Tag Archives: bike adventure

AA great destination for a bike adventure riding the trails and bike friendly roads in the Twin Cities Gateway.

An endless bike adventure in the Twin Cities Gateway of Minnesota

by Andrew Ellis

Take a deep breath as you grip your handlebars and prepare for a bike adventure in the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities. You will feel as if you’re deep in the country. As this north metro community area borders the Mississippi River Trail it can be your personal playground while visiting.

When in the area you can: stop and fish; play a round of disc golf; go birding; travel through a chain of lakes by bike or canoe; or explore one of the many parks. You can even satisfy your inner sports fan by visiting the National Sports Center, with a velodrome track.

Stop along the trail in the Twin Cities Gateway for a some fishing.

Stop along the trail in the Twin Cities Gateway if wetting a line and catching some fish are a part of  your agenda.

The Twin Cities Gateway is made up of nine different bike-friendly communities: Anoka; Blaine;, Coon Rapids; Fridley; Ham Lake; Lino Lakes; Mounds View; New Brighton; and Shoreview. All unique in their own way they all offering relaxed small town-type atmospheres with plenty to do, perfect for anyone looking to get away and only minutes from the big city.

A friendly bike adventure get-away

The Twin Cities Gateway is just a short drive, or an easy commute by bike from Minneapolis or St Paul. Another major feature is the Mississippi River Trail  (MRT) following the rivers edge in three of the nine Getaway communities: Anoka; Coon Rapids; and Fridley. Plus the other six Gateway Cities have bike friendly roads and trails that lead to the MRT for a bike adventure.

After riding the trails and bike friendly roads in the Twin Cities Gateway enjoying a cold beverage with friends is a great way to seal the ride.

After riding the trails and bike friendly roads enjoy a cold beverage with friends at the Hammer Heart Brewery, it’s a great way to seal the ride.

 Mississippi River Trail (MRT)

The MRT starts at the headwaters of  Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota and passes through the Twin Cities Gateway before flowing into the Gulf, at the mouth of the river in Venice, Louisiana. While riding along the river in the Gateway communities you’ll pass many opportunities for site-seeing, so make sure your camera is fully charged.

Other Off-Road Trails and Parks

You can take the Rum River Regional Trail down to where it meets the MRT, maybe stopping in historic downtown Anoka along the way? There is also the scenic trails in Bunker Hills Regional Park offering heavily wooded and prairie flower landscapes. Or, take the thrilling Coon Creek Regional Trail that connects to the Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park and the MRT.

Stop along the trail in the Twin Cities Gateway for a round of disc golf.

Stop along the trail, in several of the parks in the Twin Cities Gateway for a round of disc golf.

For a more extensive rides you can also explore the trails along the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Park Reserve. Or, take the Rice Creek West Regional Trail back to the Mississippi River. This trail passes through Long Lake Park which has several trails that take you by the park’s namesake and Rush Lake. Another option are the trails in the Vadnais-Snail Lakes Regional Park which is filled to the brim and full of beautiful scenery as you switch from one trail to the next.

National Sports Center

If you’re tired of riding trails and want more of a challenge, check out the velodrome at the National Sports Center, in Blaine. The wooden track is open to the public every Thursday for single speed fun. The season begins in late spring and through the summer. Check out their website for more details.

For more info take a look at the At-A-Glance TC Gateway article

Now that you are considering an adventure to the Twin Cities Gateway, also check out our HaveFunBiking  At-A-Glance Twin Cities Gateway Article. Here you will find more details on where to stay, play, and explore this nine city area. Great for planning and to link to your your hand-held devise, for guaranteed fun.

Although these Adventure Bikes may look like a road bike, they offer features that allows for ridding off road trails.

Adventure bikes are super capable. Are they the right bike for you?

John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Over the past few years, a new category of bicycle has been developing – The Adventure Bike. Although these Adventure Bikes may look like a road bike, they offer features that allows for ridding off road trails. With such versatility, could these bikes really do it all?

