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Winter is here and the cold and snowy days are just ahead. If you are a cyclist, these extra challenging conditions mean a little extra caution is in order. Jason Walder, Vice President of Freshbikes, was kind enough to provide some extra guidance for cyclists this winter.
#1 Be Seen.
Jason says that there are two types of bike lights. There’s types of lights "to see" and there’s types of lights to "be seen." "I would always recommend a light to be seen just so you don’t get hit by a car," Walder says. It’s much safer to have both lights flashing on the front and back of your bike--back of the bike is a red light, the front of the bike is a white light. And those are just a safety aspect. But now the sun rises pretty late (something like 7 in change) and some people are already on their way to work. Having a light to see is pretty important to have this time of year." When shopping for lights to see, Walder suggests taking a careful look at lumen count. "You want to get a light with at least 500 to 700 lumens just so you can see the road," he says. "But they go all the way up to 3,000 lumens. You can get a 3600 lumen light that’s brighter than a BMW headlight. Something in the low thousand lumen light is a good starter just to light up the road going home."
#2 Be aware.
"People are so distracted this time of the year," Walder says. "With traffic, holiday parties, tight schedules and intending bad weather, just realize that people are in a bit of a more frantic state now than on a beautiful sunny afternoon in the middle of summer." Walder also added the importance of abiding by all traffic laws. "Make sure you’re not running red lights and stop signs and that you’re not passing cars on the wrong side."
#3 Make eye contact.
With so many distractions this time of year, making eye contact with cars plays an important role in helping you stay safe. "Eye contact is huge. If you come up to a four-way stop and you have a car that can take a left hand turn in front of you, try to make eye contact with the driver. That will assure you and they’ll know you’re there," Walder says.
#4 Don't over-dress.
Cyclists walk a fine line when it comes to dressing for a winter ride. On one hand, you risk hypothermia. On the other, you risk over-heating. That's why Walder suggests being uncomfortable (at first). "If you're always cold just day to day then you’re going to be freezing on the bike so bundle up a little extra," Walder says. "If you run at a regular temperature then a good rule of thumb is when you step outside for your bike ride, you should be cold the first 5 to 15 minutes. If you're layered properly, with the right gear, you’ll warm up and then be comfortable once you get going. It’s not a good idea to start out the ride very warm and comfortable because then you’ll probably be over heating once you get going. That’s the hardest part about winter riding—the first 5 to 10 minutes you’re probably going to be uncomfortable. But as long as you can get through that, then you’re very comfortable."
#5 Be social.
Numerous bike shops in and around D.C. host group rides all year long. By sorrounding yourself with others, you're more likley to have an extra hand in case of an emergency. Freshbikes hosts a Tuesday evening ride as well as Saturday morning rides. Check out their website for more details.
#6 Invest in some gear.
"There’s really no limit to when and where you can ride a bike," Wadler says. "People ride 24/7, 365 days all over the world from places like desert countries to Alaska in the snow. There’s products made to allow you to ride in the snow comfortably. There’s products made to ride through the ice. And there’s tons of clothing accessories to allow you to be comfortable in any temperature. You can go down in the single digits easily with the stuff we have in the store. So as long as you’re willing to invest a little bit in some gear and brave the cold, you can head out and have a good time."
Special Thanks to Jason for his help with this article.
About Freshbikes: "As the premier bike shop concept in the greater Washington D.C. area, Freshbikes locations in Arlington VA, Fairfax VA, and Bethesda MD offer a unique, large scale boutique cycling experience. Our flagship Northern Virginia location serves as the hub for our stores which are strategically placed throughout this incredible area. Our selection, service, and expertise is unrivaled among the best bike shops globally. With many of today’s top brands on display and more importantly in-stock, Freshbikes is the go-to cycling destination for any performance minded cyclist."