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Biking Through January: Overcoming Weather Challenges with Smart Planning

By Pamela Thompson of The Bike Campaign

Is your New Year’s resolution to get out and about on your bike more frequently? It’s healthy and good for the environment, but January often isn’t the best month for weather which can make it hard to stay on track with outdoor goals. Proper planning, gear, and clothing can make it much easier to stay motivated and make that resolution happen.


Fog and rain are common in January, so keeping visible while on the road is a key concern. Using a front light and rear light during the day increases bicycle visibility in murky weather conditions, and is also crucial if you cycle in the 20 minutes after dawn or before sunset when lights on bicycles are required.


The newer LED lights feature solid and blinking modes, and during daylight hours having front and rear lights that blink makes you more noticeable to motor vehicles. The newer lights are also USB rechargeable and have mounting systems that make lights easily detachable for theft prevention.


A front light with at least 300 lumens is the minimum strength recommended for riding in the city, and if you’re planning to ride on unlighted paths, out in the country, or at higher speeds 600-800 lumens or more is important for seeing the road ahead of you; rear lights should be 50-100 lumens. There is a wealth of material online that can help you choose the lights you need and outline the available features.


Before hitting the road, remember to oil your chain, check your brakes, and make sure your tires are properly inflated. Having a tire pump with a gauge is great for accurate tire inflation.


Having the correct clothing for winter removes roadblocks to riding in inclement weather. From helmets to shoes, planning for warmth, dryness, and visibility make a difference in how much you enjoy the ride. 


Bicycle helmets feature excellent ventilation, which is great in the summer but not so much in the winter. For cold, dry days fitting a piece of paper inside your helmet reduces airflow through the helmet vents and keeps your head warmer. For wet days consider a helmet cover which keeps rain out, air flow limited, and usually has reflective tape for increased visibility.


Gloves insulate your hands and fingers against wind chill, keep your hands dry, and add cushioning while riding. Gloves from cycling gear companies combine wind and water protection, and gloves for other outdoor sports often work as well. Hand warmers are also useful for chilly days.


Layering clothing keeps the chill off and the body heat in. As you ride and heat up, being able to remove a layer to stay comfortable is helpful. It also helps if your cycling is more purpose driven, like going to the store, so you can add and remove layers to match the environment.


Water resistant clothing can make a wet day on the road a lot more fun. Rain ponchos and capes are good options, feature hoods, and have good air flow. Rain pants and jackets are another option, and most are lightweight and will keep you dry while you cycle. Getting rain gear with reflective elements also helps keep you visible while on the road.


Keeping your feet warm and dry during winter rides is key, and winter cycling socks include waterproof, cold weather waterproof, and moisture wicking reflective styles. 


Whether you use cycling shoes or regular shoes when you ride, having shoe covers or overshoes is useful. Although they aren’t cheap, they repel water and block wind, making the ride more comfortable, and some feature lights or reflective elements.


Making your winter rides more social can help keep you on track. Getting friends to cycle to a destination can be a big motivator in getting out of the house and on your bike in iffy weather. Try starting small with a short ride to coffee, tea, or boba, or go out for a meal and work up to longer rides. Don’t forget to take a good lock and secure your bike to a stand when you get there. 

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