Are you thinking about winter cycling?
NOTHING CAN STOP YOU!
Believe it or not, the climate is not the deciding factor on whether or not people cycle. People the world over, including the Grand Traverse region, cycle year-round, and through all sorts of weather. In fact, some of the world’s most bicycle-friendly communities share our wintery climate. The leaders do so by investing in dedicated infrastructure and its maintenance.
That said, there are certainly some best practice tips the individual can use to make winter cycling more appealing. Gear heads certainly have all sorts of advice. Still, for everyday neighborhood cycling, it doesn’t take much to enjoy the quiet, snowy thrill of rolling along on snow.
Norte has visited this topic before. Our Traverse City Bike Life series highlights tips from local champs like Kyle Smith, Patrick Mier, Claire Karner, and Norte Program Director, Ben Boyce. Our Executive Director, Ty Schmidt, even presented at the International Winter Cycling Conference in Montreal a few years back.
There are two things in common in all of these stories: 1, winter cycling, isn’t by default complicated. It’s still as easy as riding a bike. 2, there are magical moments in winter riding. There’s simply nothing like the quiet of less traffic, streets muted by a layer of snow, while snowflakes gently fall.
For this post, I asked Norte staff for one piece of advice that other recommendations may miss.
- Ty Schmidt: “A fancy bike isn’t necessary. Take the turns wide. And, smile.”
- Ashlea Walter: “Be social! There is power in numbers and if there are two or more people cycling in the winter together, it’s more visible and more fun. I usually walk more in the winter though than bike, and plan extra time in my schedule.”
- Jamie Burley: “Don’t feel guilty about it. Bike when you can, drive if you want. Either way, be considerate of others. We’re all just trying to get somewhere.”
- Mike Decker: “Keep your bike clean and well maintained. Dedicate a space out of the elements to store it and wipe it down regularly.”
- Ben Boyce: “Slow down, watch out for ice, and cut through the Oakwood Cemetery whenever possible. It is awesome in the winter!”
- Gary Howe: “On sloppy, slushy days, I recommend walking. If the distance is too far, combine your trip with a bus ride. You might even take your bike on the bus if you know conditions will improve on your return.”
- Roger Amundsen: “Dress the part. Being on your bike in the snow is awesome, but it’s considerably less awesome if you’re underdressed or overdressed. My advice is to always layer well and to dress for about 10 degrees warmer than the actual temperature you’re riding in. You don’t want to ride with a chill, but you also don’t want to overdress & end up overheated by the time you get where you’re going.”
- Abby Havill: “Walking or biking outside in the snow can be truly magical. With proper attire, it’s so much easier to enjoy the cold, and it’s lessons of calm and quiet. The earth seems to slow it’s pace in the winter whilst being covered in the layer of white magic. Therefore, it’s a perfect invitation to slow down for yourself. We must pay closer attention to our bikes and the movement of our body in relation to our bikes in the winter because of the ice and sometimes slush. It’s far more invigorating to get your bike tires over a mound of frozen ice and snow than it is to do so in your vehicle. Just saying…”
Our Volunteer Director, Mike Decker, also contributed a winter cycling 101 he previously wrote.
Mike’s Winter Commuting 101
- The fatter and grippier the tires, the better.
- Replan your route based on conditions. Your summer bike commute won’t work here.
- Get off the bike. Sometimes it’s the safest option. Get back on when the road is better.
- The sidewalk is your friend. In a pinch, get up on it.
- Invest in a good pair of lights.
- Wear the right clothing. Running/skiing/hiking stuff transfers well for biking. Bright and reflective is a plus, while a pair of bike-specific winter gloves are absolutely worth the cost.
- Don’t mess with ice. Put a foot down, get off the bike, bike on the sidewalk until it’s clear.
- Avoid cars but assert yourself when necessary. If the bike lane is full of snow and ice, get into the street. Cars treat bicyclists like lepers in the winter; they’re more afraid of hitting them.
- Install some flat platform pedals. Your feet won’t slip off, and you can wear boots.
- Find a good space to store it in your home or garage. And, keep it clean. Invest in Simple Green and dilute it with water in a spray bottle. Find rags and wipe down bike if it gets dirty. Clean that drive train!
- Utilize Norte Clubhouse Member Program. You’ll have access to a workspace where you can clean and maintain a bike. A year’s membership and a great investment. And, a great gift!
If you’re new to winter riding, why not join others while exploring the Christmas decorations around Traverse City. Wednesday, December 18 is Norte’s annual See the Lights ride. A slow roll in the snow passing by some of Traverse City’s best-lit homes. If you need the perfect winter hat, we have the Very Orange Winter Hat to top off your gear.
On February 7, 2020, join us for the annual Winter Bike to Work and School Day. You and your co-workers can commit now at winterbiketoworkday.org. The goal is to put little ol’ Northern Michigan on the Winter Bike to Work map. Winter bike to work also includes a happy hour, which might be another pro tip for winter cycling!
Connect your business to the Pro Walk/Pro Bike movement with an annual Norte Business Champion sponsorship.