Brave enough for winter biking?

By Wangmo Tenzing

Biking—it’s fast, exhilarating and a great form of exercise, but once the cold weather hits, it becomes a whole other sport. Winter biking remains a great way to stay in shape during the colder months, while still providing an exhilarating ride. When it’s chilly and frigid, the dynamics of biking change tremendously-you may find yourself on the ground more than you find yourself on the bike. The external forces of snow, ice and wind don’t always agree with the bike, and as the rider, you often have to face the consequences.

Many people forego biking when winter hits; they see the first snow and think biking seems either too dangerous or too much effort. For those taking on the challenge and continuing to stay on the wheels even in the worst of weather, there is excitement in knowing there are many benefits to riding during the cold months. To get more students involved, the MSU Office of Sustainability and Sustainability Now (SNow) club hosted the Winter Bike to School Day on Nov. 29. The event is one of the many efforts by MSU to make campus more bikeable, reduce environmental effects of driving and encourage students to stay active throughout the winter. It’s a big commitment to bike all winter, and there are several reasons as to why many people avoid it.

With winter biking, there are more forces against you then there are for you. If the wind doesn’t knock you down first, the ice will and you’ll skid in every which way possible. It’s not fun falling hard, but there is a way to make winter biking fairly safe and practical. Another tip for biking in winter conditions is, of course, to avoid hitting black ice. But if there isn’t a way to avoid it, riding slowly and with a helmet is your best bet for staying above the ground.

Studded tires, although the most expensive option, work the best for icy conditions. It gives the wheels better traction, and you avoid slipping and sliding. If cost is an issue, normal mountain bike tires work fine for the most part, if you’re cautious. Skinny road bike tires do not belong outside between the months of December and March, unless you’re a hardcore cyclist, in which case you are either crazy and/or super passionate about biking.

You can ride all winter and be fine if you are alert and aware of your surroundings. Knowing

that you can get badly injured forces you to ride more slowly and carefully. Winter biking is supposed to be fun, so don’t let pain, black ice or the wind get you down.