With a little planning, biking is still possible during the cold winter months. Even harsh winters full of snow and ice can be safely navigated, as evidenced by the large population of year-round bike commuters is cities such as Minneapolis and Madison. These ten tips can help you extend your biking into the coldest part of the year:
1. Know the road and its conditions
Some cities plow bike paths as well as roads in the wake of a storm, but in Richmond and the surrounding area most bikers are left to fend for themselves. If you are a regular winter biker learn which streets will be cleared and when, and exercise extra caution when icy bike paths force you to ride on the road.
2. Protect your extremities
The key to a successful bike commute is to protect your hands and feet. Numb hands or feet can cause you to lose control of your bike or decrease your reaction time in a dangerous situation. Investing in good gloves and riding shoes will help keep your commute safe.
3. Brake carefully
When dealing with slippery conditions slow down and keep the bike moving straight. Most importantly, emphasize your rear brake to avoid sliding. Using the front brake too heavily will cause the wheel to lock and the bike to swerve out of control.
4. Store your bike in a cold area
Keep your bike in a covered outdoor area or in the garage. If it is kept inside ice will accumulate on the gears and brakes as the bike’s temperature rapidly decreases during the first few minutes of your ride.
5. Use the right tires
Studded tires make an enormous difference on the slippery ice and snow. The studs offer much better grip and improve your turning radius in icy conditions. The right tires can be the difference between a safe commute and a crash.
6. Protect your head
You should always wear a helmet when riding, but never pull your hood up. A hood blocks your peripheral vision and prevents you from reacting to threats from the side. A thin hat or balaclava you can wear under your helmet is a much safer option as long as your helmet still fits correctly while you are wearing it.
7. Ride defensively
Winter conditions can make drivers less likely to look out for bikers. They are concentrating on their own driving in the rough conditions and not anticipating bikers braving such weather. Be on a constant lookout for drivers that may not be aware of your presence, even in situations where you have the right of way.
8. Consider a fat bike
Fat bikes are an increasingly popular option for winter commuters. Their large tires allow them to float over the top of snow and ice that would slip up an ordinary bike.
9. Be aware of the wind
When biking in winter conditions it is important to consider the wind chill, especially the extra wind you will create when riding quickly. At least one of your layers should be a windbreaker or other shell-type jacket designed to protect you from the frigid gusts.
10. Choose the right bike for the conditions
Your expensive road bike or full-suspension mountain bike may not be the right choice for the winter. Salt and sand on the roads can rust the gears and scratch the frame. You may wish to acquire an older, secondary bike to absorb the punishment of the winter roads.
You should always be aware of your personal cycling limits, and never venture out into weather that makes you feel unsafe. However, following these tips can help you improve your biking safety and skills while increasing your confidence in winter conditions. Whether you bike for enjoyment or as part of your commute, continuing during the winter only increases the benefits of biking.
About the Author: Chris Guedri has been helping people who have been injured through no fault of their own for over 35 years. He is a trial attorney and partner with Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen in Richmond, Virginia. His practice areas include tractor trailer accidents, bicycle accidents, and car accidents.
 Click here for some specific cold-weather biking gear: http://www.bicycling.com/beginners/winter-layering-done-right-how-dress-cycling-cold-weather
Click here to learn how to properly fit your helmet: http://icsw.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/pedbimot/bike/doom.EasyStepsWeb.zzy/doom.index.doom.htm
 See Footnote 2.