Keep Biking During Winter

January 18, 2013

As a native of upstate New York, I know that we have a pretty good deal here in coastal Virginia when it comes to winter temperatures and snow cover. The last few days notwithstanding (it is unpleasant to bike through persistent drizzles and ankle-deep campus floods, not to mention the uncharacteristic snowfall we had last night), the weather at William & Mary is fairly mild even throughout the worst winter months of January and February. Still, it can be difficult to get up and onto your bike in winter, even when you know it is a more sustainable option than driving.

I’ve parked my car over in William & Mary Hall Lot and intend to leave it there, out of the way, as much as possible – partially to avoid the endless fight for resident parking spaces, and also to encourage myself to travel more sustainably even in the dead of winter.

I researched some tips for remaining on your bike during the winter to help keep myself motivated, and wanted to pass on the wisdom to other hesitant cyclists.

Mother Nature Network has a number of wardrobe recommendations for winter cyclists, including warm boots, thin gloves under mittens to keep your hands warm AND enable you to unlock your bike, lots of thin layers (especially wicking materials near your skin to prevent sweat from soaking your clothes), and those extras we might forget like hats, scarves and earmuffs.

Days get darker earlier in winter, so try to make yourself extra-visible by adding lights to your bike, and wearing bright colors. Make sure your bike is in good working order, too, since mechanical problems in winter can lead to much more discomfort than they would in the warmer months.

One of the worst parts of biking in inclement weather is the wet-seat problem. I often leave my bike chained outside buildings for class, only to be rewarded with a wet pair of pants when I travel to my next location. Placing a plastic bag or two over your bike seat can be a fairly easy fix, but these might be harder to come by, since our campus is phasing them out. I’ve been using a bike-seat cover that I crafted out of an impermeable reusable grocery bag. You can also find bike seat covers for reasonable prices online, like these.

For more winter cycling tips, check out the following sites:

Happy riding!

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