Pedaling Through Winter
Cold-weather commuting in Bozeman.
Despite Bozeman’s streets being covered in rain or snow for half the year, our town boasts a great number of bike commuters year-round. Surprisingly, winter is actually some peoples’ favorite time to bike. Bike lanes are typically open and there is a strong sense of accomplishment that comes with getting to where you need despite cold temps and tough conditions. Oftentimes, biking can be even faster than driving, because bikes don’t need to be warmed up and there aren’t any windows to defrost. “People think I’m crazy for heading out in the snow on my bike," says Bozeman bike commuter Danae Giannetti. "But it isn’t much different than heading out to ski or snowshoe in terms of gear and weather conditions.”
Here are some tips to make you more prepared and comfortable for biking around town this winter.
Winterize Your Bike
Depending on the bike you own, it’s advisable to change to larger tires with more surface area to accommodate winter road conditions. Additionally, having your tire pressure on the lower side will offer much better grip. Studded tires reduce crash risk and fenders keep you clean and dry. Stop by Summit Bike & Ski for a tune and some winter essentials. They've been around for nearly three decades—that's 30 years of expertise on winter bike commuting in Bozeman.
Plan Your Route
It may look a little different in winter than it does in summer. It helps to drive your route first (if not on a trail) so you can get an idea of which lanes are plowed and which are not. If the bike lanes are not, consider side roads that give you the best chance of having the whole road to yourself. Check out GoGallatin.org to help plan your route.
Clean Your Bike
While riding in the snow, you're going to collect a lot of slush and grime that will freeze and make your next ride trickier. Along with cleaning after every ride, it’s important to lube your chain at least once a week to keep things running smoothly. Did you know lubing your bike lock will help prevent it from freezing?
Even though Bozeman residents are used to seeing people biking on the road, they are not as likely to expect them in the winter. When biking, it’s important to stay visible, give cars space, and stay out of blind spots. Riding in the middle of the right-hand lane will make you the most visible. Drivers, make sure to watch out for bikers—grant at least three feet of room when passing.
Wearing layers allows you to adjust to changing weather conditions. On colder days, cover your face with a mask and wear ski goggles to protect your eyes. Consider buying a pair of hiking gaiters or rain pants to keep snow and slush off your pants. Finally, don't forget warm gloves and wool socks as your hands and feet are the most susceptible to the cold. For good winter gear, check out our local outdoor shops or one of the many second-hand stores around town.
Utilize appropriate lighting for the front and rear of your bike so that you can see and be seen. Higher-quality lights offer more visibility for both bikers and drivers. Also, consider reflective devices on your bike, helmet, panniers, shoes, or clothing.
For more information on how to safely improve your winter bike commuting game, follow @GoGallatin on Instagram and Facebook. Now bundle up, get out there, and enjoy the ride!