I almost ran over a big, fat pigeon the other day. You see, it wasn’t my fault, nor was it the cat-sized bird’s fault. The freezing wind was picking up and it stung my eyes until they watered-which temporarily blurred my vision. As I turned the corner, what appeared to be a plastic bag floating around was actually a portly pigeon. I slammed on my brakes, and the pigeon bobbed its head at me, clearly annoyed. The changing weather is becoming a hazard for biker’s and chubby pigeons everywhere, but don’t get disheartened and decide to bring your bike indoors just yet.
Unfortunately for us Pennsylvania bikers, late fall and winter bring ridiculously low temperatures, face-numbing winds and a desire to never leave a warm bed-ever. Fall is such a joke. It seems like it lasts for about 15 days and then unbearable winter weather comes and brings discomfort to everyone, especially bike riders. So, as you’re pedaling against the ferocious wind, how can you avoid becoming the next Mutter Museum exhibit for gangrene?
You need to stay dry in blustery weather. Cold, wet clothes against your skin make you more prone to frostbite. While you might not be biking in snow-covered mountains, Philadelphia winters can be pretty mean.
By bundling up and layering your clothing, you can add or remove clothing as you ride along, instead of being weighed down by a bulky coat. A flannel button-down shirt with a thermal long-sleeve underneath, and a pair of dorky long johns will really trap heat while you zip through the freezing city. Make sure to wear breathable fabrics, such as clothing made of cotton. Don’t be sad that you can’t wear your sky blue polyester leisure suit while bike riding.
“The best bargain on cold weather jerseys is an old wool cardigan. The button or zip-up feature allows for good ventilation and it really does breathe and hold the warmth even if wet,” advises a Web site known as www.bikexchange.com. If long johns aren’t your thing, sport some thick tube socks that cover a large portion of your leg. And even though they look really cool, those hobo gloves with the fingers cut off are pretty ineffective at preventing phalange frostbite. To keep your hands toasty, mittens are your best bet. Unlike regular gloves, they don’t separate your fingers, and this allows the heat to stay in place. Try to get mittens that will allow you to grip your handlebars and brakes easily. You don’t want to risk colliding into a pigeon.
A friend of mine wears a Balaclava while he rides his bike. This type of cap covers his whole head except his face (he looks like a ninja or a scary man). Try wearing this while walking around the city-it will freak everyone out. It’s also great for bike riding since it prevents windburn and teeth chattering. If Balaclavas don’t really suit your taste and you’d rather freeze than be unfashionable, wrap a big scarf tightly around your neck and pull on a hat. Wearing a fitted knit hat (under your helmet, of course) is crucial for cold bike riders. If you skip wearing a hat, your ears will sting for hours after a brisk five-minute commute.
“If you are not a fashion slave, a shower cap pulled over your helmet works pretty good,” recommended bikexchange.com.
The misery of winter doesn’t have to be too terrible if you’ve got the right apparel. You can still be cool but stay warm while bike riding in the cold.
Ellen Minsavage can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.