Bicycle commuting throughout a weird winter

Year-round bicycle commuters are often thought of as a tough breed on campus, but those who give winter commuting a chance may find that it’s not as tough as they anticipated.

Year-round bicycle commuters are often thought of as a tough breed on campus, but those who give winter commuting a chance may find that it’s not as tough as they anticipated. Our unusually temperate winter offers the perfect opportunity for those who typically leave the bike in the garage throughout the cold weather months to reap the benefits of year-round bicycle commuting.

With a few simple pieces of extra cycling kit, the fair-weather bicycle commuter will be able to handle anything that a Portland winter can throw at them.

The first order of business for any respectable cyclist in the Pacific Northwest is to outfit your bicycle with a set of fenders. These serve not only to protect the commuter’s back from the dreaded muddy-water stripe, but will also prevent feet from becoming as wet by channeling water toward the ground, rather than directly toward the bicycle’s crankset. Front and rear bicycle fenders are an indispensable asset for the fall and winter months in Portland, and they can be outfitted easily and cheaply at almost any local bicycle shop. In addition to mounted fenders, there’s also a wide-range of fenders available that can be quickly attached and removed on a temporary basis.

While the thermometer may not know what to do with itself during Portland’s winter months, the sun always knows when to set. With more commuters traveling during the dark morning hours and returning home in the winter twilight, safety is not something that can be taken for granted. A set of powerful front and rear lights is a necessity, and care should always be taken to make sure that the front light is white and the red light is rear. A reversal of this accepted standard could lead to disastrous consequences on a pitch-black stretch of road. As with fenders, commuters have many options when it comes to bicycle lights. There are those that take batteries, those with rechargeable batteries and even those that recharge when plugged into the USB port of a computer.

Finally, there is the matter of protective clothing to keep out the harsh winter elements when they decide to make their presence known. While some choose to outfit themselves with a full range of winter cycling wear, most commuters can get by with a few simple items.

The first piece of winter clothing in any commuter’s arsenal should be a pair of good gloves. They should be warm, but not so thick that they restrict movement. They’ll also offer protection to one’s hands in the event of a crash. My personal recommendation would be for a set of warm glove liners like the ones used beneath heavy-duty ski gloves. They are warm, yet thin enough to accommodate easy shifting and braking, and they’ll save your palms should the rubber side go up on a patch of ice. These can be found at any ski shop.

A fleece-lined cycling cap can be found at any local bicycle shop in town, as can special shoe covers, rain jackets and the like. However, not all of these things are essential. Many campus commuters get by simply by bringing a change of clothes to campus with them on a wet day. Rain jackets and warm winter clothing needn’t be cycling-specific gear, which tends to cost more, just as long as they offer a good range of movement and perform the function that they’re intended to perform.

Campus commuters ready to test their mettle may be pleasantly surprised to find that winter commuting in Portland isn’t all that tough, and that there are added benefits. After all, it’s the one time of year when bicycle parking on campus isn’t a problem. ?