Riding a bicycle is an excellent form of exercise. Riding a bicycle improves a person’s health by increasing a bicyclist’s cardiovascular fitness, joint mobility, muscle strength and flexibility while decreasing their stress levels and body fat levels. While biking has been a popular form or recreation and exercise for decades, biking to work as a form of transportation is a semi-recent trend that continues to gain popularity.
For bicyclists that love to take advantage of the cost savings and health benefits tied to biking, winter provides some obstacles in their ability to continue to ride. And when you have lengthy winters such as the ones we experience here in Minnesota, the biking offseason can be frustrating. However, there are some solutions for bikers to keep riding during the winter. Here are some tips for doing so safely.
This tip might seem a bit obvious, but you’ll want to make sure you keep your body warm during any outdoor exercise activity during the winter. It can be hard for athletes to strike a balance between staying too warm and being too cold while working out in the winter months. To best prepare yourself, make sure that you are taking a detailed look at the weather forecast before you head out for a winter bike ride.
With the right preparation, working out in cold weather can be safe. Your body will just need to work harder to keep itself warm during the winter. It does the same thing when you’re working out in very hot weather, except in those environments your body works to stay cool. Your muscles and your lungs are two parts of your body that may feel the effects of the cold.
Give your lungs some assistance by ensuring that you are hydrating before rides, and by wearing a wind-resistant mask or scarf to make the intake of cold air easier on your lungs. To keep your muscles warm, make sure you’re stretching your legs before you start your ride. Also, dress in layers so you can add and remove layers as needed during the ride.
Winter Bike Equipment
Whether you’re taking a short ride into work or setting out on a long ride on the weekend, you’ll want to make sure that you have all the requisite bike equipment to enjoy your winter ride in safety. One of the first things you’ll want to equip your bike with for winter riding is different tires. Especially if you’re going to be riding in snow.
There are plenty of bike tires that are manufactured to provide bikers with a better grip on the ground during adverse weather conditions. Typically, you’ll want tires that are fatter than your standard tires and/or features studs that are designed to combat ice and snow. Such is the case with driving a car in the winter, it can be hard to tell when you’re about to hit a patch of snow or ice while riding your bike. If you don’t have the right equipment and hit a nasty patch of road, your likelihood of suffering an injury goes up. Falling off your bike is never pleasant, but falling onto a cold and frozen ground is even worse.
Perhaps you’re an expert winter bicyclist and have all the necessary winter biking equipment you need to traverse the winter conditions with ease. But that doesn’t protect you from the unknown variables that are attached to winter biking, especially if you’re riding on the streets.
As we learn every winter in Minnesota with cars piling up on the sides of highways and interstates, not everyone drives with the caution and care required in winter conditions. It’s important for winter bicyclists to keep that in mind. Part of staying safe while riding in the winter is to be an observant and defensive rider while on the roads. Some cars struggle to identify and react to bicyclists riding on the roads during normal weather conditions, so bikers need to be extra cautious of vehicle drivers during the winter.
Have a Contingency Plan
If you’re planning to head on for a winter ride on your bike, it’s always wise to have a contingency plan of action should you encounter inclement weather. In the midwest the weather can change in a hurry, and sometimes it changes before our meteorologists can detect it. If you’re planning to encounter slight wind and flurries of snow, and all of a sudden you’re riding and there’s inches of slippery snow piling up, you’re going to need to spring your contingency plan.
Always bring your cell phone with you on rides so you can phone a friend or family member in the event that you need a ride. If you can’t ride through the conditions, chances are you’re going to be stranded out in the cold on your bike. With cold temperatures, standing idle as your body temperature drop can lead to hypothermia and frostbite.
If you can’t get a hold of anyone to give you a ride, another tip to ensure you’re covered safely is to keep some quarters and a bus route map in your riding bag. That way, if the weather takes a turn for the worst, you can utilize metro transit to secure a safe ride home. Most of the buses and trains in town have bike racks for riders to store their bikes as they ride.
Treat Winter Injuries at the Urgency Room
If you, or your child, suffers a winter injury while biking, or in another winter activity, visiting the Urgency Room is a great way to speed up your path to recovery. We offer exceptional medical care in a timely and organized manner. If you’re in the Minneapolis / Saint Paul area, head to your nearest Urgency Room in Eagan, Vadnais Heights or Woodbury. We can treat anything from a cut suffered from taking a spill while biking to the season flu. Skip crowded intake rooms and waiting endless hours just to be seen. When minutes matter, come to The Urgency Room for your comprehensive health needs