Record low temperatures descend upon Chicago, and some of us are still riding our bikes. Not too many of us, but there still are two groups of people who do still ride. People who have to, and people who want to. While I do have the choice to bundle up, hike over to the CTA, stand inside a stanky, germ infested metal can on wheels whilst overheating, just to do more hiking over sidewalks victim to lazy owners and piled deep with snow, I choose to ride my bike.
Winter Biking Tips
It takes several layers and the perfect placement of materials to balance staying warm from overheating during these rides. After several winters of practice, and thousands of dollars in different cycling gear, I have become quite versed on cold weather riding, and find the challenge, fun. One of items on my “bucket list” is to ride above the Arctic Circle and/or in Antarctica, preferably and. Some may think I am nuts, but there are a group of you out there that understand.
I am a huge fan of Gore-Tex, Windstopper, and Primaloft. Today, I even found a use for my once “too hot to wear” Gore Bike Wear balaclava. (Though I modified it for use with facial hair by cutting out the “breathing holes”.) Another item that I actually just added to my arsenal, and have come to love quickly is, the Gore Bike Wear Gore-Tex helmet cover in neon. It is not only waterproof, but windproof as well with some added visibility. After riding in a Giro Aeon the rest of the year, I could never find a winter helmet that fit as nice, so, I added a Gore-Tex shell to it, and pow! It no longer has that amazing venting I love on the hot days, and is waterproof!
Once all the layers are in place, and the goggles are on, I am off pedaling. All my senses are blocked from outside exposure, and even with traffic three feet from me moving at thirty miles per hour, it seems I am living in my own solitude. Makes the ride kinda like a video game, minus the reset button.
Once I reach the lakefront path at Belmont harbor, I do a check both ways for traffic and notice, it is empty. Completely empty. No runners, no bikes, and especially, no cars. I forget how much I like the lakefront path in the winter. Quiet and peaceful. No three wide runners, over hanging spandex in aero bars, roller blades with headphones, herds of tourists looking off into never-never land, nothing, nada, perfect. It is wonderful to be able to ride while also being able to look around and enjoy the winter wonderland that has become the lakefront. I wish I had a fat bike to ride in the snow, like the Trek Farley. My 520 with the studded tires is great on the icy roads and path, but any snow over six inches, and it gets a bit on the hard side.
During my ride down the lakefront path from Belmont down to North Ave I only encounter three runners and a bunch of ducks & geese, it was quite nice. The ride home Division and up Elston won’t be quite peaceful, but I do get to use a protected bike lane for about a mile.
To end it, I give you a few tips and some pictures I took.
- If you don’t want your water bottle to freeze, keep it in a jersey pocket under your jacket.
- Bring extra food. Calories get burnt in a hurry during extremely cold rides. I bring some Honey Stinger products and dried fruit.
- Get a Road ID. If you get knocked out, or pass out, or what ever, this may save your life. I never leave home without it on, matter-o-fact, I have multiples, in-case I lose one.
- If you get too cold, warm up. If you are riding where there is no where to go get warm, bring a source of heat. I made the mistake of attempting a thirty-five plus mile ride in this weather back in the days before I had any real winter riding gear and very little knowledge of staying warm in said extremely cold weather. I completed the ride, but with pneumonia. I didn’t know it at the time, but as the doctor told me the next day, I was really close to dead. It sucked. Don’t kill yourself, or freeze parts of yourself off for the matter. You might need them later.