Why are these adventure bikes different?

Where adventure bikes differ from a road bike is the overall position. adventure bikes typically have a higher bar and shorter top tube than its road counterpart. Also, some Adventure bikes can handle a mountain bike tire. Now you may be wondering “if you can fit mountain bike tires in these bikes, what makes them different from a mountain bike?” I’m glad you asked. Rather than a mountain bike geometry that is focused on quick handling and maneuverability, Adventure bikes geometries focus on stability.

Where can you ride an adventure bike?

Adventure bikes can be ridden anywhere. The general position on these bikes allows the rider to be comfortable and in control on all types of surfaces. Therefore, riding off road can be as manageable as riding on the pavement. Additionally, adventure bikes can accept narrow road tires, large mountain bike tires, and every size in between. These tire options lend to the Adventure bikes versatility. Also, keep in mind that Adventure bikes all use disc brakes as well, so stopping won’t be an issue even if conditions get poor.

Can You Carry All Your Stuff?

The adaptability of an Adventure bike is another great reason to own one. Assuming you want to take multi day trips and need to carry camping equipment, food, clothing, etc. Adventure bikes are built with dozens of braze-ons (threaded inserts that allow you to bolt racks, bottles and fenders to your bike). Many adventure bikes come stock with front and rear racks, so carrying your gear is never an issue. Don’t be concerned if you aren’t into the rack and fender look, all these bikes still look great unloaded.

Is There Anything an Adventure Bicycle Can’t Do?

Yes and no. Technically, an Adventure bike is stable enough to be ridden on almost any surface, but it won’t excel on all of them. For instance, while they look like a road bike, they don’t have the same efficiencies. In the same fashion, Adventure bikes are not as nimble as a mountain bike and won’t offer the quick handling you would want to attack your local singletrack riding. Therefore, while an Adventure bike may be the best choice to tackle all terrains, it won’t offer the same ride as a bike built with a more specific purpose.

Has your interest been piqued? If so, I encourage you to head over to your local bike shop and take a test ride. Because of the versatility, efficiency, and comfort of the Adventure bike, more shops are stocking them than ever.

Fond summer memories riding the canals and river in the Netherlands as these cyclist demonstrates enjoying a bike and barge tour from Amsterdam to Bruge.

Bike Pic March 24, fond summer memories stirs plans for 2018 riding

Fond summer memories riding the canals and river in the Netherlands as these cyclist demonstrates enjoying a bike and barge tour from Amsterdam to Bruge.

View the new  National Bike Guide and all the fun rides coming up in 2018.

Thanks for viewing today’s ‘fond summer memories’ Pic of the Day

Now rolling into our 11th year as a bike tourism media, our goal is to continue to encourage more people to bike and have fun. While highlighting all the unforgettable places for you to ride. As we continue to showcase more destinations you can have fun at we hope the photos we shoot are worth a grin. As you scroll through the information and stories we have posted, enjoy!

Do you have a fun bicycle related photo of yourself or someone you may know that we should post? If so, please send your picture(s) to: [email protected]. Include a brief caption (for each), of who is in the photo (if you know?) and where the picture was taken. Photo(s) should be a minimum of 1,000 pixels wide or larger, to be considered. If we do use your photo, you will receive photo credit and acknowledgment on Facebook and Instagram.

As we continues to encourage more people to bike, please view our Destination section at HaveFunBiking.com for your next bike adventure – Also, check out the latest  Bike Guide, mobile friendly as we enter into our 9th year of producing print and digital guides.

So bookmark HaveFunBiking.com and find your next adventure. Please share all our pic’s with your friends and don’t forget to smile. We may be around the next corner with a HFB camera ready to document your next move while you are riding and having fun. Capturing you in one of our next ‘Pic of the Day’ posts.

Have a great day and a memorable new year!

