Bicycle Ambassador Program
Does riding a bike in winter sound daunting?
Rest assured you are not alone if you answered yes to that question. Here are some ideas to overcome common barriers to bicycling year-round:
I might get cold: By dressing in layers, you can fend off frigid temperatures. Experiment with a layering system and keep in mind your system will likely change based on the temperature and conditions. Plan on carrying your warm layer home in the afternoon when it could be 40 degrees warmer.
My hands are freezing: Nothing works as well as wool glove liners and wind-barrier mittens. For temperatures below 15 degrees, I use chemical hand warmers, the kind you buy in sealed plastic wrappers. Extend their use by storing them in sealable bags.
My feet get cold: Try warm, merino wool socks and waterproof light hiking boots. If temperatures are below 15 degrees, you can add toe warmers and gaiters (the latter keep slush out of your boots and also act as wind barriers).
I’ll wreck my bicycle: Use a bike with wide, knobby tires. An old mountain bike works great. The wider tires help with traction and are more forgiving on uneven terrain. For slippery terrain, studded tires give me lots of confidence on any surface. I avoid clip-in pedals for snowy conditions so I am ready to hop off my bike if needed.
The bike lanes are too snowy: Plan your route ahead of time — it may be different than your fair-weather route. You can use the City of Fort Collins website to see which routes are plowed first (fcgov.com/streets/snow-ice.php). Also keep in mind that multiuse paths such as the Spring Creek Trail are typically clear of snow early in the morning. If a section of your route needs extra attention, alert the city’s streets department using Access Fort Collins. This is the city’s customer service program where you can submit issues or questions that will be routed to the appropriate department for resolution. Download the smartphone app or use the online version found at fcgov.com.
I’m afraid I’ll get stuck at work. What if I need to get to my sick child at school:Develop a Plan B for the rare occasion that you might get stuck at work by heavy snowfall. This will give you some peace of mind as you pedal off to work. Plan storage or transport options for your bike in the case of emergencies. Explore the bus system (ridetransfort.com) and bring your bike along. Have a co-worker or neighbor lined up to provide emergency transportation for you or a sick child if needed.
To learn more about winter cycling, you can visit fcgov.com/bicycling to view a Winter Cycling 101 video (located in the video carousel at the top of the page). Enjoy the snow and be safe as you discover the joys of year-round bicycling.
Frank Schwende is a board member of Bike Fort Collins and a certified League Cycling instructor. He is also a member of the Bicycle Ambassador Program (BAP) and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Education Coalition (BPEC).