it's a lot more damaging if I crash on the scooter compared to my bicycle.

I go faster on the scooter, meaning if I crash, it's more likely I'll get hurt. Not to mention body repairs that would need to be done for damages to the scoot. The roads are atrocious with ice, slush, snow, etc. and people generally drive like crap.


I generate the power on the bicycle, so even though it takes me a few minutes (like 2-3) more to get somewhere compared to the scooter, I'm cozy and warm. I dress as if it is 5-10 degrees warmer than it is outside, to compensate for the bodyheat generated from pedaling.

By the time it takes me to get to work (6 minute ride), most people are barely finishing up warming their car and scraping their windshield. Since I live only a mile away from work, even if I did own a car I would probably still ride my bike. It wakes me up, it's a lot more fun than navigating traffic, and I get 2 miles of cardio roundtrip.

I wear normal clothes while commuting, so I don't really do anything different in the winter. Even when I drove a car, I would pair jeans with thermals or a dress with fleece lined tights, because I'm usually cold at work. I normally wear fuzzy socks and boots and I have a down-filled vest I wear under my trench coat, which is about the only difference I make.

My fingers, toes, and ears get the coldest, so I wear a combination knitted convertible gloves, leather gloves, a headwrap or beanie depending on the temperatures. Throw on a scarf and I'm good to go.

Give you one guess on my favorite color.

I've traveled like this in freezing temperatures and did just fine. I'll wrap the scarf around my face if it's really cold.

I'd have to double that on the scooter since I'm not only not moving my body, but the self-powered wind chill from going 25 mph makes it 10-20 degrees colder than what it already is outside. It's simply unpleasant.

It does get darker earlier in the winter, especially in Washington (3 p.m.!? REALLY?!) so I have to make sure I'm visible. I have a motorcycle jacket from GoGoGear that has a reflective belt, so in the winter, I wear the belt with my regular trench coat. I don't wear the motorcycle jacket on my bicycle because of the padding.

I had bought some cheap lights when I bought the bike, but they are part of the "be seen" category and I can't see much in the dark even with them on. I did buy SpokeLit lights a while back, which have helped with being seen as well.

But since I can't see, I bought a Planet Bike 5 LED light and a Petl Tekkina headlamp (which I double for running) with the money my mom gave me for Christmas.

Excuse my just-showered-I-got-presents goofy look


You can see in the rightside picture how much brighter the new light is compared to my dinky one. I'll use the dinky one as a blinking light for visibility (ditto on the taillight)

I have a current obsession with getting more lights and reflectors, which my Amazon Wish List shows.


Snow tires for scooters: $125 per tire + install costs ($50+)

Bicycle tires: $44 per tire + install costs ($16)

I have a pair of Klondike tires I just bought that should be good for a few years. I've gone over some black ice with them and didn't even feel a difference.

Rosie is quite studly with her new tires

I have a pair of SnowTrax I got from Costco I'll put over my boots if I know it's going to be extra icy. I also use them for running. They're fantastic.

I happen to love riding my bicycle in bad weather. It's a lot of fun and I love how quiet the world is when it rains or snows. I love being out in it rather than just driving through it. Plus the lack of dealing with traffic is pretty awesome. I have much less road rage compared to when I ride my scooter.

Winter riding is EASY, it just takes a little preparation. I'll save my scoot for warmer weather.

No hi-viz spandex clothes here!

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