Picture yourself riding the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) through the wilds of Minnesota, pedaling America's famous 3,000 mile bike system

The Mississippi River MRT in Minnesota, a bike adventure of a lifetime

by Russ Lowthian
Picture yourself riding the MRT (Mississippi River Trail) through the wilds of Minnesota.
Pedal along with family and friends at your own pace on this Star of the North adventure.
This is the first leg of America’s famous 3,000 mile bicycle trail system, using bike-friendly roads and multi-use pathways. Leading several MRT bike tours over the years and referencing
my book Road Biking Minnesota, you may find some of my observations, of interest.








The full Minnesota journey, from the Mississippi’s headwaters, near Park Rapids, to the Iowa border is roughly 620 miles. To keep the daily mileage comfortable for plenty of time visiting the river towns along the way, the following route descriptions are spread over nine days. Depending on how much time you can spend on any given bike vacation, this overview makes it easy to break it apart for multiple bike getaways.

As you read the following, please visit the embedded links offering short video clips and maps of the Mississippi trail system. To get a better feel for what you will see and experience leaving Itasca State Park on the MRT, see the first video clip here. The information in this video and subsequent videos are made possible by: the MN DNR; the MN Historical Society; Explore Minnesota Tourism; and the National Park Service.


MRT – Day 1 from the Mississippi Headwaters to Bemidji



After enjoying a hearty breakfast at the historic Douglas Lodge, in Itasca State Park, it’s time to roll out. First you will need to pedal a few miles through the towering pines to where the Mississippi River begins. At the Headwaters parking lot, walk your bike down the trail. There, dip your rear wheel in the stream to celebrate the beginning of your journey. You may hear one of Minnesota’s loons cheering you on. Departing out of the parks north entrance, follow the  internationally recognized Mississippi River Trail. Pedaling a scenic county road in a northeasterly direction this 30-plus mile stretch offers a beautiful rolling terrain. Smell the air as you pass by patches of pine forests and an occasional old farm setting. Soon you are pedaling into the first city on the Mississippi River.

Rolling into Bemidji

Arriving in Bemidji, the MRT enters on a city trail that connects to the Paul Bunyan Trail. As the current of the river flows into Lake Bemidji, this is a good place to consider for your first  evening. While here discover all this community has to offer.

A League of American Bicyclists (LAB) Bike Friendly Community it’s easy to get around and explore the city by bike.

In the downtown area you will find metal sculptures, murals and historic architecture on just about every corner. Don’t forget to stop by the visitor’s center to have your picture taken with
Paul Bunyan and Babe, his blue ox. For lodging and more things to do when not riding, see our Bike Bemidji article. You will find camping options in Lake Bemidji State Park.

MRT – Day 2 from Bemidji to Grand Rapids

Back in the saddle the MRT takes the Paul Bunyan Trail north to where the Mississippi River pours out of Lake Bemidji. As the current flows east enjoy the sites along the Great River Road as it rolls into Chippewa National Forest. This next stretch of the MRT to Grand Rapids is roughly 80 miles. To get a better feel for what’s ahead after leaving Bemidji watch the 2nd video clip here.

With an abundance of wildflowers along the road, pedal through the enchanted treasures this forested area offers. Along the way notice a huge population of bald eagles and hawks as the
river meanders from one huge lake body to the next. Soon the river flows into Lake Winnibigoshish (Lake Winnie) and the MRT takes a course around the lake’s south shoreline.

To the first Federal Dam on the Mississippi





Passing several resorts, you may want to stop for a selfie by the big fish monument. Riding up the east shoreline through towering pines, the MRT is soon up to the Federal Dam where Lake
Winnie spills back into the Mighty Mississippi. This dam was created in the late 1800’s making
it the largest reservoir on the Mississippi River system. Approximately 45 miles from Bemidji
there is a campground. A couple miles further east, you will find a restaurant and some lodging options.

