Riding a bicycle from October through March doesn’t even cross most of your minds. I know this because your bikes look shiny and new, and you look fat and slow come springtime. I’m just messing with you … I’m not one of those holier-than-thou yuppies pretending to save the world. In fact, after three years of riding miserably through snow and ice, I raised enough funds to buy a four-wheel drive vehicle last winter to keep me warm and dry on my outings—until it broke down. I know there are a handful of you like me whose parents don’t inject your measly minimum-wage income with extra padding, and can’t afford a car or the ridiculous UTA fare, so this month I’m giving you some tips on how to make it through the “Greatest Snow on Earth” via bicycle—hobo style.
Keeping your hands and feet warm and dry is what’s going to keep you out of frozen depression through the wind, rain, ice, snow and their many combinations you’ll face. To do this effectively, your core has to be warmed up. Pedaling your heart out is going to do this naturally, but it helps to have a warm, water-resistant coat. A new coat is pricey, but you have other options. I’d been using my snowboarding coat from middle school until recently (I was a big seventh grader, OK?), and have lots of friends who go to the D.I. or Thrift Town and find something for $10 or less. You may end up with a technicolored dream coat from the ’80s, but with all the other stuff I’m going to suggest you put on, you’re going to look ridiculous anyway.
“Cyclists” are going to tell you just any old coat won’t work––you need one that breathes or you’re going to get sweaty. Here’s what I think: It’s better to end up at work dripping with sweat than frozen, ‘cause your coworkers aren’t going to mind the smell as much as your screams and moans as you painfully thaw out.
Once you’ve got the coat, here are a few more things you can try, depending on the weather:
Rain: Install front and back fenders on your bicycle once the weather goes to shit. The water on the road gets you more wet than the rain itself and you WILL show up to work with an embarrassing wet butt without at least a back fender. Google how to make your own out of milk cartons and aluminum cans. Your footwear is also a concern, because unless you’re wearing rubber shoes that magically seal to your skin, your feet are going to get wet. This is when you break out the plastic bags. You’re going to look … trashy, but tying those things around your ankles is your only option if you don’t want to spend the rest of your day in misery.
Also, carry an extra pair of pants and socks. If you can’t buy an awesome waterproof Velo City Bag, steal your little brother’s backpack and wrap up your clothes and anything else you want to keep dry in a hobo purse.
Snow—blizzard-style: Have you ever been whitewashed? That’s exactly what biking in a blizzard feels like. If you can get your hands on one of those face beanies, do it. Who cares if you show up to the bar looking like a mugger? Better than having the inside of your nose melt into your beer as it thaws … A knitted scarf also works well, and keeps snow from falling down your shirt—I realize your breasts may feel like popsicles at times, but they don’t actually have to freeze for people to lick them. When the wind starts up, your hands are another extremity you’ll want to keep warm. Good gloves are expensive, but a bunch of shitty gloves are not! Both Smith’s and the dollar store have cotton gloves for a dollar that you can layer over each other. I suggest you buy $5 worth and keep extras in your bag, because they’ll get wet and you’ll want a dry pair for your ride home.
Another factor during a blizzard: visibility, or lack thereof. I have a shitty pair of ski goggles that help on my end of things, but remember that you just look like a big snowflake to drivers.
Ice: This is the worst element because it can cause the most damage. It’s the reason I splurged on a dorky helmet with earmuffs. No matter how careful I am, how slow I ride, how hard I squint at the ground, my bicycle slides out from under me at least once every winter. There isn’t much you can do to avoid it other than watch for ice and try to circumvent any patches. My suggestion is to increase your awareness and decrease your speed on icy days. Main roads are usually better about plowing and salting the asphalt, but also contain more shitty drivers. Falling on the ice isn’t that bad anyway when you’ve got so many layers on.
Cycling through the winter is not impossible! You may look like a sweaty, Saran-wrapped bum when you get to the party, but once you take off all those layers, you’ll be glowing from the exercise and transformed into the belle of the ball, just like Cinderella!