Winter bike commuting tips for the meteorologically challenged

Happy Monday maniacs! I hope you are starting your week off on the right foot.

Even Chuck Norris' left foot is the right one.
Even Chuck Norris’ left foot is the right one.

I’m still measuring mutation rates, which means growing lots and lots of individual bacterial cultures. These experiments aren’t my favorite thing to do in the entire world, which sometimes makes it a little bit difficult to stoke up my motivation to leave my house for lab in the morning.

Oh joy...48 more cultures today.
Oh joy…48 more cultures today.

I ride my bike to work every day. I love using pedal-power to explore uncharted frontiers, but sometimes wintry weather makes bike-commuting seem downright daunting. Limited daylight, frigid temperatures, and unfriendly weather conspire against even the bravest bicyclist.

You want me to ride through this!?
I’m scared of the dark!

Seattle in particular presents a challenge for cyclists. Our winters are rainy and WET.

60 sunny days per year!
60 sunny days per year!

However, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to avoid the dreaded stripe-up-the-butt syndrome and keep commuting by bicycle through the moist months.

Through rain, through shine, through driving snow.
Rain or shine, I gotta get to work, and I HATE the bus

Without further ado I offer you, my gentle readers, in no particular order, my top tricks of the trade to ride through the rain all winter long!

1) GoreTex is a gift from the almighty!

Thank the lord for tech-y waterproof fabrics
Lo, the lord said “let there be waterproofing”

Invest in a high-quality waterproof jacket to keep yourself dry.

2) What you wear to BIKE TO WORK doesn’t necessarily have to be what you wear AT WORK

But you do, in fact have to wear clothes at work.
But you do, in fact have to wear clothes at work.

Even with the very best moisture-wicking, waterproof, ultra-light, technologically advanced fabrics, you still may find yourself somewhat damp when you arrive at your final destination. If you plan ahead, you can avoid the indignity of a damp posterior all day at work. Stash a pair of pants in your backpack before you head out the door, then change when you arrive at the office.

Presto-change-o! Soggy Sam becomes a ravishing researcher
Presto-change-o! Soggy Sam becomes a ravishing researcher

3) Don’t forget about your feet!

Booties are a LIFE-saver
Booties are a LIFE-saver

Walking around all day with soggy socks is just the WORST. A good pair of cycling booties can help protect your toes. A simpler (and more cost-effective solution) is to carry a spare pair of socks.

Be prepared!
Be prepared!

4) LIGHT up the night!

It's dark out there!
It’s dark out there!

Dark and stormy winter mornings come with decreased visibility conditions. As cyclists, we have a responsibility to obey all traffic laws and share the roads. Tragically, far too many bikers are struck by cars each year. In 2012 (the most recent year from which statistics are available) the United States saw 49,000 bicycle injuries and 726 fatalities. “Collision with car” was, and remains, the most common cause of cycling accidents. Even in my fair city of Seattle, with its extensive bike lanes and cyclist advocacy by the Cascade Bicycle Club, accidents still occur. The devastating death of Sher Kung in autumn 2014 was one chilling example of a life cut short because of a driver’s lack of attention. To protect ourselves as we pedal, we cyclists need to be VISIBLE, especially during the dark winter months! Invest in BRIGHT bicycle lights.

I even wear an EXTRA headlamp to make sure people see me.
I even wear an EXTRA headlamp to make sure people see me.

Make friends with Neon.

My hands are small I know...but they are BRIGHT!
My hands are small I know…but they are BRIGHT!

Biking through dark and rainy streets is no time to be a shrinking violet, let your inner raver shine through!

My inner raver favors Hawaiian tees.
My inner raver favors Hawaiian tees.

Techno music is optional. Being visible is non-negotiable. Maximize your chances of being seen to minimize your chances of getting hit.

Pictured: a woefully inadequately lit bike.
Pictured: a woefully inadequately lit bike.

Riding through the rain doesn’t have to be miserable. With a little forward planning, you can arrive at your workplace safely, then dry off and CRUSH IT all day long. Don’t let a little bit of water scare you off of your bicycle for months at a time.

Unless, of course, a little water will LITERALLY kill you. In that case, by all means, DRIVE
Unless, of course, a little bit of water will LITERALLY kill you. In that case, by all means, DRIVE

Bike commuting is ecologically friendly, fantastic exercise, and a whole lot of fun. By making a few minor tweaks to your routine you can keep up this healthy habit rain or shine. However, my most important final tip, a principle I apply to every facet of my existence, from riding through the rain or sailing through space, comes courtesy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyALWAYS KNOW WHERE YOUR TOWEL IS!

I keep THREE emergency towels (and ONE emergency bottle of two-buck chuck) in my desk at work. Always be prepared.
I keep THREE emergency towels (and ONE emergency bottle of two-buck chuck) in my desk at work.
Be prepared.

 

 

6 thoughts on “Winter bike commuting tips for the meteorologically challenged

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