Winter Cycling

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Lighting

Most states require bicycles to have a white light in front

and a red light in back, both visible at 500 feet, as well as side reflectors

and a red rear reflector.

White strobes are brighter and are visible at a greater

distance but alone they don't meet legal requirements. Also, they blink less

frequently, making it harder for drivers to see your position and direction.

Flashers are best mounted on your bike or rear rack, where

they can be aimed precisely, rather than on clothes or packs, where they shift

around. Many people install more than one rear flasher.

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People who ride longer distances and in all conditions

usually use more powerful lights. Generator lights don't work well in wet or

snowy conditions and often don't give enough light at slow winter speeds. The

less sophisticated ones give no light when you're not moving.

Riding Technique

Try to pedal smoothly and relax your upper body, especially

on ice and soft snow.

When the bike starts going sideways, make small corrections

rather than over steering and weaving down the trail. Practice riding in a

straight line when the trail is good so it's easier under bad conditions. On some soft trails, higher speeds take

less effort than lower speeds because your tires sink into the snow less at

higher speed. When riding in a

group on soft trails, have the weaker, less skilled or badly equipped riders

lead so they can use the trail before the better riders cut it up. Road ice can provide lots of traction

or very little. Learn how the different types look and sound. Try not to brake

hard on the slippery sort, or if you must, use only your rear brake. Watch for

dry patches where you can do your braking or turning.

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Clothes

Cycling generates a lot of heat so clothes that are warm and

comfortable have to control the buildup of heat and moisture as well as

insulate and protect from wind. Your

particular metabolism, physical condition and riding style will determine

what's needed to keep you warm. Your

outer layer on top and bottom should have a windproof front and breathable

sides and rear.

Goretex and other "breathable" waterproof materials

become clogged with ice at below-freezing temperatures. As windproof front

materials these fabrics are acceptable but unnecessarily expensive. Multiple

light layers with neck zippers let you adjust your ventilation as you ride. Your base layer (against your skin) and

mid-layers should be synthetics or wool. Cotton in these layers will feel

wetter and colder than the above materials. No T-shirts! Carry headband, hat and facemask and

try them in different combinations. Uncovering your head is usually the

simplest way to dump heat. You may

need to change the sizing pads in your helmet or remove them entirely to fit

your winter headgear. Some hats are made specifically to fit under helmets. Try

taping over the vents in your helmet if your head gets too cold.

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