October 8, 2015 - TCO
Slick Tips For Bad Weather Biking
The Minneapolis-St. Paul metro is ranked as one of the healthiest places to live in the entire country, and why not with all of our lakes, river parkways, and trails for people to run, bike, and paddle on? The summer is bustling with outdoor activities, but even when the weather turns cold, we still find ways to stay active.
Hopping on our bikes and cycling in the fall, winter, and spring can be really fun. But black ice, slippery grips, and cold weather can make it more difficult. Here are some tips for cycling in inclement weather, and staying safe while staying active.
1. Look out for quality eye protection.
Eye protection is important in bad weather. When the ground is wet from rain and melting snow, the wetness from cars and other bikes sprays up and can make it impossible to see. One tip is to find products like RainX (or sunglasses specially designed to repel water) to keep lenses as clear as possible.
During the winter when the ground is covered in snow, a sunny day can be inviting, but dangerous. Bright reflections coming from every direction can make vision difficult, so we recommend investing in quality sunglasses as well.
2. Arm yourself with rain gear.
Staying dry is important for many reasons, but mostly because sealing out moisture helps keep you warm. For performance riders, keeping your body temperature up prevents you from having “heavy legs,” and for more casual riders staying warm will help you ride more comfortably, and longer.
Simple, plastic gear can be very effective, but for long rides it’s best to have something that breathes. Look for something water and windproof on the outside, but made with a breathable fabric that allows sweat and moisture to escape.
According to Josh King of rainy Seattle, there’s no bad weather, just bad gear. He recommends finding quality gloves, helmet cover, shoe covers, and pack cover. Fenders to, well, fend off spray can be extremely helpful as well.
3. Shine bright!
Make sure to always equip your ride (and self) with plenty of lights. Take it from a city that knows. PortlandOregon.gov recommends using white lights on the front of your bike visible from 500ft, a red taillight in the back visible from 600ft, and possibly extra flashlights and headlamps on your handlebars and helmet. Winter means shorter days, and more obstacles in the road, so visibility is crucial.
As a bonus tip, if you’re wearing reflective gear (which you should!), include your shoes or ankles, so that as you move them and pedal they are more likely to draw attention.
4. Avoid metal, it’s slippery when wet.
Metal surfaces such as train tracks, sewer covers, and construction materials can be very slick when they get wet, so do your best to avoid them. Similarly, painted surfaces can sometimes be very slippery in the rain and snow as well. Lane markings, crosswalks, and other painted road signs should be travelled on with care.
Bike brakes don’t work as well when they’re wet, so always go slower than normal, trust your personal limits, and give yourself a lot more time for every stop.
5. Don’t tread lightly.
The more tread on your tires, the better. Many Minnesotans invest in specially-designed studded tires for the snow season, or switch to their mountain bike during the especially treacherous days. Of course, you can always try letting a little air out of your tires to make them softer, for more grip. Be careful not to let too much air out, though. The cold weather alone will cause tires to deflate a little anyway.
6. After your ride, clean up!
All of the water, dirt, and grime you repelled off your body still ended up on your bike. Take care of your metal wheel rims and bike chain, and wipe them thoroughly so they’re clean and dry. Also, if you have some on hand, add a little bicycle lubricant to your chain to prevent rust.
With a little preparation, you can be ready to hop behind the handlebars year-round, and enjoy an active lifestyle even when the weather turns ugly. Minnesotans are a tough bunch, and we’re not going to let a little bad weather keep us from having a great day.
Of course, even with the best preparation sometimes we can’t avoid slips, falls, and crashes. If you get in an accident and need immediate medical attention, TCO Orthopedic Urgent Care clinics are available from 8am-8pm, 7 days a week in convenient locations across the metro. Broken bones, sprains and strains, and other injuries to bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments should be checked out by a specialist first, to make sure the injury is treated properly from the beginning.
Stay safe, and stay active! And thanks for reading!