Winter Cycling

Posted on December 5, 2010 – 3:38 AM | by OldManFoster
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By Melody Stone Photos by Scott Duncan

An avid cyclist won’t let a little rain deter them from hopping on a bike, but the average person might need a little more persuasion to take the winter cycling plunge. There are a few things you can do to make wet weather cycling a little more enjoyable and keep you clean and dry.

Bob Rolke, manager of the Bicycle Business on Freeport, offered up some winter cycling tips.  Rolke knows that riding in the rain can be miserable, but he claims that with the right equipment, it can actually be fun.   His advice: fenders. Fenders keep water from your wheels off your pants and back, thereby avoiding the unsightly skunk tail. A pair of good fenders will run around $35 and will make all the difference in the world.

Once you’ve acquired a pair of fenders the second thing you’ll need is a good set of lights. The lights should be bright enough to not only alert cars to your presence but also to help you see what’s in front of you and navigate potentially slippery roads.  Front and back lights are now required for night riding, but even if you’re in compliance with the law, you can never have too much light. In addition to reflectors and a headlight, having a red flashing back light is a great way to make you more visible. Wearing reflective rain coats and bright colors is also advisable.   “The more light the better,” says Rolke.

Finally, says Rolke, you’ll need a light rain jacket and something to keep the water off your legs. There are many products out there and depending on how far you’re biking and if you need to arrive presentable, a combination of options will work.  Rain Legs strap on water proof covers protect the upper leg from wind, rain and cold while still being breathable. They’re easy to carry around and cheaper than full rain pants at a price of about $45.  For the upper body there are many poncho options available which maintain breath-ability while providing a great deal of coverage. “If you have a pair of fenders and something to keep you dry it’s not that bad,” Rolke said. “I ride pretty much year round.”

Once you get in the habit of riding rain or shine it’s important to keep your bike clean. Riding in wet conditions puts more wear and tear on the chain and gears. You should keep your brake pads clean because they can wear down quickly if not cleaned properly. If your bike is getting dirty, so will you. You might want to acquire a waterproof bag to carry an extra change of clothes for work, just in case. South Sacramento resident Brian Laplander started a water resistant bike bag company called Car Sick Designs. Laplander said his favorite time to ride is in the rain and the dark.

“We did a ride today in the rain and everything that was in our bags was dry,” he said on a rainy November afternoon. “They’re very water resistant.”

Laplander started designing bike bags when he bought an “extracycle,”-a cargo bike extension.  The extracycle was great, but it didn’t come with saddle bags.  Laplander’s grandfather was an upholsterer and Laplander’s mother inherited his industrial sewing machine. So, Laplander designed the bags and his mother put them together. This got him thinking, ‘why not start making custom bike bags?’ So he did. Car Sick Designs was started in September of 2009 and they can be found at Whitworth Cycles in Midtown or at  “[Our bags] are more individual than going to the bike store and buying something,” Laplander said. “They all have their own style and color.”

Laplander himself rides his electric bicycle (a bike with an electric motor and rechargeable battery) out to Roseville for his day job as a body shop mechanic at least three times a week. He wears a backpacking parka and rain pants and says that does the trick. He says that keeping your shoes dry is a challenge; he wears backpacking boots and then covers them with water resistant booties he made from the same material as his bags. He doesn’t sell the booties yet, but says he may soon.

Not everyone who chooses to ride in the wet and windy weather is as enthusiastic about the process as Laplander and Rolke.  Midtown resident and Sacramento City College communications professor Jared Anderson gave up his car in 1998 and has been cycling in rain or shine since.  “It’s unpleasant.” Anderson said. “But I got over it.”

Anderson’s secret: Bring a change of clothes and don’t let getting wet bother you. “It’s just water coming out of the sky. It’s not a big deal.” He makes the point that even if he drove he would get just as wet walking from the parking lot to the classroom so he might as well ride a bike.  Another trick Anderson learned over the years is to take a hotel shower cap and cover the bike seat while it’s in the rain, so it says dry.

Rolke said he never had a problem arriving to work presentable.  “I don’t get wet or dirty at all,” Rolke said. “With the right gear you can arrive where you’re trying to go clean and dry.”

The Bicycle Business, 3077 Freeport Boulevard, (916) 442-5246

Whitworth Cycle Inc, 2311 S Street, 916-457-7247

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