We know, you're saying to yourself: winter biking, really?
Yes, winter biking, really. Did you know that biking for just 30 minutes each day reduces the risk of heart disease by a whopping 50%? Aside from biking relieving stress and anxiety, it helps shed pounds, and it even tones the arms and legs. Not only that, but biking has become one of the fastest growing forms of transportation in the U.S. No doubt, biking is all the rage, but winter biking seems to be taking center stage these days.
Fitness buffs and commuters alike are grabbing their bikes and taking to the street in droves, even when the ground is covered with snow and ice. Although biking during other seasons offers many benefits, winter biking presents much tougher, yet positive physical challenges and it’s sure cure for cabin fever.
Even if it’s just 20 minutes, researchers say soaking up some sun while exercising in the a.m. during the winter months can combat winter depression or SAD (seasonal affective disorder). You see, light rouses the production of cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3), which helps keep serotonin levels high during the winter months. Higher serotonin levels (serotonin is also called the "happy hormone") help boost the mood.
Reaping the benefits of extra serotonin production would be tough to accomplish while darting from warm place to warm place during the winter months. So, if you think you’re ready to embrace the cold weather and start a winter biking routine, all you have to do is make sure you have good set of wide, high traction tires, excellent biking skills, and the right gear.
The three most important areas to consider before gearing up are the feet, hands, and head. For the feet, consider wearing a solid pair of waterproof boots with Thinsulate. For the hands, the best bet is to buy leather glove shells and synthetic liners. You can also layer regular gloves, but just make sure you are able to maneuver your bike, and brake, without fully removing your gloves. Keeping the head warm is easy. A few thin layers should do the trick and don’t forget to wear a helmet.
For the rest of the body, think layers. Long underwear and/or sweats, and a pair of waterproof/windproof outer pants should work just fine for the lower body. Dressing the upper body varies based on your level of comfort, level of exertion, and weather conditions. A polypropylene undershirt combined with a medium-weight synthetic middle layer and a water-resistant, breathable shell is probably all you need on cold days.
On days when the wind chill factor is particularly low, cover your body from head to toe. Wear a balaclava to guard your face as well as a headband and ski hat to cover your ears. Goggles can protect your eyes as well as fill any gaps between the ski cap, headband, and balaclava.
If you’re not on a bike path or other trail absent of street traffic, remember to always obey traffic signs and signals. Use designated bike lanes whenever possible, and if you find yourself riding at night, use the brightest headlights and taillights you can find. Oh, and don’t forget to have fun!