Extend Your Biking Season

Monday, November 05, 2012

calendar with bike icons all over it

It's about that time of the year again, you know... when you start taking a serious look at hanging up your biking shoes for the season. The wind stings a bit too much, you have to second guess every puddle (potential patch of black ice), and your ride is creaking and cracking all the time. Well I wanted to pound out a quick post to tell you to not give up... you can extend your biking season with some perseverance and a couple of tips.

My boss has a rule of thumb, once the temperature drops to -10ºC, no more riding for him. And that's totally reasonable I think. As for me, I have biked through the last three winters and only recorded four bails during that time (and no serious injuries). Riding in the late autumn season does take a certain level of prudence. I know that you might not go right until the winter season, but if you want to try to keep riding until the snow falls, here are a couple of things you can do.

  1. Puddles aren't just puddles anymore
    The first year I wanted to ride into winter I recorded my first fall way before the snow even hit. I was riding across what I thought was a puddle and it turned out to be black ice. I slid right into traffic. Rule number one... AVOID PUDDLES! Just bike around them. Same goes for piles of leaves... you never know what's lurking underneath and leaves are more slippery than you might think.
  2. The air is cold (d'uh)
    Seriously though, the air is cold and if you want to avoid unnecessary sickness you should invest in some gloves and a scarf. Cold hands suck but they are much more than just an annoyance. If your hands get too cold you could slow down your braking reaction time. You might also be tempted to cycle with one hand (a big no no) and bury the other in your pocket to keep it from freezing. This leaves you vulnerable so get the gloves and do the right thing.
    Also, the scarf is just common sense.
  3. The sky.... she isn't so bright
    We just went through the time change and if it wasn't already apparent, the nights are coming sooner. Get yourself some lights. I suggest one in the back and in the front... but for sure get yourself a light for your rear. Until the snow falls, the nights are extremely dark and if cars were bad enough for you, pedestrians can also be a big obstacle if they can't see you. The Bike Coop is selling tonnes of lights at cost so now you have no excuse.
  4. Take your time
    Seeing as the air is colder, this means it is also denser. Riding is therefore going to be a bit harder. You won't be able to glide down the streets as easily as you did before, nor should you want to. Try gearing down a little lower and giving yourself more time to get to where you want to go.
  5. Stay lubricated
    Get your mind out of the gutter, I am talking about bike chains. This time of the year you might expect a little more debris in the chain (dust, dirt, etc) so you might want to switch to a simpler lubricant for the season (like WD-40 instead of bike lube). This will prevent some of this debris from getting gunked up in the chain, and if you do want to bike in the winter time it will prevent salt from sticking in there and doing some real damage.
That's my short list. There are a lot of other things to consider and you should remember that riding in the later season requires you to be just as safe as during the summer season. If you want some more tips about extending your bike season, you can talk to our trusty friends at the campus Bike Coop.

~ jON - campus sustainability manager
photo credit - jonathan rausseo

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