How to Ride Your Bike Through a Chicago Winter and Enjoy It
Frigid temperatures aren’t enough to stop true cycling enthusiasts, and the streets of Chicago in the dead of winter prove it. Winter bike commuting is definitely a thing. Cycling all year round makes it easier to stay in shape, and getting some sun on your face during winter may even improve your mood. Here are some tips for riding your bike through Chicago safely in the winter – and having a good time doing it.
Dress for Movement and Warmth
If your hands and feet get cold and wet, your ride will be ruined immediately. Not only may you be unsafe, but you’re sure to be miserable. Dress in layers when you go biking in Chicago during the winter. You want an ensemble that frees you for peddling while insulating your core and extremities. You’ll also get quite warm during your ride, so layers are smart. A sample wardrobe might include:
- Rubber boots or shoes with fleece lining
- Long underwear or tights
- A t-shirt coupled with a wool sweater
- A water-wicking jacket
- Lobster-claw gloves
- A balaclava or fleece headband
Prep Your Bike
A well-maintained bike will also improve your winter cycling experience. Custom bikes are great, but you can also add Monkeylectric Monkey Lights to your existing bike for increased visibility or use studded tires for better grip during the winter months. Regular maintenance is also vital. Remember that Chicago uses a ton of salt on the roads in the winter to stave off ice and snow build-up. This is great for cars but can erode the metal on your bike. Continue to wash your bike often and replace the brake pads, which can quickly deteriorate as a result of the snow and salt combo.
Stick to Cleared Roads
Where should you ride in the winter? The advice from bikers in Chicago is nearly universal: don’t go on the sidewalk and avoid uncleared roads. Your chance of accidents will increase a lot, and it’s harder to trudge through crunchy snow and navigate over ice. Some streets, like Ashland Avenue, are not meant for pedestrians and bikers at any time of year – so don’t try your hand during the winter.
Remember that Illinois law permits bikers to take up an entire lane of traffic if a bike lane is not available, so you can avoid snow drifts by moving toward the center of the lane as necessary (just obey all rules of traffic as if you were in a car). The Lakefront Path is also cleared for cyclists during the winter, so if you’re in the market for a workout as opposed to a commuter route, you can still get out and have fun.
sixthreezero is your partner when you’re on the hunt for the best bike for winter commuting. Check out these bike options as you begin your quest for your next cold-weather commuter bike:
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