The Chainlink

Hello  everyone, 

 

  Looking to continue biking through the winter here and had a few questions for you vets. I snowboard avidly and I think Ill be able to handle the cold, but I was wondering if you avoid the lsp during the winter and opt for the streets. I have seen a few post about the black ice out there and want to know if that's something that could be avoided by riding down halsted and wells. 

 

Also feel free to throw any other tips or suggestions my way. Ill be riding a single speed with one brake, so I think I'm going to do this to my back tire to get a bit of a snowmobile effect going. 

 

Thanks in advance for the tips!

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Before riding through my first winter, I sat Bike Winter's how-to class.  I highly recommend it if you want face-to-face instruction in addition to reading stuff online.

to Poptart - I have seen the ziptie method work pretty effectively for some folks, but you are in trouble if you get a flat tire. I have not found tire modification to be necissary in the winters, I ride a moderately treaded tire inthe winter and have done just fine.

 

To all the folks who are planning on riding for their first winter -

REI has some free cold weather cycling classes coming up in the next few weeks. Right now most of them are booked and have a waiting lists...

BUT...we will never turn people away from the class if you just show up :-)

 

So come on out if you have the evening free! details here:

www.rei.com/lincolnpark

www.rei.com/northbrook

www.rei.com/oakbrookterrace

www.rei.com/schaumburg

 

Thanks for the heads up!!! I will definitely squeeze in for the Lincoln Park class. :)

Elliot Bennett said:

to Poptart - I have seen the ziptie method work pretty effectively for some folks, but you are in trouble if you get a flat tire. I have not found tire modification to be necissary in the winters, I ride a moderately treaded tire inthe winter and have done just fine.

 

To all the folks who are planning on riding for their first winter -

REI has some free cold weather cycling classes coming up in the next few weeks. Right now most of them are booked and have a waiting lists...

BUT...we will never turn people away from the class if you just show up :-)

 

So come on out if you have the evening free! details here:

www.rei.com/lincolnpark

www.rei.com/northbrook

www.rei.com/oakbrookterrace

www.rei.com/schaumburg

 

I'm going to piggyback on this thread. I've been searching through threads here and reading lots on Ice Bike, etc, but would still like to ask southside LFP users: I commute from Hyde Park over the 53rd overpass onto the LFP and up to the Museum Campus. I ride an '04 Trek 520, have a kevlar-lined back tire and a good tread on the front wheel. Am I asking for trouble not to invest in a studded tire/wheel? I'm a little nervous about that dogleg curve just past the construction that's happening for the 31st harbor project, plus I bike home in the dark and black ice scares the crap out of me. I could always take Wabash-->MLK-->Drexel, but somehow the way drivers handle the snow scares me worse than the LFP. To stud or not to stud? (Thanks for humoring yet another studded tire question.) 

I ride the LFT year-round depending on the conditions at Fullerton and the Oak Street curve.  My alternate is Clark/North/State/Wabash, but it may depend on what part of the Loop you're going to.



Meg Matthews said:

I'm going to piggyback on this thread. I've been searching through threads here and reading lots on Ice Bike, etc, but would still like to ask southside LFP users: I commute from Hyde Park over the 53rd overpass onto the LFP and up to the Museum Campus. I ride an '04 Trek 520, have a kevlar-lined back tire and a good tread on the front wheel. Am I asking for trouble not to invest in a studded tire/wheel? I'm a little nervous about that dogleg curve just past the construction that's happening for the 31st harbor project, plus I bike home in the dark and black ice scares the crap out of me. I could always take Wabash-->MLK-->Drexel, but somehow the way drivers handle the snow scares me worse than the LFP. To stud or not to stud? (Thanks for humoring yet another studded tire question.)
The park district is pretty good about plowing and salting the path.  I find that it's usually plowed within a day of any snowfall, a lot of times before the streets are plowed.  You can get studded tires if you'd like but I think it probably won't be necessary.  However I do agree that the dogleg at 31st might be a bit sketchy if the path is the least bit slippery and I'm not sure how well it'll be plowed given the grade it's at.

