How To Ride Your Bike To Work In The Winter

“Cyclers see considerable more of this beautiful world than any other class of citizens. A good bicycle, well applied, will cure most ills this flesh is heir to.” – Dr. K. K. Doty

I know I haven’t written on AuthenticGrowth about bike riding before, so I have to write this post now to give you all a great example of taking on something I thought would be an incredibly challenge – and turning it into a very rewarding activity.

Towards the end of last year, I bought a RadCity electric commuter bike with the idea that I would replace my 6 mile drive to work with a shorter commute by bike whenever possible. I started slow of course and now that I’ve been doing it for about three months, despite the fact that it’s around 30 degrees here right now, I have learned a lot from the change and have a great amount of respect for the process it took to get here.

After researching a bike route using Google Map’s nifty bicycle directions feature, I was actually able to find a route that turned my 6 mile drive into a 3.9 mile bike commute. The commute was shortened because I was able to go through a path in a nearby park which significantly reduced the distance I had to travel. The gym I go to is also within 1 mile distance from my house so I ride the bike there pretty much everyday, rain or shine. So long as the weather isn’t downpouring – I’ve effectively replaced the use of my car Monday through Friday for basic purposes of work commuting and going to the gym.

With all that said, the thought of riding my bike to work during the winter scared the hell out of me. After I calmed down and started researching so more, I found that really all it takes is owning the right cold-weather gear to make it work comfortably and – as shocking as it may sound – enjoyably.

Take It Slow And Find A Safe Route. It May Be Shorter Than You Think.

As mentioned earlier Google Map’s has a really great feature to search for directions by bike which will tell you exactly how long it predicts your ride would take you via bike. It also takes into account paths and other access ways that cars can’t take, but that bikes are able to ride through – which is how I ended up cutting off 2 miles from my commute.

Also keep in mind that the first result Google Maps gives you is what it determines the ‘optimal’ route is. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the route you want to take! That took me a good two months to revisit, but when I researched alternative paths more I found that I was able to drag around the route on Google Maps and design a commute that took me off all major roads while keeping the distance traveled the same. 

In other words – you can go the route Google says, but you may be able to make your trip safer by testing alternate roads on Google Maps by dragging around the route line to take you to side streets. Ultimately for me this exercise has actually made my commute a very enjoyable experience because now instead of being on main roads alongside traffic, I take side roads that are very scenic.

The Right Winter Gear Makes The Trip Easy

Being able to ride your bike in the winter all comes down to having the right gear and keeping yourself warm. I learned a lot about this recently and have successfully commuted entire weeks inbetween 20-30 degree weather using the 5 items below (along with a winter jacket).

First thing on the todo list is to get yourself some type of Ski Mask. The one below is what I settled on after researching ten or twenty different kinds on Amazon:

1. Some Type of Water-Resistant Ski Mask

Mountain Made Balaclava Mountain Made Balaclava

This thing is semi-waterproof and protects you from rain and snow. It does an amazing job of protecting you from the wind which is the main reason I bought it. Another thing that is good about it is that if it’s raining – the top portion protects your head from rain that falls through the holes in your helmet. Covers your ears too so no need for ear muffs.

2. Bar Mitts – Bike Handlebar Covers

Bar MittsBar Mitts

These windproof hand covers basically slide onto your handlebars and secure via Velcro, so you can put your hands inside and protect them from the winter wind while also providing a layer of warmth. Honestly before I bought these Bar Mitts I was wearing two pairs of gloves at the same time and even then my hands were still getting chapped. Not anymore with the bar mitts. I do still wear a thin pair of gloves in combination with the Bar Mitts and I’ve found this works great for protecting my hands while biking to work.

3. Honest-to-Goodness Rain Trousers

Rain Proof Slip-Over Pants Rain Proof Slip-Over Pants

These rain pants are a game changer and are really a key factor for keeping you warm while you’re riding. When you start picking up speed – it’s not really the temperature outside that gets to you, but rather the wind that is blowing cold against your outfit. This pants are excellent at blocking the wind and also resist water and rain. I just slip them over the pants I’m going to wear while working, and slip them off when I get in the office.

4. Cheap Foam-Padded Bike Glasses

Cheap Padded Biking GlassesCheap Padded Biking Glasses

Another item I wouldn’t have thought to look for until after biking a few times at higher speeds and having my eyes water in the cold. These cheap glasses have foam padding around the lenses so that it is able to keep the wind out of your eyes while biking. Seriously they’re pretty cheap for a pack – I consider them essential in tandem with the ski mask mentioned earlier. They are also great if it happens to rain because it will keep the rain out of your eyes.

5. Bike Shoe Covers (For Blocking Wind)

Bike Shoe Covers (For Wind)Bike Shoe Covers (For Wind)

I’ll admit this brand in particular is pretty cheaply made, but I’ve found that if I put them over my socks (rather than shoes like is suggested), my toes no longer get cold from the wind and I also look a little bit more normal considering all the other gear I have on when I walk in. I used to put these over my shoes while riding like you’re supposed to, but then I realized I could just put them underneath the shoe and I wouldn’t have to walk into the office with shoe covers on. They work great for blocking wind and rain from cooling your feet.

Adjust Your Plan And Implement Changes To Your Trip

After riding for a few times and testing out new gear – you may find things that work for you or things that need changes to make your ride more comfortable. It took me several months to iron out most of the kinks in my commute, but at this point I’m very happy with my ride each morning and afternoon. Take this whole project with stride, knowing that every time you bike to work you are very likely saving yourself money versus driving to work (I’ll save that for another post), and you are also doing good for your health. Enjoy the journey and thank yourself when you’ve put in the work, because you’ll be doing something that others weren’t willing to do and benefiting because of it.

-Anthony from AuthenticGrowth.com

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