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Old 02-04-2011, 09:50 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Oconomowoc, WI, USA
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Ben's Winter Biking Blog

Hey Everyone!

I'm in the depths of winter in Wisconsin right now.

In the summer, my wife and I go bike riding regularly as very casual bicyclist- just get out into the fresh air and sunshine.

Well, it's cold out, and much of my work seems to be sitting at a desk lately. I need to get some exercise, and NO, an exercise bike or treadmill is NOT for me. (I don't have room for one anyways!)

I also have a 3-month-old daughter who likes to cry, and is another reason for me to want to get out of the house.

So, what I am trying to do is just get out and bike.

Like I said, I am a very amatuer bicyclist. I'm not the guy in spandex with the $4000 carbon-fiber frame.
I'm the guy with the thrift store bike trying to get some exercise and not freeze to death. Eventually, I would like to work my way up to some basic commuting as well. It would be nice to at least ride into town to do errands.

So, my "winter bike" is a an old steel-frame 26" Mens Standard 5-speed. I was given it as a donation to my "help me build a bike from spare parts" fund.
The bike has front and rear fenders, so that's a good start for winter biking. It also has a rear cargo rack. The downside is that it has very skinny slick tires.

So far, I have learned:

1. You can't stand on the pedals when you have no traction.
2. Fenders are a good thing.
3. Wind chill is even worse on a bike in the winter.
4. The local municipality DOESN'T plow the bike path.

Also, everything that I have read about winter biking seems to indicate that the writers are from someplace warmer than I am from. And nobody else where's glasses, either.

So far, the worst of the cold seems to be on my face. It's pretty tough to see where I am going, keep my face from freezing, and wearing a helmet at the same time.
A balaklava hood is a good start, but one that's windproof really doesn't let you breathe either. That, and it just seems to make my glasses fog up to the point of not being able to see anything. While I do have some disposable contact lenses that I can use for sports, they dry my eyes out pretty quick. Also, I really would rather NOT put in contacts, just for a 45 minute bike ride.

I've also never really been a fan of bike helmets. They just aren't comfortable/don't look cool, etc. I DO however have a helmet for my motorcycle. And it has an adjustable face-shield!

So, today I ventured out on my bike wearing my motorcycle helmet. The face-shield kept the wind off my face. When it fogged up, I could always flip it up for a bit to defog.
I still had to "portage" the cycle over the hill on the part of the road that was converted to bike path..... but they don't plow in the winter.

The skinny tires are really not good on the snow. Last time I swung by the thrift store, I saw they had a pair of bike rims with knobby tires! I bought them and plan on mounting those on the bicycle.

I'm not sure if there is anything I can do to improve the brakes. The bike has the typical caliper brakes, and they do NOT have the stopping power that they would in the summer. Do I just adjust the brakes up a little tighter?

Also, I've only been biking during the day, so lights haven't been an issue. I've also pretty much only been biking on back roads ( nearly no traffic ) until I get a little more snow skillz.

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