How to Bicycle Commute Year-Round
I live in Laramie, Wyoming, where the wind blows frequently and the winters can be long and cold. However, I bike to work nearly every day of the year – through blizzards, ice and cold.
The average high during the winter months is in the 30s, but with the windchill factor, it's usually in the teens and 20s.
Here are some essentials I've found for keeping safe out there:
1. Studded tires
I actually only use one on my front wheel since it's doing all the turning – my weight keeps the back tire on the road. You can buy these, or you can simply do what I did: drill 1/4 “wood screws every 1 1/2” from the inside out and then use a heavy duty tube liner to protect your tube.
2. Rearview Bike Mirror
I find this to be an invaluable safety feature. By keeping your head face-forward, you lessen the chance of getting off-balance by needing to crane your neck around to look for approaching traffic. Remember – cars are usually not your friend and many drivers would just as soon that you were off the road. I always assume that a car isn't watching for me.
3. Daypack Backpack (my favorite model – made just south of here)
The main thing is you want something that keeps you balanced and your stuff secure. Since I've got a laptop, I make sure the bag I have securely fits it without jostling. If it gets too wobbly, you can go down on the ice, so make sure it's a good fit.
4. HOT Liquid for Post-Commute
After a ride in the sub-zeros, you've got to warm up your core. I use a sealed thermos mug that I throw in my bag.
5. Warm Outerwear
I wear a Patagonia coat with a windproof shell and fleece lined interior. Works great. On those super cold days, I don ski goggles to keep my eyelids from freezing shut. They also don't fog up, which is good when visibility is already poor. For my hands, I wear insulated ski gloves that slide up over my coat to make sure the wind and cold stay out.
Year-round bicycle commuting isn't for everyone, but once you start and stick to it, the weather is merely a slight challenge to see if you've got the right gear ready. I've saved thousands of dollars by not driving my car everyday, plus gained the benefits of building in exercise to my normal daily routine.