By Request: Winter Biking

Allan wants to know about “bike commuting in winter.”

This is my first winter as a bike commuter. I’d heard bad things about it but I haven’t found it to be a huge problem. The key breakthrough was when I figured out how to make my helmet big enough to wear my hat under it. That and remembering to wear gloves. Normally, I don’t wear gloves outside unless it really gets quite cold — it’s convenient enough to stick ’em in your coat pockets if they get a little chilly, and keeping the gloves off leaves your hand free to fiddle with your iPod or whatever. But you can’t put your hands in your pocket on a bike, and you don’t need to manipulate any small objects with your fingers — what you need are some gloves to shield your fingers from the wind.

Beyond that, in all things related to bike commuting we need to look to our friends in Europe. The top bike commuting city is Copenhagen, not San Diego. If people can bike to work in Denmark’s winter (I even saw plenty of people biking around Helsinki in December) then it can be done wherever you might be in the USA as well. Unfortunately, American mindspace about bicyling tends to be dominated by the insidious recreational bikers, who’ve gotten it into people’s heads that even on a lovely day for a bike ride the act of pedaling requires intricate performance gear including funny biking outfits. But bike commuting is a whole different ballgame — you’re just trying to get to work, so you should wear what you would wear. If it’s cold, wear a sweater and a scarf under your coat. If you need to give a presentation, bike in a suit and fancy shoes. You’re not going to set world records in a bundled-up-for-winter outfit, but the point is just to get to work. See, e.g., the Copenhagen Cycle Chic blog.

But it all starts with a hat and gloves even in weather that you wouldn’t ordinarily consider nippy enough for ‘em.