Don’t stop biking because of snow
blog by The Buffalo State Record • November 20, 2011 @ 8:45am
Buffalo State Record Contributing Writer
Molly Ross was trying to lock her bike to the railing outside of the Campbell Student Union as the late October wind whipped through the quad.
Ross, an undeclared graduate student, fumbled with the bike lock as it refused to cooperate with her hands.
While she regularly commutes from her Elmwood village home by bike, she said she fears the winter cold will soon put a stop to her bike commute.
“I’ve never ridden my bike in the winter,” she said. “I’m really bad with cold weather.”
Ross’ distaste for the Buffalo cold resonated with a couple of the local bike experts, who offered some advice for cold weather bike commuting.
“I commuted through a few winters without even owning a car,” said Ethan Johnson, co-owner of Campus Wheelworks. “The big thing, regardless of (what kind of bike) you’re riding, is to keep yourself warm, dry and safe.”
Dave Harter, an instructor with the Buffalo Blue Bike shop, offers similar advice, and cautions against going too far with winter clothing.
“You don’t want to bundle up too thick,” said Harter. “You’ll get hot and sweat, and when you’re done sweating and get off your bike, you will get cold.”
To prevent overheating while winter riding, Johnson suggests waterproof layers, such as a raincoat and rainpants, over a sweater and pants, combined with good gloves and a warm hat.
“You work up so much heat because you’re using more effort to ride through the snow,” he said. “You don’t need as much insulation as you need a barrier.”
Winter doesn’t just bring a chill to the air. It also brings snow and ice, both of which are more than capable of bringing a bicyclist down.
Traction is a major issue for bikes in snow, just as it is for cars. To that end, both Johnson and Harter mentioned studded snow tires built specifically for bikes.
The tires have deep treads, even on the road bike tire, and small metal spikes are screwed directly into the tires in order to grab onto slick ice.
“(Studded tires) are not absolutely necessary,” Johnson said. “But, if you want what’s going to keep you upright, these (tires) are the best.”
Harter, who thinks of winter biking as a way to keep commuting costs down, said the $60 tires might be too expensive for some, but a helmet is a must for safe riding.
“Helmets are not going to save you from a car hitting you,” he said. “But, if you slip and fall and crack your head on the ice, that’s what helmets are for.”
Good clothes and good gear are only part of a warm and safe winter ride. Riding habits will also determine just how safe a winter bicyclist is.
“Be visible and be predictable,” Harter said. “(Drivers) get really frustrated when you do something they didn’t expect. Be cautious: The roads are tighter (because of snow drifts).”
Winter may be here, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the biking season is over. Johnson and Harter, as well as the rest of the volunteers at the Buffalo Blue Bike shop, are willing to help riders get ready for the winter.
The Buffalo Blue Bike shop is located at 98 Colvin Ave.
Campus Wheelworks is located at 744 Elmwood Ave.
Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons/Snow Riding