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    I commuted to work by bike for 40 years. Now that I am 62 and retired, I still use a bike daily as my principal mode of transportation.

    The obvious question is why? There are a myriad of reasons: from staying fit and healthy (I never needed to take a sick day), to saving money (we are a one-car family), to helping the environment. Mostly though, I just enjoy being outdoors and getting about at a relaxed pace. It is my “me” time -- to plan, to regroup, and (mostly) enjoy.

    The Weather

    Before 2000, I commuted by bike 8 months out of the year, driving only during the dark and cold wintery months. Then, in the summer of 2000 an inspiration hit me to ride across America. I pooled vacation time, and had a blast every one of the 52 days. Furthermore, I garnered the skills and confidence I would need to ride in all kinds of weather.

    So, starting in the winter of 2000/2001, I no longer counted down the days until I could ride again in late February. I rode every day and was energized -- no more feeling SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). In order to facilitate winter riding, I shifted my workday by an hour -- 8 to 4 instead of 9 to 5, to maximize the daylight for commuting 10 miles to and from work. After a few years of year-round riding, I even gave away my car!

    I know, you’re wondering about snow, rain, and icy conditions. Is it really safe to bike in all kinds of weather? You definitely have to be properly equipped, and some rides are a bit scary (see below), but having ridden through a hurricane, several snowstorms, and on black ice, I feel confident enough to handle pretty much any weather event. I may have to wait out a lightning storm once in awhile or call for a ride occasionally, but that is rare.

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    Dressing for the weather

    This isn’t rocket science. If it’s 70 degrees and bright sunshine, you can don the shorts, sunglasses and sunscreen, and you won’t have to worry about what to wear. On the other hand, if it’s 40 degrees and windy, you will want to limit your exposure, and wear a wind-breaking outer layer including full gloves.My motto, when in doubt, wear the skinny jeans. And of course, layering is key. If you want to ride through the rain (and why not?), you must carry raingear (I carry rain pants and a waterproof vest always). Weather reports are important to follow before getting dressed.

    I have a staging area in the garage where I keep bike clothing accessories. For every five degree drop in temperature, I put on a different clothing item. For example, if the temperature is below 50, I wear an ear warmer under my helmet. If the temperature is below freezing, I wear a neck warmer and wool cap under my helmet. If it is below 20, I wear a balaclava, neck warmer, and wool cap under my helmet. And that’s just the headgear. Factoring in gloves, socks, footwear, and long underwear, there are a lot of options. Mostly though, by keeping your hands and feet comfortable, it will help a lot. Then wear the right jacket for the overall weather condition: rain jacket, snow jacket, leather for cold wind, windbreaker for warm breeze, etc.

    Hint: Sometimes when you arrive at your destination, you might need to dry off and/or warm up. That’s when leaving a spare pair of warm socks at work can come in handy (better still, take a hot shower or sauna, if available).

  • About the Author

    Karin Weisburgh is a Licensed Certified (bicycle) Instructor who has always commuted to work by bicycle and is now a cycling coach.

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Handbook On How To Commute By Bike And Ditch The Car

Commuting by bike to work can have its ups and downs. On the upside are: health & fitness, saving money, and not polluting the environment. While on the downside are: potential encounters with cars, dealing with the weather, and fixing flats. For me, the upside far outweighs the downside, which is why I choose to ride a bike rather than drive a car. The Handbook I have written provides practical advice on how to minimize risks and maximize enjoyment on the bike.

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