Cold Weather Cycling

Bike commuters – have you been sidelined these past few crazy winters? With a milder than usual season predicted for Watertown, this could be the ideal year to leave the car in the garage and keep cycling those roads straight through Memorial Day! With that in mind, it’s always a good idea to revisit the basics in terms of how to dress and bike safely in the colder weather. Check out these tips before hitting the streets:

  1. Dress and eat smart. You want to wear just enough to feel a slight chill when you start out, to allow for your body to heat up without leading to hyperthermia or dehydration. Start with a base layer to draw moisture away, layering on a soft shell in dry weather, or a water-resistant one in precip. Be sure to cover up extremities to start, shedding when necessary. In terms of proper fuel on the ride, remember that you can become dehydrated even in the cold weather. Drink frequently, and bring along an energy bar to replace the fuel your body burns when regulating its temperature.

  2. Take proper care of your bike. The winter weather, no matter how mild, is still tough on equipment. Start with a winter tune-up at one of the excellent bike shops we have in the area, like Farina’s and Belmont Wheelworks. Their experienced staff will get your bike ready for the elements, and offer tips on safe riding as well. REI also has helpful guidelines on their website as to how to make sure your bike is properly outfitted. Once you’re ready to hit the road, be sure to wash your bike after every ride; any slush or debris that accumulates can corrode and damage your equipment.

  3. Get schooled. Winter biking packs its own kind of thrills – and skills. For starters, lane position is critical. The curb area tends to be where snow and slush accumulate, so keep at least a foot away at all times. Be wary of black ice, which forms at sundown and remains through the early morning – both classic commuting times. Be mindful about keeping your upper body relaxed to avoid dangerous over-correcting when hitting uneven road surfaces. The Canadian website Mountain Equipment Co-op has lots of helpful information and guidelines to follow.

  4. Light it up! We all know daylight is scarce in the winter months. Make sure you can see and be seen with proper lighting, including a rechargeable bike light on your front handlebars and light-blaring tail light that cars can see easily.

  5. Protect those heads and feet. The cold air and wind can do a number on your ears in particular. Invest in a good headband that provides warmth but allows for airflow. Or consider a slim skullcap or beanie under your helmet – that will keep you warm without a lot of bulk. For your feet, usually a good pair of hiking boots is sufficient for protection and warmth.

Head to the Watertown website for the latest on trail conditions. See you out there!