The Wheels of Winter

By Ginger Cannon, active transportation manager, Sustainability Office

It’s snow season and freezing temperatures are the norm but that doesn’t mean you have to hang up your bike.

Salt Lake City’s high elevation helps the snow on our roadways melt quickly, leaving the surface dry and largely ice-free for your winter bike commute. Thirteen percent of our commuters ride a bike to campus every day, and you can be a part of our bike commuter tribe too. For a comfortable riding experience, just remember these things – wear the right clothing, fuel your body and be prepared in case of an emergency.  Read the following (with cheap hacks!) to keep those wheels rollin’ through the long winter days…

LAYER UP: If you are warm when you start your ride, you’ve got too much on.  Put on a wool base layer and mix and match the thin layers with thick ones, making sure your final layer is a windproof jacket to keep you warm and dry. Pay extra attention to your hands and feet as they lose heat faster than other areas of your body.

  • Cheap Hack: Wear a pair of latex gloves under a thicker pair to keep your hands dry, or take an old pair of wool socks (cut out a hole for your thumb) and put them over your gloves for more insulation. Shower caps work great over socks before you slip your shoes on, or they can go over a helmet to keep your head dry and cozy. I’ve stuffed newspaper in my shirt to block the wind when caught in cold temps – worked great for my commute (and I recycled).

FUEL UP: No matter how cold it gets, your body needs water and food so you don’t bonk. While riding, your body is working double-time; you are burning extra calories needed to keep your core warm and pedal longer.

  • Cheap Hack: Pack snacks that don’t freeze like trail mix or nuts (I find it’s rarely that cold so I keep a few energy bars in my seat bag). Keep your water bottle upside down in your pocket or cage – water freezes from the top down so the valve will freeze last and you can still take a swig in freezing temps. If you wear a hydration pack like a CamelBak, run the drink tube through your jacket and tuck the valve in your scarf or collar.

SAFETY: In winter weather we can have more crashes due to slick conditions, so be prepared. Always stay alert, especially while crossing intersections where a majority of crashes with vehicles occur.

  • Hack: Put your phone in a pocket next to your body with a handwarmer – this will keep the battery from draining in case you need it for an emergency call. Make yourself a pet tag for a cheap on-bike ID just in case you crash and are unable to provide contact info and medical data. Buy some reflective tape (if you don’t have reflective clothing) and stick it to your helmet and bike frame seat stays so cars can see you from dawn to dusk.

Ride safely and thank you for bike commuting, being healthy and CLEARING OUR AIR!

Winter Bike Day

February 13, 4 – 6 p.m.

Mark your calendar for Winter Bike to Work Day! Cyclists are invited to stop by our two pop-up locations on Guardsman Way and Legacy Bridge for hot drinks and fun giveaways on the commute home.