Even in the midst of Evanston winter, you’ll see Northwestern’s most dedicated cyclists biking to class. At Chicago’s Winter Bike Rally this January, experts like Brett Dightman from Evanston’s Wheel and Sprocket and Clare McDermott from the Active Transportation Alliance shared tips for surviving the winter bike commute.
The most important advice is to layer strategically. This doesn’t mean throwing on all of your layers; one of the biggest dangers in the winter is actually sweating too much and freezing solid at a stoplight. Balance your temperature so you’re not too hot or too cold. You don’t have to buy a $300 jacket; McDermott suggests finding thin wool sweaters from second-hand stores.
Protect your extremities:
Make sure your hands and feet are shielded from the cold with warm gloves and socks. If your hands are still numb with gloves, Dightman suggests Bar Mitts. These foam compartments on your handlebars will keep your hands toasty in Evanston’s brutal winds.
Traction is key:
Winter and early spring bring cold temperatures and slick, icy streets. Bike tires with little surface area struggle in these conditions. McDermott recommends something that has more grip to it, like mountain biking or studded tires, the bike equivalent of chains for cars. You can typically find these for $60 to $70.
Know when to take the bus:
Biking in traffic is already tricky without snow and ice. If the streets and bike lanes aren’t clear and you don’t have tires that keep you upright on ice, the best option is to walk or take public transit. As Ken Ehrman, a Garrett professor who bikes 14 miles to Northwestern every day, puts it, “I’d rather take the bus than die.”