Winter Biking Tips

A query came into the website asking help on biking through the winter. Gary’s answer would seem to have value to a lot of our riders especially considering the time of year, so we’ve posted it for everyone’s convenience. Any readers who have their own suggestions or experiences are urged to leave them in the comments section. 
I highly recommend studded tires. When I was younger and more reckless, I used to ride in the winter without them, but would occasionally take a spill on ice. I feel much more confident with studs. The downsides are that the tires are heavy and have lots of rolling resistance  My ideal setup is to have one bike with studs (for days with freezing weather) and another without, for the warmer days. Studded tires are no better than knobbies on snow; what they’re really meant for is to deal with ice.
I would look for tires with carbide-tipped studs. A couple of companies (Innova and North45) make tires with steel studs, but those can wear down completely in a single season. The carbide studded tires cost more, but can last for several years (I’ve been using one pair for four years now).
Studded tires are expensive. In the past, I’ve been able to save money by ordering from www.starbike.com, a German online retailer. But you usually have to put together a very large order to avoid crushing shipping fees, and I have no idea if the exchange rate is still favorable. I think Towners carries studded tires locally, but I don’t know about other shops.
I’ve ridden several years with plain glasses, but started using goggles last year since my eyes water in temperatures below 15 degrees or so. I had to do some experimentation to find goggles that wouldn’t fog over. If you’ve had problems with fogging in the past, I would stay away from cheap goggles. I use a pair of Scott goggles with an anti-fog coating that seems to work well and that fits over my prescription glasses. They even have a tiny fan that turns on in high humidity conditions. (That might be overkill — it’s my understanding that the amount of moisture in one’s breathe is highly variable and you might not fog up in conditions that would bother me.)
Keeping my feet and hands warm is a big problem for me (but might not be for you). I use these Bar Mitts on my road bike:
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dsporting&field-keywords=bar+mitts
But if you have a flat-bar bike, a good pair of mittens will work nearly as well. If not mittens (which interfere with dexterity), I would recommend “lobster gloves” like these:
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dsporting&field-keywords=lobster+gloves&rh=n%3A3375251%2Ck%3Alobster+gloves
If you use non-clipless pedals, I would recommend warm-weather boots in the coldest conditions. If you use clipless pedals, then you can buy winter cycling shoes (they tend to be quite expensive — $200 to $300) or neoprene overshoes. Some people cycle in the winter with clipless sandals and heavy socks, but I’ve never tried that.
You might also want to take a look at the icebike website:
http://www.icebike.org/Default.htm
The content hasn’t been updated in several years, but there is still some useful information there. Also, there’s a related icebike mailing list that is still active:
http://www.icebike.org/icebikelist.htm
Hope that helps.

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Behold the Bike!

Few inventions have the efficiency, health benefits, affordability, urban design potential, safety features and environmental friendliness of the modern bike. It’s not your grandmother’s bicycle; it’s a revolutionary component in our future transportation portfolio. There have been bikes. There will be bikes.

Bikes started as glorified hobby horses (the walking machine), then got pedals (the velocipede or boneshaker), then rose up and sped up (the high wheel bicycle), then began settling down for speed and safety (the hard-tired safety), and now they are fast, sleek and efficient. It was a long (and sometime dangerous) haul; and, if you are quick about it, you can see the entire history of bicycles at the Pedaling History Bicycle Museum in Orchard Park, NY before it closes. (If enough visitors go, maybe it won’t close.) [http://www.pedalinghistory.com/]

Now, in many modern urban communities the bicycle is more than an old contraption made new and glorified by bike clubs and enthusiasts. Bicycles are not simply hangers-on, like horse-riding or Model T driving on Sunday. Bicycles are becoming an integral part of planned transportation systems throughout the country. Note how cities like Portland, Oregon and Boulder, Colorado are retrofitting their vehicle-dominated streets into bike boulevards (BTA: Bicycle Boulevards Campaign) where commuters and even kids off to school can get to their destinations year-round and safely.

Year-round and safely? In New York State? In the rain, the snow, heavy traffic, though the mud, across busy bridges, to grandmother’s house and still be presentable?

Become a believer. When more people bike more drivers accept them on our streets—which, of course, they have every right to be. In official studies: under 6.5 miles, the public prefers bicycling over mass transit. Bicycling produces zero greenhouse gas emissions, has relatively inexpensive repair bills, and because of the soaring cost of road and bridge maintenance our regional planners consider bicycles a serious component of our future transportation.

If we make our streets more bike accessible, protect bicyclists from fast-moving traffic, create innovative all-weather bike corridors, [http://rochestergreenway.org/]and provide convenient and comprehensive bike parking, the public will bike. Already, many cities have found a way to bicycle-friendly their streets, not because it is trendy, but because there is no faster, more efficient, environmentally and urban-friendlier way to get around than the bike. [http://www.bikeleague.org/programs/bicyclefriendlyamerica/communities/]

Too expensive, too radical, too dangerous, too slow, and just too much darn trouble? As opposed to what? Billions of dollars on maintaining our existing vehicular dominated streets? An obese society that spends zillions of bucks for insurance, parking, fuel, repairs, and the vehicles’ price (the ‘Clunkers for Cash’ program is drying up)?

The real impediment to creating a Rochester, New York that moves around in massive numbers on bicycles and renews our sense of community from our too expensive isolation tanks is Attitude. Everything else is there, the technology, the know-how, and the vivid examples of bike/transportation modes across the spectrum of world cities. Behold a healthier lifestyle.

Frank J. Regan [RochesterEnvironment.com]