Living in Minnesota and being a cyclist, it’s very easy to put away the bike this time of year and move the cycling indoors. It’s easy to start using the car for all your trips and errands. If you spend anytime downtown Minneapolis or around the University of Minnesota, you will see that many people don’t put away their bikes for the winter. If you want to cycle through the winter, it’s definitely something you can do, but there are a few things you need to know to make it work.
1. Most of the time the snow removal around the Twin Cities is very good. The roads and shoulders are mostly clear of snow and ice unless it is snowing or has just snowed in the past day or two. You need to be more careful when riding, look ahead for danger in your path and ride slower than you would in the nicer months. Plan on taking some extra time when you need to get somewhere.
2. Make sure you can be seen. You’re going to riding more when it’s dark, because it gets dark in the afternoon in the winter in Minnesota. There are also large piles of snow that make it harder for drivers to see you around corners. Wear bright reflective outer clothing that will make you very visible to everyone else on the road. You also should have a light on the front and back of you bike to increase your visibility even more.
3. Dress right for the weather. Wear a moisture wicking layer closest to your skin. Depending on the temperature, wear 1 or 2 layers of wool or fleece to keep you warm. Your outer layer should be a wind breaking nylon shell, it can be insulated of not depending on what you need. The most important areas to cover are your head, face and hands. Your going to create a wind chill when your riding, your face and hands will get cold fast. Wear mittens instead of gloves, they are warmer. Also get a couple of good pairs of wool socks, you don’t generate heat in your feet like you do if running so they will get cold as well.
4. As for your bike. If you have a nice bike, you may want to try and find a not as nice bike for winter riding. Salt and road grime in winter is hard on the frame, paint and wheels. I recommend a non road bike, either a hybrid or mountain style bike with wider tires. Fenders are also a nice addition for winter riding to keep you cleaner and dryer. Tune up your bike and make sure it is lubed and ready to go so a breakdown is less likely.
Riding in Minnesota in the winter is not ideal, it’s very often not comfortable, it’s slower, it’s more dangerous, it’s not as much fun, and it’s not for everyone, but it can be very invigorating and you can make it happen if you want to.