Thanks! I think I might just walk that dogleg, then. I'd rather skip buying tires if I can, since I just invested in the ones I'm using now. Will let you know how it goes.

S said:



Meg Matthews said:

I'm going to piggyback on this thread. I've been searching through threads here and reading lots on Ice Bike, etc, but would still like to ask southside LFP users: I commute from Hyde Park over the 53rd overpass onto the LFP and up to the Museum Campus. I ride an '04 Trek 520, have a kevlar-lined back tire and a good tread on the front wheel. Am I asking for trouble not to invest in a studded tire/wheel? I'm a little nervous about that dogleg curve just past the construction that's happening for the 31st harbor project, plus I bike home in the dark and black ice scares the crap out of me. I could always take Wabash-->MLK-->Drexel, but somehow the way drivers handle the snow scares me worse than the LFP. To stud or not to stud? (Thanks for humoring yet another studded tire question.)
The park district is pretty good about plowing and salting the path.  I find that it's usually plowed within a day of any snowfall, a lot of times before the streets are plowed.  You can get studded tires if you'd like but I think it probably won't be necessary.  However I do agree that the dogleg at 31st might be a bit sketchy if the path is the least bit slippery and I'm not sure how well it'll be plowed given the grade it's at.

I was about to say this.  What a disaster if you get a flat!

Elliot Bennett said:

to Poptart - I have seen the ziptie method work pretty effectively for some folks, but you are in trouble if you get a flat tire. I have not found tire modification to be necissary in the winters, I ride a moderately treaded tire inthe winter and have done just fine.

 

 



Meg Matthews said:

Thanks! I think I might just walk that dogleg, then. I'd rather skip buying tires if I can, since I just invested in the ones I'm using now. Will let you know how it goes.

 

I run on the path by hyde park without problems throughout winter and I know people that go out during the winter for training rides on cx or road bikes so you should be fine.  Black ice isn't a problem unless there's been a lot of freeze-thaw cycles and you can always jump off the path on ride on the grass where you're almost certainly not going to find any ice. 

The Park District does an excellent job plowing the Lakefront paths, but mother natures sometimes throws them a curve. Most of the time it is useable. Here is an article I have posted before. Sorry to be duplicating, but it is a worthwhile read if you have not seen it before.

 

It’s Bitter Cold with a Howling Wind and Snow. Let’s Ride.

By Gene Tenner

I bicycle 52 weeks per year. I hate cold weather. I ride anyhow. I commute 12 miles each weekday and ride more than that on weekend days, regardless of Chicago’s brutal winter, and I am always comfortable.

And, yes, you can, too.

There are 3 problems to overcome if you are going to ride in the winter: attitude, clothing and safety.

Attitude

I am an old guy, a baby boomer. If I can do it, you can ride year round, too. Look at every wintry ride as a new challenge to overcome.  You are not going to let some snowflakes, a few fahrenheits or a westerly wind keep you from staying fit and full of vim, vigor and vitality this winter. As the temperature drops, each ride becomes a new challenge to overcome, a new personal best to achieve. Do not let this old guy beat you.

Clothing

There are 2 basic clothing rules to follow.

First: Whatever touches your skin (bottom layer) should be moisture management fabric that whisks moisture off your skin. If your perspiration gets cold, you get cold. If your skin stays dry, you stay warm.

Second: Your top layer should be a waterproof and breathable fabric. Gore-Tex is great, but just one of many other similar fabrics on the market. These fabrics retain heat, allow perspiration to escape and keep water out. Remarkable stuff. The rest of staying warm is adjusting the layers in between to match the weather outside.

Chart. So, where do you start? Well, I have been winter riding for more than two decades. By the time November approaches, I have forgotten what I wore in March. I now keep a spreadsheet of what I need to wear to stay warm in 5 degree increments. If it is windy (5-10 mph) I take 5 degrees off the temperature on the chart. Very windy (10-20 mph) I take 10 degrees off the temperature. Over 20 mph I bundle up as best I can and pray.

