Riding Around Town

Biking in Winter

Although it may seem daunting, riding in the winter can be enjoyable and fun with proper preparation. Keep the following things in mind when riding in winter to help make your trip rewarding:

  • Start slowly. It is not necessary to be out the day of a big storm. Use StarTran, walk or carpool to fill in these gaps when the weather interrupts your schedule.
  • Have the right gear. Consult your local bike shop about the best gear for you and your bike. There is equipment to make your ride safer and more enjoyable including studded snow tires, handlebar mitts and clothing. But, there is no need to spend lots of money to make it work. Many of the fancy fabrics and specialty gear are not necessary and can be substituted with adequate preparations from thrift stores or standard winter equipment (such as ski goggles and gloves). Fenders are also a good idea to keep you clean. The most important piece of gear, however, is still a good helmet.
  • Use the Bike Paths. Lincoln has fantastic bike paths. These paths are plowed throughout the winter and, because they are plowed separately from the streets, often times are plowed before the streets to ensure the safe passage of cyclists.
  • Use StarTran. StarTran offers bike racks on all busses. This can provide an alternative for those days when the weather turns bad between trips.
  • Ride in car tracks. Cars generate a lot of heat which melts snow and ice. Often times, car tracks are the safest place to ride because the cars have melted the snow and ice in those areas. Find streets that have enough traffic to melt the snow and ice but not so much that you feel uncomfortable riding in the traffic lane.
  • Be visible. Motorists often do not expect to see cyclists out in the winter. This, in combination with the shorter days, it is important to have a functioning headlight and taillight. In addition, make sure you dress in bright colors to make sure you stand out.
  • Maintain your bike. The cold temperatures, salt, snow and ice can wear your bike quicker than it would in the summer. Check your cables, chain, batteries, brakes, rims and tires more often than you would during the summer months.

It is important to adjust to the road conditions. Adjusting to the road conditions on a bike is similar to driving. Keep the following in mind:

  • Use easier gears to pedal through snow and across ice. Using too high of a gear will cause you to skid out. If the front wheel is skidding around, put more of your body weight forward to keep the front wheel going straight. Bar end extensions can help you get your weight further forward.
  • Use your brakes lightly, and remember that it will take you longer to stop. Panic stops don't work on snow or ice. Practice braking away from traffic, on a slight hill if possible, to get used to how much pressure you can use before locking up and skidding on snow and ice.
  • During the morning hours, the sun often melts snow and makes the road glare to motorists. This, combined with a dirty windshield, often makes it difficult for motorists to see each other let alone a cyclist. Make sure to wear bright colors in order to stand out.