Riding a bike in winter is a completely different animal, as I discovered after a recent spill on an icy section of East Avenue. To keep you from the same frosty fate, here's some advice for surviving colder months on two wheels, with thanks to bike enthusiasts Aaron Beck and Zach Henkel, the staff at B1 Bikes and volunteers at the Third Hand Bike Co-Op.
Wider, knobbier tires provide better traction in snow and ice. If you switch from slick road models, check the clearance around your brakes and frame. Also, lower air pressure gives more stable wheel-road contact; if the tire wall recommends 60 to 80 psi, go with 65.
A front and rear brake tuned correctly are optimal. If you ride with only one, make sure it's on the front, which allows bikes to slow more safely.
Look for cold-weather gloves that are thick enough to warm your digits but thin enough to allow good handlebar contact. Trading sleek grip tape for thicker, tackier grips reduces the need to clench your hands, which cools them.
Lights and reflectors
Early sunset means a dark ride for commuters. You need a strong white light in front and a blinking red light in back. For added safety, try reflectors attached to spokes and 3M reflective tape stuck to outerwear.
Bike tires kick up precipitation and road salt. You can save work clothes with a plastic rain guard attached to your seat post or with light fenders that screw onto your frame.
Chain and gears
In wet winters, your chain, gears and other metal components are at risk for rust and road-salt corrosion. Make sure they're properly lubricated and cleaned at least weekly.
For safety, a helmet is a must. For warmth without bulk, wear a headband or balaclava. Some helmets, including those made for extreme snowboarders by Bern Unlimited, have warm layers built into a protective casing.
The key to warming your core without overheating is multiple layers - not a giant fur parka. Start with a breathable, waterproof windbreaker and a wool base layer to wick away moisture. More layers can be added on colder days.
Because they're doing most of the work, legs are the last thing to freeze. If you're prone to chills, add some wool legwarmers or shoe gaiters. Many bikers prefer two pairs of light wool socks.
In case of a freak snowstorm or cold spell, you should have some emergency gear in your backpack. Recommended items include: an old pair of ski goggles, extra scarf and socks, a bottle of water and $1.50 for the bus.
For more outdoor tips and Nature Notes, click to The Riot Act blog at ColumbusAlive.com