If you are like many utility bikers, especially if you replaced your car with an electric cargo bike, not biking in the winter is not an option. No matter what the weather conditions, you still need to bike to take your kids to school, commute to work, and pick up groceries. Is that even possible in the winter? The answer is emphatically yes. You’ll find a bike can get you where you need to go in any weather, in some ways more comfortably, more quickly and more safely than other forms of transportation. Sometimes it takes a bit of a sense of adventure to get going, but once you do you’ll find dread of winter biking is misplaced. Here’s some tips to help you along. Continue reading →
The morning my four year old daughter had a choice to ride on a bike for 3 miles in the cold and snow, or ride in the car. She chose the bike, and we had a comfortable ride over to church. When we arrived I asked if anything was cold. She said her ankles were a little cold– she was wearing anklets instead of full-height socks, and some cold air got on them. That would be easily solved with proper socks in the future.
I have some hope that if children can get beyond the excuse that “it’s too cold to ride”, then perhaps some adults can get over it as well. Biking for transportation in the winter can be great way to fit in some exercise, when it’s otherwise not as enticing to be outside.
For another great post on the topic of kids and choosing to ride in the winter, see this post entitled “There’s No Such Thing….as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing” by Sara at Full Hands.
A weather canopy for your children can make a big difference in your child’s
comfort on the bike during rainy, cold or windy conditions.
The most iconic canopy option is the weather canopy for a bakfiets:
However, if you have a longtail cargo bike like an XtraCycle or Yuba Mundo,
there are some DIY options worth knowing about, with detailed instructions
I love the look the Covered Bike Wagon canopy by co-blogger Larry Clarkberg:
You can read more about how he made the covered bike wagon canopy and he can answer
questions about it in the comments. His variation with solar panels is also
worth a look:
There’s more about this project at My Solar Bicycle. Most recently I spotted this solution for sun and rain production for a Yuba Mundo:
It’s not quite iconic but it gets the job done, and
instructions are available online.
You can also read more about the differences between the bakfiets, Xtracycles and the Yuba Mundo.
The temperature was perhaps 15F with a stiff headwind going out.
I was comfortable riding out using Bar Mitts with wool mittens inside, along with my usual assortment of gear. I have started wearing a waterproof shell over my softshell jacket for additional wind protection on very cold days.
Once I stopped and hucked the tree, I decided to take the long way home through the country to see the scenery. That plan worked pretty wheel until about mile 12, when I found myself at the bottom of a valley at the Abington/Salisbury intersection with a dying battery and about 120 lbs of bike to get home. Ah well, I succeeded at getting a good workout on a day I might have otherwise stayed inside.
We had a comfy ride to daycare and she reported that nothing was cold upon arrival, despite the sometimes 20 mph windchill generated from the moving bike at a temperature that was 15F to start with.
The ~3 year old is wearing a winter helmet with built-in ear covers, a “thick and thin” balaclava, ski googles, as well as some snow pants and snow boots. I’ve got a merino wool hat, face mask, OTG ski googles and a scarf. Neos overshoes help keep my feet warm on especially cold days, and bar mitts keep my hands warm while allowing me to wear modest gloves.
Sure it looks ridiculous to many. But I’d rather stay warm with a bit of extra clothing than to wear a 4,000 lb car for a short crosstown trip. I mean, when the primary reason you take a car on trip is a feature associated with clothing– like keeping you warm– then you are primarily wearing the car, right?
Over the past couple of winters, I successfully experimented with some wardrobe updates that allowed me to be comfortable outside without a car.
Continue reading →
Dottie commutes by bike with style through winter in Chicago, and she’s put together this great video on how to dress for winter bike commuting:
You’ll find several more tips on this site in the clothing category.
Pranayama, or yogic breath control, taught me that breathing differently can make a big difference in how I feel. I applied an awareness of breathing to my car-free commuting and developed these two mindful breathing practices to increase my comfort walking and biking in the winter.
The basic breath I use is a heat conservation breath. It recognizes my primary heat source is myself. Maximizing warmth is accomplished by simply breathing in and out slowly through the nose. The nasal passage is a longer route than mouth breathing. A slower breath through the longer passage maximally warms the air before it reaches my core. A slow exhale means I’m holding on to the air I’ve just warmed up for a maximal amount of time.
A second technique, the breath mask, is an alternative to wearing a scarf or face mask. I breath in quickly through the nose then exhale slowly through my mouth aiming the warm air upwards. This creates a small cloud that warms my face. By breathing in quickly and exhaling slowly, I feel some heat on my face most of the time. The breath mask is ideal while walking into a headwind– the oncoming wind will blow the warm air you’ve exhaled air back towards you.
Mindful breathing has made my winter walks more enjoyable. If you are looking to increase your own car-free commuting comfort, I recommend giving it a try.
I’ve tried many things to warm my skinny fingers on winter bike commutes. Wool mittens with overmitts are best for the coldest days, but the most interesting heat source I’ve found is my diet. I’ve rediscovered what the Chinese learned ages ago when they classified food as warming and cooling. Science now understands that “warming foods” work in part through better circulation, stoking the internal furnace.
One winter I experimented focusing my diet on warming foods and spices. On my morning oatmeal, I add small amounts of cayenne, cinnamon and powdered ginger– each has its own warming properties. Cayenne in particular is great for improving circulation. At work I keep a shaker of cayenne to add lightly to my lunch and at dinner I may add red pepper flakes or hot sauce. Even small amounts will help. There’s no need to create painful levels of heat. I combined this with centering my winter diet on warming foods like potatoes, onion and garlic. I cut out cooling foods like cucumbers, lettuce and ice water. Now my hands now stay warmer, longer throughout the winter.
You may also rub a little cayenne directly on your fingers and toes before you go out for immediate additional warmth. Add more slowly– it’s possible actually use too much in a result in painful burning sensation.
Continue reading →