Winter


The late Sheldon Brown, a winter commuting advocate

Riding a bicycle in the worst of winter weather is not only possible, it is practical and can be great fun.

The first consideration is temperature. Dressing in layers is the best response. That way, as you start out, you’ll be comfortable enough, and as your body warms from the exercise, you can take off layers. It is not uncommon on a below-freezing day to become warm enough to strip down to a T-shirt. Make sure to wear a hat, since most of a person’s heat is lost through the head. Wear gloves too, since the wind over your hands can make you uncomfortably numb fairly quickly. You may prefer to wear ski goggles on a day with wind, and possibly blowing snow or rain.

Be careful of sweat and over-exertion. If you take a break, the sweat can cool you too fast, and if you are tired on a cold day, your body may have trouble maintaining sufficient heat. So, just as you would in the summer, don’t ride farther than a distance from which you can easily return.

Inexperienced winter bicyclists are concerned with falling. Once you learn to become a tripod, that problem goes away. When you find your wheels sliding sideways, simply put a foot down at a wide angle. You become a stable triangle that can’t fall over. Oh, you may not end up going the direction you had in mind, but you won’t fall.

Oddly, thin tires can be better that fat tires in winter conditions. They’ll cut through up to four inches of snow without slowing you down as much as wide tires. They can also offer better traction in the same way that thin ice skates are better on ice than something wider, such as skis.

When you move along at a good clip on a road where many cars have left tracks in the snow, you can encounter an unexpected effect: Your front wheel will jump a few inches from side to side, as your bike negotiates the various car tracks. With experience, this shifting back and forth is not only fairly safe, it is fun.

Perhaps the biggest safety concern is visibility. Motorists will understandably do as little as possible to clear their windows on a cold day. Some will try to drive without the use of their mirrors, and worse, they’ll try to see everything they need through a small cleared hole in the middle of their windshields. They won’t see you! And, if that’s not bad enough, they may be cold and miserable, a mood that’s not conducive to their awareness and your safety. So, even more than usual, drive defensively, and always plan an escape route. If you find yourself without an escape, get entirely off the road until cars pass.

This is especially true of narrow streets. As you know, they get much narrower as accumulated snow banks encroach at the sides of the road.

As you become a winter rider, your friends and relatives will admire your “hardiness” not realizing how much joy you are getting from your winter activity.

Kickstand

The kickstand is one of the more controversial bicycle accessories. Whereas some people enjoy the ability to park their bike anywhere, there are some downsides:

* The kickstand provides only a short, unstable base. The bike can easily fall in wind, or when bumped. Falling is harder on the bike than being gently laid down.

* Kickstands tend to sink into soft ground, or work poorly on even ground.

* Kickstands tend to come loose, making the bike unrideable or at least unpleasant.

* “Universal” center mount kickstands, if they mount with a clamp like the one pictured below can crush the chainstays, weakening the bike’s frame.

Eldi Kickstand
Eldi center-mount aluminum alloy kickstand
Photo by AndrewDressel at English Wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

* The kickstand weighs a bit. You won’t find kickstands on competitive bikes, where every gram matters.

* All serious bike riders will laugh at someone who owns a kickstand, and that is of course, untenable.

(BTW, your author has owned hundreds of kickstands.)

Kickstands that attach near the bottom bracket are usually more stable than those that attach near the rear axle.

If you do lay a derailleur bike on the ground rather than using a kickstand, it is best to lay it with the left side down, since the derailleur mechanism could otherwise be damaged.


Schwinn integrated steel kickstand
Photo by AndrewDressel at English Wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

For many years, Schwinn manufactured road and recreational bikes with remarkably heavy integrated steel kickstands.

I have seen parents leave a child in a child carrier while a bike was parked on its kickstand. This is a very bad idea!


Upright style kickstand
By Brosen (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/), via Wikimedia Commons

Health


“One of the key studies of cycling has found that people who cycle to work experienced a 39% lower rate of all-cause mortality compared to those who did not even after adjustment for other risk factors, including leisure time physical activity.” – CyclingEngland

According to at least one statistical study, the health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks by twenty to one.