Biking to get around in the winter can be fun, refreshing and invigorating- it's a great way to beat the winter blues by getting outside in the fresh air and being active. If you've never done it before, here are a few (mostly common sense) things to keep in mind:
- Outfit yourself and your bike properly for inclement weather riding (see the "Gear Up" notes below).
- Have an alternative plan to get home (like a bus pass) in case of icy or snowy conditions.
- Every Intercity Transit fixed route bus has a rack for 2 bikes, and bikes ride free.
- Slow down and allow for greater stopping distances when the road and your brakes are wet.
- Remember visibility is often low. Ride defensively, dress brightly and use lights, day or night.
- Be extra cautious when it rains after a longer dry spell. Accumulated oil floats on top of the wet road making it extra slippery.
- Register your bike in your town or with the National Bike Registry, & always lock it.
- Remember, your attitude makes a BIG difference- expect some discomfort and discouragement, and pedal through it- riding in the cold or rain can actually be enjoyable with a positive outlook, and the benefits can outweigh the discomfort.
- AND, know your limits (such as ice, snow or very cold temperatures), and when to skip the bike and take the bus instead!
There is lots of great information about bike commuting on the web. A good place to start is with the WSDOT bike pages: wsdot.wa.gov/bike/commuting
Also check out Thurston Here to There's bike info, and the Thurston County Bike Map.
Your local Capital Bicycling Club is another great resource with organized rides and indoor training classes in the winter.
Gear Up for Comfort and Safety
Having the right gear makes a big difference- it is worth the investment! Some essential gear to make your winter biking safer, more pleasant and sustainable:
- Waterproof-breathable jacket and pants.
- Properly installed lights, fenders and luggage rack.
- Waterproof panniers or messenger bag.
- Reinforced flat-resistant tires.
- Clear or yellow-tinted eye protection glasses (Safety glasses from the hardware store work great).
- Helmet with rain cover
- Wool or polypropylene under layer to wick moisture.
- A sturdy "U-lock" and a short cable to secure your bike and wheels.
Buying all of this gear can be a substantial expense, but if you bike instead of driving, you'll save money on gas and other car-related expenses. In the long run, biking is WAY less expensive than driving! Buy Local- if you can, please shop at your local bike shop!
Winter is also a great time to get your bike checked over or tuned up at your local bike shop- they're not so busy in winter, and will welcome you warmly!