A couple of weeks ago, we got a great mail from Elizabeth, a Flatbike customer. “Winter is coming and I have no plan to stop riding, so as my Xmas/birthday/whatever present, I am interested in the hybrid.”
It got us thinking about that Fall transition into Winter weather and what it means. Are you going to give up that regular exercise and hibernate for the Winter, or are you going to make some changes that allow you to ride comfortably and safely all year long?
Here are six things you need for safe, comfortable winter riding.
1. Start your wet weather riding habits.
This photo is from my commute earlier this week–cluttered with wet leaves, and full of surprises. And yet, less than a minute later, I was leaning and carving a sharp line into a sloping parking lot at high speed as if the ground were still dry and clear.
A change of mind-set doesn’t happen immediately. But hopefully it happens before an accident. My change of attitude happened mid-turn, without incident, and I should be good until the first freeze, which requires another behavioral change, taking turns even more carefully.
2. Anticipate more distracted drivers.
In a time of rampant smartphone usage while driving, a warning about distracted driving is almost redundant. But when you add windshield wipers, fogged windows, snowdrifts, less daylight and longer stopping distances, there’s enough extra in the mix to warrant extra caution.
***Never assume*** that the other person has seen you. Whether a driver is approaching from the front, side, or passing you on the left to make a right turn, go for eye contact every time before proceeding. This may slow you down, but this is a time for slower and safer.
In some cases, such as complex intersections or dangerous stretches of road, it may make sense to ride on the sidewalk if your jurisdiction allows it. But remember… sidewalks were built for pedestrians, so go their speed when they are around and always give them right-of-way.
3. Do something bright.
Is it fashionable to wear a reflective traffic vest and more electric lights than the cars that are passing you? Who cares? The only thing that matters is getting from Point A to Point B and back in a reliably safe manner, every day, even as the nights get longer and visibility shorter.
When choosing a light, weight should not be a primary concern.
Instead, focus on the batteries. Are they convenient (internal rechargeable or swap-out standard size)? Or are they some tiny half-size battery that saves ounces but is a pain to replace without a trip to a specialty battery store?
Another consideration is portability. If you get one that’s easy to take inside and secure or recharge, make sure it doesn’t pop off easily when going over a bump. And if you’re chosen one that bolts on with a hex wrench, make sure you can still get it off as needed to deal with batteries.
4. Break out the weather gear.
While the right weather gear depends on your part of the country, you’ll probably be dealing with some variation of cold, and therefore a long jacket–not a coat, as you don’t want to overheat.
You can purchase special cycle wear with Goretex water protection and wicking, or just wear enough temporary layers with waterproof on the outside to warm you and keep you dry. This is not your business attire.
In some states, a pair of standard gloves will do nicely. In extreme cases, for long commutes in freezing weather, your fingers may need additional protection, such as ski mittens or Bar Mitts.
And don’t forget rain pants. Even a cheap pair that’s fully waterproof but not breathable can be combined with breathable tights to turn a miserable ride into a great one. Or help you ignore the next essential.
5. Get some fenders.
I’m not sure this is an essential because I still haven’t gotten any…in Seattle…but that may just be about our special relationship with rain in the Northwest. So let’s go with it…
Can fenders fit on a CHANGE bike?
Yes, but with a critical consideration. Any fender mounted on the front fork will stick out when the front wheel is removed and the bike folded, so you’ll need a “downtube fender” mounted on the bar between the front wheel and the pedals. Any off-the-shelf downtube fender will work.
Will a fender still catch water when it doesn’t turn with the front wheel? Absolutely. It takes a super-sharp angle to send the spray beyond the fender, and you’re taking corners like that more slowly in bad weather, remember?
On the back, any fender for that type of wheel (narrow 700c wheel or wider MTB wheel) should work.
6. Get some all-weather tires.
Finally, this is what our Flatbike repeat customer was alluding to earlier. A bike with wider tires is going to grip nasty roads better. For shorter commutes, that may mean knobby tires like on the CHANGE 612 folding mountain bike. For longer commutes, the CHANGE 611 folding hybrid may make more sense.
Either way, you’ve got a bike that grips the roads when you’re riding in bad weather, and comes inside when you do, for a longer-lasting investment in reliable transportation.
See you on the (very wet) roads!
Biking made easier.