Riding in the Cold

We’ve had a warm fall, but with winter the cold weather is coming. This doesn’t mean you have to put away your bike and stop riding, we were outside teaching at Bridges PCS this morning! However, the colder it gets, the more attention you have to give to what you and your children are wearing. We’ll cover some typical tips below, but the key is to find what make you feel comfortable riding and that your children stay warm enough.

If you are an experienced year-round rider, then you will know the secret to cold weather riding is layering. This is super helpful for days on the edges of winter, where your evening commute might be 20 degrees warmer than your morning. I’ll talk about three layers, base, warm, and outer.

Base Layer

This is the innermost layer you wear. Ideally, it will be a soft wool or a wicking fabric (often referred to as “tech fabric”) and not cotton. Cotton will not keep you warm if it gets wet from rain, snow, or sweat. I wear light leggings under my pants most days during winter. This layer is less important for your children if they are passengers and not pedaling.

Warm Layer

This is the layer(s) that (surprise!) will keep you warm by trapping air and your body heat. Again, wool is a top performer here, and wool sweaters come in a wide variety of thickness and warmth. Fleece is also a good option. (Budget tip: wool sweaters can be found for cheap at thrift shops, if only for commuting a hole won’t matter under your outer layer!) Passengers will need more warm layer than you, as you’ll be working to move the bike but they will just be sitting there in the cold breeze.

Outer Layer

The most important part for your outer layer is to block the wind, with a close second to be waterproof, to keep your warm layers dry. When you ride, you are in a constant breeze, and that can steal your heat fast. This is especially important for children as passengers. If they are in a seat on your handlebars, they will be catching the full force of the wind and need to be bundled up more than if they are on a rear seat riding behind you. Snow suits work as great outer layer for kids, and they are warm and waterproof, and can be easy to pull off when you arrive where you’re going. Another option for smaller children is to wrap them inside a blanket or use a stroller snuggle. A bungie cord can help keep these in place and out of your wheels and chain.

Head, hands, and feet

Don’t forget the rest of you! A balaclava is a great option for a child to wear over their head and neck, but under their helmet. A scarf can we wrapped around neck, face, and ears and held in place with the helmet straps. Waterproof (and therefore windproof) boots also work well with thick socks on inside of them, or even rain boots pulled on over the top of regular shoes. I use thicker hiking socks for winter riding. Windproof gloves are key, and as it gets colder or the rides get longer, then lobster gloves or mittens become more important to keep your hands warm. Make sure that your gloves are not so bulky that you can’t use your brakes!

Riding Year-Round in Every Type of Weather with Rebecca Harnik

Biking year ’round can be challenging at times. It can also be faster, safer, more endorphin-filled, and joyous than the alternatives – even in “not perfect” weather. Join WABA Instructor, Rebecca Harnik, as she helps you prepare for biking in every type of weather. Maybe you can’t predict exactly what will happen – but you can learn to position yourself to have a much better experience biking (and arriving to your destinations)!

This webinar is FREE to join. Invite friends and family members and be sure to bring plenty of questions!

Tune in on Zoom

Add to your calendar by clicking here.

Click here to join the Zoom meeting!

Meeting ID: 988 1725 8402    PIN: bike

Riding in the Rain

Eventually we all end up riding in the rain, and that’s OK.

These practical riding tips will make sure that you end up at your destination dry(ish), safe and happy.


Safety Considerations

Be visible. Make sure you have working lights or reflective material on your bike or yourself.

It’s ok to take the bus. There’s no shame in not riding! Find a cafe or library where you can wait it out, or take your bike on the bus or metrorail. (See Metro’s rules about bikes here).

Don’t ride through floods. Seriously! It’s dangerous. Don’t be the person that the Park Service has to pull out of the Potomac River with a helicopter. Find an alternate route or hop on the bus.