As the river meanders, now in a southerly direction, the MRT follows suit, passing through a Native American village called Ball Club. Here the river dips and then flows to the east again. Soon the MRT rolls into Schoolcraft State Park where it meets back up with the Mississippi. This secluded park is the perfect place to take a break. Quiet and peaceful, the park offers a relaxing
environment with a virgin white pine forest that is more than 300 years old. Take a panoramic virtual tour of the area here and then it’s on to some Wizard of Oz trivia.

Rolling into Grand Rapids

This is the town where Judy Garland, from the Wizard of Oz, spent her childhood. Today the community offers visitors many fun options to explore, along with the Judy Garland Museum. Once settled in, visit the Forest History Center and the local art scene. Not only is this area rich in forested beauty it also offers a number of art forms including many bronze sculptures and historic architectural sites. Grand Rapids is also the western gateway to the Mesabi Iron Trail and Range. Another LAB Bike Friendly Community it’s easy to get around this river town and explore the city by bike.  If you have a few extra days, the mining communities along this Mesabi trail are worth checking out.  For lodging and more things to do when not riding, see our Bike Grand Rapids article.

MRT – Day 3 from Grand Rapids to Aitkin

As the Mississippi River pushes against the western slope of the St. Lawrence Divide, it
flows south and the MRT hugs the west bank as it rolls out of Grand Rapids. This stretch of
the MRT is approximately 70 miles to Aitkin. To get a better feel for what’s ahead after leaving Grand Rapids watch the next video clip here.

Approximately 20 miles south you will come to a crossroad. Here, by taking a left and crossing the river, you’re in the town of Jacobson. If you turn onto this half-mile side-trip adventure, you will discover many pieces of unusual lawn art and a rest stop option.

Rolling into Palisade




Back on the route continue south and you will soon be in a town named for the high banks on each side of the river. This is another intriguing place to stop. The community has a restaurant
and a convenience store if you want to have a picnic or stay the night in the campground
alongside the river. Back in the saddle, out of Palisade, there are two options to reach Aitkin.

You can depart on the Great River Road, now a hard gravel surface for the next 15 miles,
enjoying a peaceful ride along the river. Or take the alternate route, adding eight-miles to your
trip for the day riding on a busy highway with a narrow shoulder.


Rolling into Aitkin

Regardless of the route selected above, you will be rolling into a community
with riverboat history. Once a popular meeting point for both Native American Indians
and explorers, today the town makes a good overnight choice offering both camping
and lodging options. After you settle in, check out the museum converted from the Burlington Rail Depot. Here you can learn about the town’s steamboat history and other interesting facts.  For more things to do and lodging options click here.

MRT – Day 4 from Aitkin to Little Falls

As the Mississippi flows in a westerly direction the MRT roll into Cuyuna Country. Here the river passes on the north side of an iron range of the past. While the bike route meanders around these abandoned open mine pits you can see some of Minnesota’s newest lakes. Now as the river bends to the southwest, the MRT is rolling towards the Brainerd Lakes Area

Rolling into Brainerd

Just imagine riding in an area sometimes referred to as Paul Bunyan’s playground. Legend has it that Paul and his blue ox, Babe (remember that mythical figure you can take a selfie with in
Bemidji?) were having fun, wrestling around after a long rain spell. Stomping and tromping the two made a lot of large depressions that eventually filled with water to create the 464 lakes in the area. With the MRT and Paul Bunyan Trail merging back together in Brainerd/Baxter, you will find many fun adventures and good things to eat here. For more see our  Brainerd/Baxter article.

Back in the saddle, the trail and river both head south again. As the Great River Road rolls
along the east bank, passing Crow Wing State Park, agriculture now replaces the forested
landscape. Further down the MRT, cross over to the west bank and visit Camp Ripley which
offers a very interesting military museum. Here see hundreds of exhibits showcasing vehicles and field equipment of Minnesota’s military past. It’s still ten miles of pedaling to reach the next river town “where the river pauses”.

