Braving the Chicago winter is a feat in itself, but there are some who take it head on: winter bikers. Rambler Buzz sat down with Haley Keegan and Ryan Young from ChainLinks, Loyola’s student-run, nonprofit bike shop, to find out how riders can stay warm and safe this season.
Keegan, the president of ChainLinks, said winter biking is not as scary as it may appear; as long as riders are properly prepared to take it on, they should manage just fine.
“The way I like break it down is that there are three different areas you need to be aware of whenever you ride: the rider, the bike, and the conditions,” said Young, the shop manager at ChainLinks.
One of the biggest challenges for winter bikers is keeping their body temperatures regulated; Young says it’s best to stay warm, but not sweaty. When riders stop after a long haul, they may feel hot, but Young warns that they may “get really cold, really fast.” This is where the importance of layering and wearing proper clothing comes in.
Keegan and Young both suggest a wind- and water-resistant outer layer, insulating middle layers, and a moisture-wicking layer against that skin that pulls sweat away from the body.
“It’s always better to have lots of thin layers,” Keegan said. That way, riders have more control in adjusting their body temperatures. Gloves, hats, or earmuffs are a must, and she has also found that keeping an extra pair of warm socks comes in handy—it’s all about keeping the feet, hands, and ears warm, she said.
A bike’s worst enemy in the winter is road salt. Though it is crucial for reducing the amount of ice on the roads—creating safer biking conditions—road salt can cause rust and corrosion if the bike is not regularly maintained.
“You want to keep your bike cleaner and more lubricated in the winter than you would in the summer,” Young said.
Young also suggested that riders should swap out their summer tires for wider ones with more grip to improve traction. Riders also might want to invest in extra lighting to remain visible to drivers and other cyclists in dark or snowy conditions.
With snow, ice, frigid temperatures, and reduced visibility, Young said cyclists should ride defensively, slowly, and carefully; that allows for more control if something goes awry.
Keegan said winter biking may appear more intimidating that it really is, but she still takes days off if there is ice on the roads—a very real danger. She said the city generally does a good job of blanketing the road with salt, but bikers should be on the lookout for icy patches in their paths.
Riders should also be aware of the symptoms of hypothermia and know when to stop and warm up, Young said.
Get ready to ride
Looking to “winterize” your bike? From Thanksgiving through spring break, ChainLinks will be available through appointment only for rentals and repairs, but it will be completely closed during winter break. Young said ChainLinks is always happy to answer questions or just talk about biking in general.
As a nonprofit bike shop, Keegan said ChainLinks is one of the cheapest options around, perfect for college students on a budget.
“We actually get a decent number of people who contact us in the winter,” she said.