Bike Handling

Roads are very different when they’re wet. Here’s what to do when you’re riding in the rain:

  • Take it slow. Wet tires + wet pavement + wet brakes = your bike will take much longer to stop. The slower you’re moving, the faster you’ll be able stop when you need to.
  • Feather your brakes. When you know you’ll be stopping soon (at all red lights and stop signs, of course), take a moment to tap your brakes lightly a few times to dry off the surface of your brake pads.
  • Claim your space. When you ride in the the middle of the lane, you’re more visible, and you give yourself more maneuvering room to dodge around puddles or other obstacles in the road. Just make sure you have lights and/or reflectors.
  • Pay attention to the road surface. Road paint and metal are very slippery when wet, so avoid manhole covers, grates and crosswalk paint, especially while braking and/or turning.

What to Wear

Real talk: you probably can’t stay 100% dry on your bike, but with a little bit of preparation you can stay about as dry as you would walking to your destination from the bus stop. Here are some gear-related things to think about:

Temperature

When it’s cold, wet clothes can make you feel much colder very quickly, so make sure you’ve got enough layers, especially on your toes, fingers, ears, and face.

When it’s hot, waterproof gear can keep your sweat from evaporating, causing you to end up soggy from perspiration rather than rain. For hot weather rain, consider packing a towel, a dry shirt, and your shoes in your backpack or purse, and just ride in sandals, shorts, and a t-shirt.

Simple Gear

Below are some simple items that you may already have that can help you stay dry on your bike:

  • Any light raincoat or poncho.
  • A visor on your helmet, or a baseball cap under it, can help keep the rain out of your face and eyes.
  • A plastic bag to cover your saddle can help keep your butt dry if you’re leaving your bike outside in the rain.
  • Rain boots or hiking boots can keep your feet dry.
  • Or, plastic bags to cover your socks.
  • A plastic bag to keep a clean, dry layer in your backpack or purse.
  • Gloves! Even when it’s not very cold, the combination of wind, wet, and metal brake levers can make your fingers very cold very quickly.

Bicycling Specific Gear

If you want to invest in some rain gear designed for riding bikes, there are plenty of great options out there:

  • A bicycling specific rain shell will usually have longer sleeves and a longer back to keep you dry while you’re leaned over the handlebars. It will also usually have some strategically placed vents to help keep you from getting too sweaty.
  • Rain Pants or neoprene tights can keep your legs dry. Bicycling specific rain pants usually taper around the ankles to keep them from getting caught in your chain.
  • Waterproof cycling shoes or neoprene shoe covers can keep your toes dry.
  • Bar Mitts, or pogies are big waterproof shells that attach directly to your handlebars. They allow you to wear lighter gloves, or no gloves, so you can manipulate your brakes and shifters unimpeded.
  • Helmet covers are waterproof sleeves that cover the vents in your helmet to keep the rain off your head.

Fenders

We are unapologetically #teamFenders here at WABA. They keep your feet and back dry, and minimize the amount of gross road water that you’re spraying onto the people behind you.

Fenders range from simple plastic clip-on affairs to fancy full coverage metal fenders for both wheels.

Your local bike shop can help you decide which fenders are best for your needs.

Riding at Night

It’s bike light season again! Lights are one of the most important safety features on your bike. If you don’t have lights, get some lights! You can buy a good set of front and rear lights at any bike shop, most hardware stores, or your preferred online retailer. If you can’t afford lights, let us know and we’ll help. Graphic of a bicycle with text above saying Bike Lights 101. The bike has a bright red beam coming from the back and a bright white beam coming from the front. Below is says, "Red light in the back. Reflectors are OK. A Light is better. Law requires at least a reflector." "Wheel reflectors are good! They increase your side visibility. Some tires also have reflective sidewalls." and a third text box says "White light in the front. Front lights are required by law. Angle down on trails."

