Columns, Opinion

MOOK: Winter of Discontent

Bikers, now is the winter of your discontent.

As temperatures drop to the single digits and snow piles push you into the street, you must not get discouraged. It is still possible, still convenient and still comfortable to ride throughout the winter. But only if you take the proper precautions.

I’ve asked several local bike enthusiasts for suggestions, and they sent me these tips on how to winterize one’s ride:

Resoundingly, the big issue is clothing, and for that I have but one suggestion: layers. The more, the better. A big savior is moisture-licking thermal underwear, which can be worn under classier, more fashionable attire. Consider multiple sweaters, multiple pairs of pants.’ Wool hat, wool gloves. Three scarves ‘-‘-‘ to wrap around your ears, your mouth and nose, and your neck and chest. And if that’s not enough, fold a small towel over your mouth so you won’t be breathing icicles. I’d even recommend aviator or ski goggles. Bundle up as if you’re trying to survive in the vacuum of space.

For tires, I heard tough, Kevlar cyclocross tires are good for their gripping treads. There are also studded tires, but most bikes can’t accommodate them. Wider tires with thick treads may be the best bet, with just a little dialing down of air pressure (say from 100 psi to 80 psi) for a bit of give when riding over rocks and salt. But if you have a road bike, which can be slippery on top of snow, then you may want the opposite advice of maintaining high pressure on skinny tires so they cut through the ice to the street.

Your bike itself should be as minimal as possible. Any extraneous parts can get clogged with ice and corroded with salt. If you can take off your derailer and gears, do it. And at least once a week, wipe down your bike to get the salt off. Come spring, you can give it a proper cleaning and replace all you’ve removed.

Heed my warning: leave no skin exposed. A Chicago messenger told me he used to apply Vaseline to his face to keep the wind out. I have a cautionary tale: Before biking, I’d cover myself in as much wool clothing as I could buy half-off from Urban Renewal. Yet still, my one piece of skin left bare to the world, the tip of my nose, did not make it out unscathed.’ The black ball that formed one week later was a sign of frostbite the doctor said, but don’t worry ‘-‘- it will grow out and fall off in a month or so.

The Boston winters are harsh, so know your enemy. Still, the net benefits of biking far outweigh the discomfort of being kept outside. I mean, this is Boston; you’ve got to manage the cold.’ If we don’t suck it up and keep moving, we miss out on a third of the calendar year. Just keep warm and winterize your ride. Spring will be here soon.?

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One Comment

  1. Chopped and formed

    Mountain bike tires should be able to fit studded tires with little difficulty.<br/>Road bikes need clearance for about 37mm tires, which works for old ten-speeds, provided they’ve got 700c wheels/tires.<p/>AFAIK, there are no studded tires for 27-inch rims except home-built ones.<br/>I also recommend a thin silk or wool balaclava and a running shell or similar for the coldest days. Otherwise layers of sweaters are better as they allow moisture to escape.<p/>Everyone is different, so pay attention to your head, feet, and hands and experiment with clothing. Large woolie mittens with liner gloves can do a great job, but you need to be able to control handbrakes, too.