It’s hard to believe it’s already December! While the D.C. area doesn’t generally get the kind of snow we saw last year, we certainly see our fair share of occasional flurries, as well as miserably cold temperatures and wet weather which can make for slick and treacherous conditions when biking on roads and trails. And as the days get shorter, most cyclists will probably be riding home from work in the dark. So, if you plan to continue commuting by bike through the winter months, start preparing now in order to stay warm and safe as weather conditions shift.
For tips on cold-weather commuting, we turned to the experts on doing just about anything in frigid, inclement weather: Canadians. The city of Toronto put out an impressive compilation of winter biking tips. Here are just a few important suggestions:
Before You Ride:
- Leave extra time to cycle more slowly in wet and snowy conditions.
- In case of snow, adjust your fenders, if necessary, so that there is lots of room between the fender and tire to avoid snow build–up.
- Let your bicycle get cold outside before riding—less snow will stick to it if it’s already cold.
- Keep your bike clean, wiping down any salt it may have picked up from the roads to prevent corrosion.
- Brush away snow and slush from the rear derailleur and freewheel with a large-bristled brush.
- Lessen tire pressure to the low end of the recommended range to increase traction.
How to Dress:
- Dress in layers with zippers to allow you to moderate your temperature.
- Make sure others can see you by wearing reflective gear. Try adding reflective tape to your jacket or invest in some reflective bands for your arms and pant legs.
- Wool or fleece gloves will keep hands warm even when wet, but you might want to add a wicking liner if your hands tend to sweat.
- Cover your head (and ears!) to conserve the most heat, and be sure to adjust your helmet to accommodate the new layer.
How to Outfit Your Bike:
- For riding during the evening hours, always use a rear red light and a front white light. Carry a red rear and white front reflector with you in case your light batteries run out.
- Rear fenders are a worthwhile investment and will help to keep the spray off and your feet dry.
How to Ride Safely:
- Steer clear of puddles which may hide potentially damaging potholes.
- Avoid surfaces such as streetcar tracks, painted lines, metal bridges and plates, which are
slippery when wet. If you must cross them, proceed slowly at a 90 degree angle.
- Do not brake if you encounter black ice. Instead, steer straight and don’t pedal until you have crossed it safely.
- Snow banks make it difficult to ride close to the curb, making you more vulnerable to other vehicles. Be sure to signal to other traffic as you move further into the lane and do several shoulder checks before moving out.
- Clips are not recommended in snowy or icy conditions in case you have to put your feet down in a hurry.
- Wear your helmet!
We commend you for your commitment to using this alternative mode of transportation; biking is one of the best things you can do for your health and for the environment. But please remember to be safe. Click here to read more tips on biking in wintry weather.
Re-posted from the goDCgo blog.
goDCgo is an initiative of the District Department of Transportation that provides employees, residents and visitors with the education and assistance they need to make more informed choices about their daily travel. In collaboration with neighboring Arlington County, the program focuses on the overall reduction of single-occupant vehicle travel through the promotion of more sustainable modes. These efforts help to decrease traffic congestion and improve air quality thus creating a better quality of life in the District of Columbia, Arlington and its surrounding jurisdictions.