Light tips

  • Keep a spare battery or a charger at work or in a little bag on your bike.
  • Make sure you have lights that meet your needs:
    • If you’re likely to be riding on an unlit road trail, make sure you have a light that’s bright enough to let you see where you’re going.
    • If you’re just riding on city streets, a small blinking light is probably enough.
  • When you’re riding on a trail, be aware of the angle of your front light. Modern LEDs can be quite bright, and you don’t want to blind on coming trail users.
Same graphic of a bike as the image above but now the text reads "Good. Top of beam is roughly horizontal" in reference to how the light is illustrated coming (red and white) from front and back of the bike. Same graphic as previous but now the image says "Not so good. Brightest part of beam hits oncoming trail users rather than the trail in front of you." Note: WABA gives away thousands of bike lights every year. We’ve found that we can get more lights into the hands of folks who don’t already have them if we do not announce times or locations in advance. Instead, we seek out places where we see lots of people riding without lights. If you see us out there, say hello! Pick up a set of lights only if you need them.

Tour de Fat cancelled due to dangerous weather

Live from the waterfront

As you might have seen on social media, Tour de Fat has been cancelled due to some dangerous weather. We’re bummed we don’t get to party with you today. Tour de Fat is a big goofy party, but the work it funds is serious and important—safer bike lanes, better bike laws, a more connected trail network, and better education programming for everyone who uses our roads. Can you chip in a some of that weekend beer money and help us keep working to make your bike ride better?

$10 $25 $100

We really appreciate it. Stay safe in this crazy weather! Let’s go for a ride soon, —Your friends at WABA. PS: If you purchased tickets, keep an eye out for an email from New Belgium Brewing about next steps.

Riding in The Heat

Well, it’s hot again, but with a little preparation you can still get where you’re going on your bike in relative comfort. Here are our tips for riding in the heat:

Give yourself some extra time. 

This gives you a chance to do a few things:
  • Take it slow. Exertion can make you feel even hotter. Vary your speed and find the balance between keeping up a nice breeze and not pedaling too hard.
  • Take an extra five minutes at your destination to cool off, have an iced coffee, wash your face, change your shirt, and whatever else you need to do get back to comfortable.
  • Find a flatter, shadier route if you can. Seek out trails and side streets that offer a break from sunbaked concrete and hot exhaust.

Protect yourself from the sun.

A little shade and breeze can go a long way toward making you comfortable, even when the forecast calls for airborne swamp.
  • Seek out a shady route.
  • Wear sunscreen and sunglasses.
  • Light-colored, loose-fitting clothes that let some air flow around you and keep the sun off (even long sleeves!) can sometimes be more comfortable than a t-shirt or tight-fitting bicycling clothing.

Hydrate!

Drink whatever works for you: water, fruit juice, sports drink, (sorry, beer is not recommended), but make sure you’ve got some with you when you’re riding. DC Water has a network of partners across the city that will let you refill a water bottle for free. Details are here.

Sweat: it’s fine.

Really, it’s more than fine, it’s good! Sweat cools you off as it evaporates. The thing we mostly don’t like about sweat is being sweaty once we get off our bikes. Here are our perspiration management tips:
  • Time! As we mentioned above, giving yourself a little extra time to take it slow, finding a less exerting route, and cooling off when you get to your destination all make it easier to not feel like a sweaty mess when you get to your destination.
  • Many employers offer showers, or access to a gym with showers. If not, don’t despair. If you carry a change of clothes and a washcloth, it’s pretty easy to get tidied up.
  • If you can, carry your stuff on your bike, not your body. A backpack is a sweat trap—it prevents air from flowing around your back and keeps all that sweat from evaporating. Carrying your stuff on a rack or in a saddlebag or basket lets your sweat do its job.
We also like this suggestion:

Know what trouble looks like.

Take a moment and make sure you know the symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration. Keep an eye on yourself and those around you. We’re all a big bike family!

Take it easy.

With these tips, you should be able to have a still-pleasant ride even in unpleasant circumstances. But if you’re not feeling it, that’s OK. Metrobuses are air-conditioned!