Everyone gets all a-twitch about winter biking: Tips, cautions, etc. But, when it comes down to it, every season has its challenges for a bike commuter. Spring, often considered by cyclists as a special friend, is its own bag of fun. Now that DST has begun, extending daylight, here are some considerations for your spring bicycle commute:
- April showers: Rain. It happens. And sometimes it’s not forecasted, or the forecasts end up being screwy. Welcome to spring. It is a good idea to own some sort of raingear. The hardcore bike commuter might consider popping for the complete rainshell-and-pants combo. The more casual bike commuter will still find utility in a rain shell, as they double as a good outer wind layer as well. Find one in an appallingly bright color or with reflectivity, since part of the point is you’re wearing it in suboptimal visibility conditions to start with.
- More on wet: The giant mounds of snow may still be melting into the streets. Puddles are a fact of life in spring. This will result in wet tootsies. Even if you are not one to wear cycling-specific shoes, you will want to pack along a dry pair of shoes and socks for wear at the office. Wet socks are not only uncomfortable, they get to smelling as the day goes on and will make all of your co-workers hate you. If you bike commute regularly, consider abandoning a pair of shoes at the office for switching into when you get in.
- Braking & Traction Issues: Only 17% of bicycle accidents involve motor vehicles, per the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. A more frequent cause of pain? Falls due to roadway debris, wet roadways, cracks and other issues. Road grit and wetness can seriously reduce your braking power. Those metal plates on bridges can also be pretty bad when wet. Be aware of all these things when riding.
- Ziploc = Friend: Giant ziploc bags are good for packing along clothes if you need to do such things. I don’t care how waterproof your panniers/backpack/whatever claims to be. The jumbo ziploc provides you added protection and some security that you won’t be wandering into an early meeting in damp pants that look like you can’t hold your coffee long enough to hit the bathroom.
- Layers: Everyone talks about layers for winter riding. But in winter, you’re likely to wear the same layers morning and evening. In spring? Don’t count on it. Early in the day, it tends to be cooler, and when you get out, a layer or two less may be called for due to warming during the day. Be prepared to tote the unneeded layers home with you, for you will need them again in the morning.
- Lights: Lights are needed for winter commuting, because Minnesota gets 3.2 minutes of daylight in the heart of winter. Do not remove the lights because DST begins. All it takes is one jolly good flat and you’re running late, and you’ll be glad to still have them on board. Trust me.
- Pothole Alert: Spring is pothole heck. Nothing can cheese your nice wheel like an early-spring crater. They may creep up unexpectedly as snow melts, as plows will compress permafrost into the cavern while all is still frozen. Be on the lookout, and don’t haul out your fancy wheels for fun until you’ve seen some public works trucks on the route.