To help you along, I have included a sample spreadsheet similar to what I use. Because you and I are different sizes, body types and have different tolerances and metabolic rates, your sheet will be different. So, as you head into winter, start experimenting. Add, subtract and find something better that works for you

Cost is important for all of us. Because cycling is my transportation, my fitness membership and my passion, I am willing to part with more cash to keep riding all year. Your budget may not allow that. So, you may not be able to afford waterproof, breathable socks, electric insoles or a Gore-Tex jacket, but there are plenty of options that are close enough, that should keep you comfortable.

Where? Most of my solutions are not found at bicycle shops or on internet cycling stores. Most I find at other locations that are meant for skiing, camping or some other non-cycling purpose. Bicycle products seem to only keep me warm if it is 40 degrees or warmer. For example, booties for clip-less pedals fail to keep me warm, because there is a big hole in the middle of the sole that allows the cold in. Stylish and aerodynamic fashions look nice hugging your body, but baggy pants and a loose jacket add an extra air-pocket layer that becomes more insulation to keep you warm. An expensive pair of bicycle shoes may look hip, but a $10 pair of lightweight, furry slippers keep your feet warmer.

Mittens. Because your four fingers are keeping each other warm in mittens, they are much better than gloves at keeping your hands warm.

Hygiene. What about being stinky at work? Well, there is not as much sweat when you ride in the winter, because your body is trying to stay warm, not cool off with sweat. So, personal hygiene is less of an issue. A roll of paper towels, baby wipes, hand sanitizer and deodorant is all you need to freshen up after a ride to work, and most of the time you do not need much of that. I pack my work clothes and wear my bike clothes on my ride and then change in a washroom stall.

Safety

Winter more than any other time requires attention to your safety.

1 Safety Rule. The number one basic rule to riding the streets of Chicago in winter is behave like a car. Follow the same rules of the road on your bike that you would in a car.

Be a Car. That means stopping for stoplights, no riding between lanes, staying in your lane and not between lanes, following one-way streets the right way, signaling turns and no swerving in and out of lanes. When you behave like a car, other cars will recognize, respect and drive safely around you. Wrong way down a one-way or blowing red lights is not behaving like a car and an invite to disaster.

Wear a helmet. Try this: Let a cantaloupe fall from the top of your head and see what happens when it hits the ground. Your un-helmeted skull hitting a curb at 12 mph is worse. If you want bystanders to see your brains being shoveled into a baggie after an accident, try a helmet-less ride.

Smooth and Easy. I ride a recumbent trike with two wheels up front and one in the back. My butt sits low to the ground, like riding a go-cart. The two upfront wheels give me the stability I need for winter riding in snow, over ice or on sand and mud. I do not fall off or over. You two-wheelers need to be even more careful. Ride as if you have a carton of eggs balanced on your rear rack. Sudden starts, stops and swerves will send the carton flying. You do not want that. You want a smooth, even ride that will give you early warnings and help you spot a patch of ice or a snow-filled pothole and give cars an opportunity to react to you while they are in the same slick conditions.

Bikes. Road bikes with skinny tires do not do well in the snow. If this is you, invest in a winter bike. Mountain bikes and hybrids with bigger tires will work much better. Let some of the air out of the tires to give you more street contact. Yeah, you go slower. But, being slow and safe is better than being fast and dead.

Lights. You need lighting in the winter. The days are shorter and it is often dark on both commutes. Light your bike with blinking white lights on the front and blinking red lights on the back (remember, behave like a car), so you can be seen by other bikes and cars. If you need a light to see the pavement, get one for your helmet, not your bike. A bike-mounted light will only point where the bike is pointed, so while you are making a turn the light is pointing off in space, not where you are turning into. You can turn your head with a helmet-mounted light and see the future of your turn. Reflecting tape on your bike or reflecting clothing will help you be seen even better, adding to your safety.

