THE REWARDS OF WINTER CYCLING

Are you a bike-to-work commuter? Then you already know the joys of being free from traffic snarls, oil changes, and sticker shock at the gas pump. What you might not believe is that all of these can still be enjoyed, all winter long – yep, even in the Boston area. Skeptical? All it takes is some prep and street smarts to rock that bike commute right through Red Sox Opening Day! Read on and get pumped for some amazing and rewarding cold-weather rides.

  1. Dress and fuel appropriately. Wear just enough to be slightly cold when you start pedaling; the heat your body produces will warm you up quickly, and overdressing can lead to hyperthermia and dehydration. This means starting with a base layer to wick away moisture, layering on a soft shell (dry weather) or water-resistant shell (for wet and snow), and sporting proper covering on extremities. Click here for details on what to wear for every scenario. Regarding proper fuel – remember that in colder temps, you can reach dehydration long before you feel thirsty. Drink up, and bring an energy bar to replace the fuel your body’s burning to regulate its temperature.

  2. Make sure your bike is properly outfitted and maintained. The Watertown area has excellent bike shops whose experienced staff can go over your bike equipment with you and make sure you’ve got what you need to ride safely. Farina’s and Belmont Wheelworks are ones we recommend. The REI website also offers very helpful and detailed info as to proper winter equipment guidelines. If you’re into bikesharing, Boston’s Hubway has expanded to its largest winter selection of bike stations ever, including 37 open year-round in nearby Cambridge. Their website details their bikes’ safety features and severe weather protocols, as well as offering lots of helpful links to additional safety info.

  3. Know the skills fundamental to cold-weather biking. For starters, lane position is critical; the immediate curb area is where plowed snow, slush, and debris accumulate, so stay away from it and take up an entire lane if you have to. Keep your body relaxed to avoid over-correcting when hitting uneven road surfaces. Be aware of black ice, which forms when snow and ice melt during the day and re-freeze after sundown. If you feel your tires slipping, relax and steer straight through it without braking. Head to GearJunkie for lots more on winter biking skills.

For the latest info on Watertown trails, go here, here and here, for Cambridge trail info, head here. And to download a cool app that will hook you up with the nearest bike stations, hit up Spotcycle!