How to winter bike
There are people who can’t put their bikes away for the winter.
Many of them are bike commuters, some just want to visit friends or they simply need to pick up the groceries.
And many love the challenge of biking on icy roads in 60 below zero wind-chill temperatures in blinding snowstorms.
And there are those that like to race other ice bikers.
Byron Kuster is all of these people.
Kuster commutes to work year-round, writes articles and gives presentations on the subject.
We caught up to him at the Winter Expo at Midwest Mountaineering in Minneapolis last November. He started his talk boldly declaring, “Yes, you can bike year round if you dress right, outfit your bike and think outside the biking box.”
Kuster believes you must be able to cover 100 percent of your body while biking in sub-zero temperatures. He dresses with adjustable clothing allowing him to adjust to the weather. He wears wicking underwear, several layers and a good wind-breaking shell.
Gloves are a big concern to winter bikers. He wears large lobster style mitts that allows him to shift gears. He recommends gloves with cloth or fleece backing to wipe your nose.
He also recommends Poggies or Moose Mitts that attach to the handlebars.
“It may look strange but I’ve thought of rigging up plastic milk jugs on my handle bars to break the wind. There isn’t much specifically made for winter biking so we have to think out of the biking box to outfit ourselves,” said Kuster.
Kuster will also put chemical hand warmers in his gloves and pack boots.
He also warns people against overdressing. He suggests you should be a bit chilled in the first mile and you’ll heat up as you go along.
The most important piece of equipment for winter biking is the tires. Kuster uses studded tires. You can buy tires with studs or make your own with screws from the hardware store.
“Studs will make you feel much more confident on that 20 percent of the days you run into ice,” said Kuster.
He also recommends winter bikers plan their trips for safety and not time. It is also good to study your route, planning on where to go when you might have a breakdown. Winter bikers must also realize it is dark later in the morning and earlier in the evening.
“You can’t really fix a flat tire in the dark on a cold winter day. It is a good idea to have an idea of where you can find a safe place to work on your bike,” said Kuster.