Eyes and Ears. Your eyes and ears are the two senses you rely on to keep safe while cycling. When you talk on a cell phone or listen to music on your headphones, you eliminate 50 percent of your safety senses. You cannot hear approaching cars, bikes behind you, an “on your left” warning from a passing cyclist or an aggressive dog coming from a blind spot that wants your lower leg as its next meal.

Share the Road. You have the same legal right to a street lane that a car does, but that does not mean you get to abuse the privilege. In a two lane street stay as far to the right as possible to allow motorists to pass you comfortably, but not close enough to parked cars that could door you easily. Right of center and 3 feet from parked cars is good. Car drivers treat you with more respect when you give them safe options to get around you.

Lube. Rusted brakes are killers. Your bike has oiled moving parts and the salt and chemicals put on the streets to melt the ice and snow will eliminate that oil faster than you think. When your chain starts to turn a brownish color, it is time to add oil to your chain. While you have the oil in hand, add it to your brakes, their levers and your derailleurs. Go to a bike shop and ask for a good winter oil and then ask them to show you how to apply it. Their advice is invaluable.

See 360 Degrees. Make your ride even safer with mirrors so you can see in back of you, too. It is good to know when a car or fellow cyclist is about to pass you or how much time you have to signal and switch lanes. You can put them on your bike or on your helmet. I have done both. On a two-wheeler I like a helmeted mirror. I have two mounted on my trike.

Flags. Because I sit low to the ground on my trike, I am less visible than you two-wheelers. So, I use two flags-on-poles that extend from my seat posts. I taped extra strips of non-adhesive tape to the poles to add to my visibility. It may look dorky, but it adds to my safety. It can add to yours, too.

Horns and Bells. While passing another bicyclist it is good to warn them of your intentions. “On your left” is great, but I also have a horn that I honk. Bells work, too, but their high pitch seems to get less notice.

Courtesy. Flipping off a honking car may feel good, but it is of no value when facing a 5,000 pound vehicle that wants revenge. Be polite. Ignore the idiots and continue on your Zen way.

The Lakefront Bicycle Path is where I do most of my riding. If you use it, too, then this one simple rule would make all our lives more enjoyable and safer; stay to the right except to pass. Whether you are a cyclist or a pedestrian, “slower traffic stay right” (remember, behave like a car) is a good rule to follow to enjoy our gorgeous lakefront. Riding or walking single-file helps, too, as does warning riders you are about to pass.

Baggage. In the wintry slush and snow we steer and lean more than we than we do in warmer times and this challenges our balance. We weave more and find it harder to hold a straight line. Whether you are commuting or coming back from the grocery store, a backpack or handlebar-mounted rack will shift and pull you more in the direction of your steering than a back-mounted rack. A rear rack with bungee cords or bags (panniers, in bike lingo) will keep you on course far better.

So, my fellow wheelers, you now know everything I know about cycling in Chicago’s winter. See you out there.

Gene Tenner is the Communications Director for the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, which represents 47,000 union men and women in three states who swing a hammer for a living. He works as a volunteer to aid refugees from southern Sudan and its western region Darfur who are now living in Illinois. He is on 46th Ward Alderman James Cappelman’s Transportation, Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Team and is the guy on the lakefront with the pink flamingo on his trike.

Bicycle Weather Clothing

 

 

 

 

Temp.

Head

Abdomen

Legs

Feet

Hands

60+

Skull cap

T-shirt

shorts

Sandal shoes, ankle sox

 

