There’s a saying, “if you don’t like the weather in Kansas wait five minutes.” In fall and winter, this is even more apparent. It seems like it can be sunny and 60 degrees one minute and freezing rain the next. With this high degree of unpredictability how are you supposed to bike this time of year?
Cycling during the fall and winter in Manhattan is both treacherous and exhilarating. It gets icy and dangerous but there is nothing better than the cold wind in your face as you go to work. In fact, most of us believe that cycling is EASIER in the fall and winter than in the summer. It’s much easier to control your body temperature when it’s colder outside than in the heat of the summer!
When it gets colder outside, cyclists worry that they’re going to be cold on the bike. Novice cyclists often put on too many clothes and are hot when they get to their destination. More experienced cyclists will dress in layers and be able to pull off what they don’t want to control their body temperature. While windproof jackets and pants are important there are two things that are necessary for cold weather biking: gloves and a balaclava. Without proper gloves you hands will get COLD! They will get so cold that you probably won’t be able to move them. Stay away from expensive gloves – they’re likely a waste of money. Buy mitten-type gloves. My favorite is a windproof, fleece, mitten pair that I bought for $30 at Pathfinder. A balaclava goes around your neck and face to protect you from the wind. They’re invaluable! Again, buy something that is windproof but not too insulated.
Something else to consider when biking in the winter is visibility – Make sure drivers can see you! Wearing a black coat, dark pants and not having lights on your bike is NOT a good idea. Wear a bright colored or reflective jacket and make sure to replace the batteries in your lights. It’s likely that you won’t leave work or school until after dark. However, in the daylight sunglasses are ideal if you want to be able to see where you’re going. Trust me; the snow reflects a lot of light!
You can bike all year in Manhattan. There will only be a couple days during January and February when there is snow or ice on the road that prevents you from biking. That being said, the street crews do an excellent job of clearing the major roads quickly so stick to the clear roads and you’ll likely get to your destination easily. After a big rain or snow, it’s a good idea to take up more of the lane and stay away from the edge. Remember, bikes are entitled to the right third of the lane. Make use of it so you don’t have to swerve in and out of traffic. It’s safer to ride in a straight line than to swerve in and out of debris. If you do have to ride in snow or ice try to stay in a straight line. You’ll be fine as long as you’re going straight but be careful when coming to a stop or turning – that’s when you’ll lose traction.
If you’re more of a trail/sidewalk rider you’re going to have a more difficult time. The sidewalks and trails are often the last to be cleared of snow or ice. Be careful, knowing that you might need to walk or migrate to the road for a few days. If you ride on Linear Trail, make sure to be cautious of the paved areas, as they’re likely to accumulate ice. Additionally, underpasses become somewhat dangerous in the winter. Don’t let this dissuade you from biking but do be more cautious.
Besides lights, you don’t need to do anything to your bike in order to ride 90% of the time in the fall and winter. You might want fenders to keep you dry or panniers so that you don’t have to carry your stuff on your back but those are both not required. Larger tires with greater surface area are nice but again, not required. Make sure to have good set of lights and you should be good to go.
Take advantage of the opportunity to ride in the fall and winter. Attempt it one day when you have a few extra minutes. Some of the more experienced riders enjoy it more than riding in the summer. Plus, there’s little required that you likely don’t already have so it’s not any more expensive than riding in the summer. If you need additional help the great folks at the bike shops will be more than happy to help, as well as myself. Feel free to give us a call or stop by anytime.