Cathy Janek: Bicycle riding in winter not only for hardcore
By Cathy Janek For The Sun January 3, 2013 6:40PM
The Naperville Bicycle Club poses for a photo during a 2012 New Year’s Day ride. | Submitted
On the web
Learn more about biking in the winter by visiting the Naperville Bicycle Club’s website at www.napervillebikeclub.com or Bike Winter’s website at http://bikewinter.org.
Updated: February 7, 2013 6:11AM
‘Riding your bike in the snow for fun is almost like reclaiming your childhood abandon of playing in the snow. You can slip and slide and plow into a snow drift,” says Dave Glowacz, author of “Urban Bikers’ Tricks and Tips.”
Whether biking year round is out of necessity like Glowacz, who doesn’t own a car, or if you are recreational biker who doesn’t let winter weather slow you down, biking throughout the cold season can be a viable activity for exercise and transportation.
Glowacz offered some tips for riding in the winter.
“Use the bike that you usually ride throughout winter, because that is the bike you know how to ride,” he said. “If you are riding on snow, you will figure it out.”
“People generally don’t bike in the winter, because they think they are going to be too cold,” Glowacz said. “Or they overdress.”
His advice for colder temperatures is to wear thin layers.
“If you are overheating, you can open your jacket up or take off a thin layer.”
Because of the wind factor, feet and hands will get colder, he said.
“There is not as much blood circulating. In addition to heavier gear, wool socks work well,” Glowacz suggested. Some people use a face mask or nose protectors, he added.
Glowacz noted that it is dark more in the winter, so having lights on your bike at night is important.
“Most people don’t know this, but the law requires bicyclists to have a headlight at night.”
A flashing, inexpensive LED light can be easily attached to the front of the bike and a red, flashing LED light can be affixed to the back, he recommends.
Some bikers choose to sit out the snowy weather, but if they don’t, Glowacz suggests, ride a bicycle with fenders that cover the front and rear wheels to help keep the lower part of your body dry.
One winter obstacle, might seem a no-brainer. “Sometimes in the winter, people run into a store and don’t lock their bike.”
Another more obvious one, is the salty soup that comes with snow, which is really corrosive on metal.
“Your bike’s chain should be lubricated, if it has been exposed to the salt,” he said.
As a member of Bike Winter, a Chicago-based group that hosts mostly free programs and events to promote cycling in the winter, Glowacz said the group has a set location and time to meet for a snow ride anytime more than 2 inches of snow falls. He has participated in winter rides across frozen ponds and through regional parks with the group.
Fashion shows and sewing parties to make neckerchiefs are among their noncycling activities. In December, the group also hosts a Santa Rampage ride where cyclists dress up as Santa and ride in tandem through Chicago.
Erick “Iggy” Ignaczak, who participants in Bike Winter events, happens to work in the northwest suburb of Wood Dale, 18 miles from his home in Chicago.
“No matter what route I took in my car, it would take over an hour during rush hour traffic and during inclement weather that time could easily double or triple. It was sheer frustration.”
For the last five years, Ignaczak reverse commutes on the Metra train to Wood Dale with his bicycle. After a 45-minute train ride, he commences a seven-mile bike ride.
“As a reverse commuter, I have the luxury of bringing a bike on the train, unlike people who commute in to the city who are prohibited from doing so.”
Riding his bicycle alongside cars going 35 to 40 miles per hour, Ignaczak said, “I had to build up trust and courage that people would see me.”
On Metra, commuters with their bicycles use handicap seating. However, bikes come secondary to people who need the handicap seating.
“Once you get to know the other bicyclists, we typically put our bikes in order, and it works out really well,” he said. “A couple of times, I have had to bike ride all the way home from Wood Dale, due to crowds on the trains for different events downtown.”
Ignaczak said smooth, skinny tires do a much better job of cutting through the snow and connecting with the asphalt than big, knobby tires.
“The big tires hold onto snow and create more slippage.”
Rick Cosaro, who has been a member of the Naperville Bicycle Club since 2006, said “Not everyone in our club rides year round.” He said he doesn’t “see a reason not to ride in the winter.”
“It is fine to ride in the winter as long as the roads aren’t too icy and you dress appropriately,” he said.
The group’s last big group ride traditionally occurs on New Year’s Day with a moderate 20- to 40-mile ride.
“In the winter, I ride for base miles. I ride about 8,000 miles a year,” he said. “A rule of thumb in our group is to ride the temperature. If it is 40 degrees out, we go 40 miles; or if it is 20 degrees out, we go 20 miles.”
No telling what the hard core members of the 150-member group do in zero-degree temperatures. Something tells me some of them are still on their bikes even then.
If you would like more information about biking in winter, check out the Naperville Bicycle Club’s website at www.napervillebikeclub.com or Bike Winter’s website http://bikewinter.org.
Cathy Janek, who has lived in Naperville since 1986, writes about transportation in the city. To offer comments and tips about projects and traffic issues, email her at