Rolling into Little Falls

For centuries Little Falls has been a place where native inhabitants, early settlers and recent visitors have used as a gathering place. Located where the Mississippi River pauses; this
river community is the town of Charles Lindbergh’s childhood. After settling in, check out the historic attractions and museums, while experiencing the town’s original murals and frescoes. While here, if interested, you can discover who helped finance the original production of the “Wizard of Oz.” For lodging and more things to do when not riding, see our Bike Little Falls article.

MRT Day-5 from Little Falls to Monticello

At the edge of town cyclists will pass by Charles Lindbergh State Park where his childhood home still stands. Then the MRT passes by the Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum before the river valley floor opens up to more agriculture. To get a better feel for what’s ahead after leaving Little Falls watch the 4th video clip here.

Rolling into St Cloud

Through this stretch, the river offers several sets of rapids as the MRT rolls into St. Cloud. Another LAB Bike Friendly Community, it’s easy to get around this river town and explore the city by bike. While in this river community check out some of the attractions including the Munsinger-Clemens Botanical Gardens. For lodging and more things to do when not riding, see our Bike St. Cloud article.

Back on the east side of the river, the MRT and river both swing back to the southeast. Using county roads that parallel several irrigated potato fields, the route takes you to Clearwater. Then, crossing the Mississippi again, cyclists will notice the river is a bit wider here as they pedal to Monticello.

Rolling into Monticello

Here you will find a river town, full of charm, tucked up against the Mississippi River and conveniently located between St. Cloud and the Twin Cities. This vibrant community with many scenic parks is also home to thousands of geese and swans each winter. After settling in, check out the attractions in Monticello. For lodging option visit the local chamber, here.

MRT – Day 6 from Monticello to St Paul

Leaving Monticello, the MRT crosses the river and meanders through the farm fields of specialty crops to Elk River. To get a better feel for what you will see as you ride into the Twin Cities, watch the 5th video clip here.  Stopping in Elk River, cyclists passing through the down-town area will notice the fresco mural on Main Street. You will also find plenty of options for a rest stop here.

As you head out of Elk River, on the Great River Road, you will cross over the Mississippi River again. Soon you are passing through Dayton and entering the northern edge of the Mississippi National River and Recreational Area.

Now, in the next twenty-five miles, MRT enthusiasts will enjoy stopping at several of the Twin Cities Gateway community attractions.

From here enjoy paved bicycle paths through Minneapolis, before reaching the St. Paul suburb of Inver Grove Heights.

MRT Day-7 from St Paul to Frontenac

Currently, as the Mississippi River Trail leaves the St Paul area, the route tentatively detours to the south on its way to Hastings. To get a better feel for what’s ahead after leaving St. Paul, watch the 6th video clip here. Hopefully by mid-summer, of 2018, the paved trail out of South St. Paul will connect to the Mississippi River Regional Trail allowing cyclists a direct route to our next river town.

This new trail near Schaar’s Bluff is already completed on the far end and will take cyclists into the downtown Hastings’s historic district. You can find more about Hastings in our At-A-Glance article, along with a place to stop for cool refreshments or a meal.

Leaving Hastings, the MRT follows the Mississippi, winding along the rivers backwaters and past the Prairie Island Indian Community. About ten miles further and the route enters Red Wing, the next river community on the Minnesota section of the Mississippi River Trail.

Rolling into Red Wing

As the MRT runs alongside the river bank on the Great River Road, you will find the atmosphere in Red Wing both unique and charming. From the beautiful bluffs, historic sites and world famous boots and pottery, this river town also offers several dining opportunities for a stop here. If you decide to spend the night, see Visit Red Wing for more options.

Back on the Mississippi River Trail, it’s approximately another 10 miles to Frontenac State Park for the night. The city here is on the National Register of Historic Places and contains a number of homes dating back to the Civil War era. Here you will find the Whistle Stop Café and a convenience store if you choose to camp in the state park for the evening.