55 to 59

Knit cap

Long Sleeve t-shirt,

Quick-dry Pants

Lightweight shoes, socks

Garden gloves

50 to 54

Light Balaclava

Wicking long-sleeve-shirt + Snow Jacket

Quick-dry pants

Lightweight shoes, socks

Garden gloves

45 to 49

Light Balaclava

Wicking long-sleeve-shirt + Snow Jacket

Quick-dry  Pants + Long Johns

Lightweight Shoes, 2 wicking socks

Wool gloves

40 to 44

Light or Med Balaclava

Wicking long-sleeve-shirt + Snow Jacket

Quick-dry  Pants + Long Johns

Lightweight Shoes, 2 wicking socks

Wool gloves

35 to 39

Light + Med Balaclava

Wicking long-sleeve-shirt + Snow Jacket

Quick-dry  Pants + Long Johns

Slippers, 2 wicking socks

Wool gloves

30 to 34

Light + Med Balaclava

Wicking long-shirt + Snow Jacket

Ski pants

Slippers, 2 wicking socks

Wool gloves

25 to 29

Light + Med Balaclava

Wicking long-sleeve-shirt + Snow Jacket with Liner

Ski pants

Slippers, 2 wicking socks + heavy wool socks

Gore-tex mittens

20 to 24

Light + Heavy Balaclava

Wicking long-sleeve-shirt + Snow Jacket with Liner

Ski pants + Long Johns

Slippers, 2 wicking socks + heavy wool socks

Gore-tex mittens

15 to 19

Light + Heavy Balaclava

Wicking long-sleeve-shirt + Snow Jacket with Liner

Ski pants + Long Johns

Slippers, 2 wicking socks + heavy wool socks

Gore-tex mittens + liner gloves

10 to 14

Light + Heavy l Balaclava

Wicking long-sleeve-shirt + Snow Jacket with Liner

S. pants + Long Johns

Slippers, 2 wicking socks + 2 heavy wool socks

Gore-tex mittens + liner gloves

5 to 9

Light + Heavy Balaclava

Wicking long-sleeve-shirt + Snow Jacket with Liner

Ski pants + Long Johns

Slippers, 2 wicking socks + 2 heavy wool socks

Gore-tex mittens + liner gloves

0 to 4

Light + Heavy Balaclava

Wicking long-sleeve-shirt + Snow Jacket with Liner

Ski pants + Long Johns

Slippers, 2 wicking socks + 2 heavy wool socks

Gore-tex mittens + liner gloves

m1 to m5

Light + Medium +Heavy Balaclava

Wicking long-sleeve-shirt + Snow Jacket with Liner

Ski pants + Long Johns

Slippers, 2 wicking socks + 2 heavy wool socks

Gore-tex mittens + wool gloves

m6 to m10

Light + Medium +Heavy Balaclava

Wicking long-sleeve-shirt + Snow Jacket with Liner

Ski pants + Long Johns

Slippers, 2 wicking socks + 3 heavy wool socks

Gore-tex mittens + wool gloves

m11 to m15

Light + Medium +Heavy Balaclava

Wicking long-sleeve-shirt + Snow Jacket with Liner

Ski pants + Long Johns

Slippers, 2 wicking socks + 3 heavy wool socks

Gore-tex mittens + wool gloves

m16 to m20

Light + Medium +Heavy Balaclava

Wicking long-sleeve-shirt + Snow Jacket with Liner

 

 

 

 

Places that were tricky last year:

- right north of the 43rd street playground / bathroom, there is often a fairly sizable puddle that freezes.  That can be very tricky.

- black ice sometimes develops along the stretch north from 31st Street beach to McCormick Place.  Oddly enough, the dog-leg around the construction was not a real problem, even with that wierd grade.

- given any snow/thaw/snow/thaw/freeze cycle, there is a good chance that the plowing will not get to the level of the path, and you will instead have frozen ruts left by no-good communist runners and pedestrians, whose now frozen foot tracks can make riding tricky.   Don't they know that path is for me only?

I typically try to avoid putting on studded tires until I have bitten it twice because of black-ice.  That usually means I am putting on studded tires in January.  Of course, if I just lowered the air pressure in my tires (say, to between 40-50 psi, rather than at 80-90 psi) and perhaps rode a bit more slowly (say, kept it around 12-14 mph, rather than at 16-18mph) I wouldn't need to change tires.


S said:

The park district is pretty good about plowing and salting the path.  I find that it's usually plowed within a day of any snowfall, a lot of times before the streets are plowed.  You can get studded tires if you'd like but I think it probably won't be necessary.  However I do agree that the dogleg at 31st might be a bit sketchy if the path is the least bit slippery and I'm not sure how well it'll be plowed given the grade it's at.

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