Now that the road riding season is over, for those of us in Whistler and colder/snowier communities anyway, thoughts turn now to more snow-related activities. However, for those of you who are fortunate – and possibly daring enough – to bike commute year round, this just means adjusting your riding style and gear to be focused, determined and dry riders.
I was a year-round commuter cyclist for about 15 years before I moved to Whistler (from Vancouver). I loved the freedom and fun of getting on my bike every morning to go to work, and the wind-down after work on my way home. It’s amazing that even a 20 minute ride each way was able to help sustain a minimal level of fitness that made all other activities easier year-round. However, people were always amazed that I was able to ride to work all year and not worry about the dangers of cars, black ice and darkness, or helmet hair. So, after having done it for so long, here are some tips and secrets I’d like to share about riding through some not-so-glorious weather:
1. Stay dry with gortex
As geeky as gortex booties are, they are awesome for keeping your feet dry. Getting anywhere with dry feet just makes your day go better. Of course, a goretex jacket and pants are pretty much a necessity as well.
2. Ride slow enough to not sweat
Okay, so those days you don’t get much of a workout and you may have to hit the gym instead. I often wore my business clothes under a layer of goretex, which I would discretely take off in a bathroom before appearing for a meeting. I also had a complete set of clothes (and numerous pairs of shoes) in a closet in my office to change into.
3. Invest in some good lights
The cute LED flashy things are easy to use, but aren’t the best for providing light to see where you’re going.
4. Put on wider tires with deep tread patterns
This will lead to better traction and more stability for winter riding.
5. Keep a blowdryer in your desk
That way, if you get to work with wet hair from cycling, you can just hop into the bathroom and give your hair a toss. For non-rainy days, don’t put a helmet on if your hair is still wet! And again, ride at a pace where you’re not sweating!
6. Always keep change or bus tickets handy
Around most of Greater Vancouver, all buses have bike racks, so if you decide you don’t want to ride home in a torrential downpour, just pop your bike onto the bus.
Some non-weather-related suggestions for commuting:
- Put a basket on your bike and use a backpack or a large purse or briefcase to carry your stuff in instead of panniers. That way, when you arrive at that cocktail party after work, you’re not lugging around awkward panniers whose hooks keep hitting you in the legs.
- Try riding in a skirt and heels. It looks way sexy and you’ll do a lot to promote commuter cycling for women. Remember, keep the pace slower and try not to sweat.
- Put a kick-stand on your bike. It makes it a lot easier to keep your bike upright while you’re locking/unlocking or loading/unloading it.
- Get a good quality insulated coffee mug that fits into a water bottle cage. That way you can get your coffee during your morning commute (only drinking while you’re stopped, of course).
- Get a little pouch/bag/bento box that can attach to your handle bars, stem and/or top tube for things like your cell phone (for playing music, not for texting while you’re riding), keys, and other things that you want to access easily.
Finally, here are some things you can do to encourage more people to commuter cycle…..imagine if every day was like the GranFondo: bikes were the normal way to travel and cars were the exception!
- Ask your employer to put bike racks in front of the building, and showers or change rooms inside the building. For new buildings, request bike lockers inside.
- Demand that your municipal elected officials (mayors and councils) install safe bicycle infrastructure such as segregated bike lanes, dedicated bike routes, cyclist-activated traffic signals and signage.
- Vote for candidates that support biking in your community. Municipal elections throughout BC are November 19th. Find out your candidates’ platforms and ask them about their position on encouraging biking and healthier ways of getting around your community.
As for me, I’ve put away my road bike, and have sort of put away my mountain bike and commuter bike. If I didn’t have winter activities to keep me busy, I’d be pining away for my bikes. For now, I’m looking forward to snowy adventures, but come March, I’ll be dragging my trusty ol’ commuter bike back out to venture onto melting pathways winding through Whistler.