MRT Day-8 from Frontenac to Winona

Back on the MRT, the route continues to use the wide paved shoulder of the Great River Road to Minnesota City. With a wide shoulder and rumble strip, dividing you from the traffic, the the Mississippi River is in sight, to your left most of the time. When you start to notice the river widening, the Mississippi is now flowing into Lake Pepin and you are close to the ‘Birthplace of Water Skiing’.

Rolling into the Lake City

Here discover the quaint shops and restaurants next to the harbor in the downtown area of Lake City. This river town is also popular place for touring cyclists. In addition to the Annual Tour de Pepin bike tour, the area offers several other mapped rides. See the Lake Pepin Area Bike Map and checkout Visit Lake City for more options.

As the river flows out of Lake Pepin, the next river community on the MRT is a town known for eagles and grumpy old men.

Rolling into Wabasha

The oldest city on the entire upper Mississippi River, this community has been thriving since 1826. As touring cyclists roll into town they will find 50 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If time permits enjoy their historic walking tour and discover the stories that have made this town so unique. With Bald Egles in abundance along the river, this is also home to the National Eagle Center, located downtown. Also, with the popular movie “Grumpy Old Men” an its sequal shot here, dine at Slippery’s Bar & Grill, for a nostalgic look at this river town. You can find more options at Visit Wabasha.

Rolling into Winona

Taking the MRT out on the back road through the village of Kellogg, it’s about 30 miles of pedaling to Winona, along the bluffs. Arriving in this pristine river town enjoy several views of the city nestled into a valley bordered by bluffs along the Mighty Mississippi. Here in Winona, there is plenty to discover with so many attractions and museums. Be sure to visit the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. You will also notice many of the downtown area are buildings are on the National Register of Historical Places and self-guided history tours are an option. Being a LAB Bike Friendly Community it’s easy to get around this river town and explore the city by bike. See our At-A-Glance Winona article for more tour, dinner and overnight options.


MRT Day-9 from Winona to the Iowa Boarder

Leaving Winona, the Mississippi River Trail creatively takes you up into the bluffs past the historic Pickwick Mill and then onto the Apple Blossom Drive Scenic Byway. Here at the top of the byway cyclist in the area enjoy a remarkable view of the Mississippi River Valley. Then it’s a cruise down the Byway, into La Crescent.

From La Crescent, the last leg of the Minnesota’ section of the Mississippi River Trail is approximately 24 miles to Albin, IA.


The Minnesota Ironman is the kickoff event for cyclists of all skill levels, starting this year in Waconia and touring Carver County.

The Minnesota Ironman: Sign Up this Wednesday for the Experience of a Lifetime and Save

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking

It’s barely dawn, the weather is cool as he drags his unwilling body out into the world. The headlights of his car shine through the last remaining darkness as he pulls into the lot. His tired bones haven’t yet committed to the 51st Minnesota Ironman Bicycle Ride, but the energetic atmosphere drives him forward. He unshackles his bike, and after a few quick checks he heads toward the growing swarm of riders. The day may not be perfect, conditions could be troubling, but he knows completing the new course through Carver County holds coveted “bragging rights.”

What is the Minnesota Ironman?

The Minnesota Ironman is the kickoff event for cyclists of all skill levels, starting this year in Waconia and touring Carver County.

The Mn Ironman is the kickoff event for cyclists of all skill levels, starting this year in Waconia and touring Carver Co.

The Minnesota Ironman Bicycle Ride is the longest-running century and variable mileage ride in Minnesota. For over 50 years, crowds have gathered to ride the course designed in its varying lengths. It’s also the first spring road bike event of the season, too, so weather conditions can be a mixed bag. Temperatures have fluctuated from the 30s through the 80s over the years with the chance of rain always a threat. So, why sign up for this event?

