Recently, I wrote an article covering cycling cold weather tips and gear, However, winter cycling is not just about the right equipment. It’s also about the right technique. After all, you can have the best helmet, jacket, pants, shoes, gloves, and tires, but the wrong techniques can send you tumbling to the ground, or worse into traffic.
So here are some techniques to keep you upright and riding.
Stay in shape sounds like a cliche, but riding less in the winter months means unless you have another cold weather activity you engage in, or use stationary equipment in your gym, it’s easy to lose fitness and muscle memory. Then infrequent rides can turn painful and even disastrous.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Also, keep in mind how the cold affects joint and muscle aches. Take pain relief before you ride as a preventative. Muscle creams, especially those containing capsaicin, applied before and after, help significantly, and “have been proven as both topical pain relievers and and anti-inflammatory agents” says Joel Mortensen, Ph.D. at The University of Cincinnati in an article titled The Power of Capsaicin.
A good core workout and flexibility are key as well. Balance and flexibility along with core strength go a long way toward staying loose while riding, helping you to avoid crashes along with avoiding serious injury should a crash occur.
If you are going to ride on the roads, keep in mind how plows and cars push around snow, slush, and gravel during winter months. Although most of the time the medium in winter is dry pavement, debris often lanes bike lanes and gutters where cyclists frequently find themselves.
The law in my state reads that cyclists must ride as far to the right as reasonable, and are allowed to lane share with cars in many locations. Reasonable means that using more of the auto lane to avoid hazards is easily justified, but carries with it the dangers of riding in traffic, including visibility and drivers battling the same road conditions cyclists do.
The key is to keep right, cautiously lane share, and when possible avoid high traffic areas or roads that are not maintained.
Most cities clear bike trails of snow soon after storms, so following plows and using these as alternative routes is often viable. On my commute this increases the distance, but the increased safety is worth exploring. Check with the parks and recreation department in your area, or even with cyclists and cycle clubs that encourage green commuting. They may have the safest winter routes already mapped.
Most cities with public transportation have means of transporting bikes, at least on some routes. Scout these out in your area, and consider using them for a partial commute, or an alternative should the weather turn during your ride.
Mapping these alternatives out ahead of time makes unexpected weather or other events less stressful. Most systems now have apps to assist users, so exploring routes is even easier. This allows cyclist to keep their commutes green or to keep recreational rides reasonable.
No matter why or how you maintain your winter riding routine, doing so doesn’t have to be hazardous or a chore. In fact, when done with caution, cold weather riding can be quite enjoyable as well as a good way to keep our winter environment clean.