There’s Nothing Else Like It Drawing Thousands of Riders

The Minnesota Ironman is the kickoff event for cyclists of all skill levels, drawing thousand of cyclists for the first road bike event of the season.

The Minnesota Ironman is the kickoff event for cyclists of all skill levels, drawing thousand of cyclists for the first road bike event of the season.

In May of 1967, one month after the inaugural Minnesota Ironman, Ralph Baer played and lost the first two player video game ever. That means that before people challenged themselves with a controller and a screen they were enjoying the challenges of the Minnesota Ironman. The Minnesota Ironman is an event, not a race, where completion is as lofty a goal as most could achieve. Its rolling hills, scenic courses, and friendly atmosphere make this ride a premiere event each year. And this year, starting in Waconia, MN and touring Carver County will be no different.

Bragging Rights Guaranteed

Why not wait a few weeks for warm weather?

The Minnesota Ironman is the kickoff event for cyclists, rain or shine bragging rights are guaranteed.

The Minnesota Ironman is the kickoff event for cyclists, rain or shine bragging rights are guaranteed.

Well, the answer is in the name. To be an Ironman, you need to prove yourself. Completing this ride means you have done something special. Even though the route is challenging and the weather often adds its own obstacles, you will not be alone. More than 3,000 riders take advantage of this annual bike tour. And the Minnesota Ironman Bicycle team will be on hand for any needed technical, coaching, and safety support.

Plus, It’s for a Great Cause

Hostelling International USA (HI) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting healthy recreation, international travel, and cultural exchange. Proceeds from this ride go to HI’s Minnesota location, which is surrounded by the natural beauty of Itasca State Park, at the Headwaters of the Mississippi River.

The Minnesota Ironman attracts thousand of riders from all over the country, for a day of fun!

The MN Ironman attracts thousand of riders all over the country and offers everyone who participates a great time!

Whatever your reason for entering the Minnesota Ironman, know that you will be greeted on April 30th by thousands of old and new friends with similar interests, hundreds of smiling volunteers, and one amazing event. I am looking forward to seeing you there!

A growing number of cyclists see a winter commute as another opportunity to be more environmentally friendly .

The Winter Commute on Your Bike Can Be Great with These Tips

by Jess Leong, HaveFunBiking.com

The first snowfall keeps many inside by a warm fireplace. But there are a growing number of cyclists who see a winter commute as another opportunity to be more environmentally friendly – with the chance for bragging rights!

A growing number of cyclists see a winter commute as another opportunity to be more environmentally friendly .

A growing number of cyclists see a winter commute as another opportunity to be more environmentally friendly.

For many though, the thought of riding a bike in the winter can be intimidating for many reasons, including freezing temperatures, ice covered paths, and more. But if you prepare properly for the weather, then you may find it quite enjoyable and worth the effort. Plus, you will find plenty of gear options available to keep you warm and safe as you navigate your local winter wonderland.

Layering Up for that Winter Commute

As you ride, you create windchill. So you can make 40-degree day feel like it’s below freezing, leading to an uncomfortable commute. The best solution is to find jackets and pants specifically designed to stop wind. They do that by stopping air from pulling away from your body. A good base layer under a layer that blocks wind can make the winter commute comfortable even in below freezing temperatures.

Layering your clothing is important for a winter commute.

Layering your clothing is important for a winter commute.

You know your body better than anyone else, and this means you’ll have a better idea of what parts of your body get cold first, and what follows afterwards. Layer up accordingly for the winter commute. The layer closest to your body should wick away all the perspiration. This is very important. With the cold, if there is any sweat that makes your clothing damp, you’ll get cold faster.

Besides layering up clothing to protect your core, make sure that you protect key areas that tend to get cold quickly. For instance, winter full-fingered bike gloves for your otherwise numb fingers, earmuffs for those aching cold ears, nice warm socks for your toes and feet, and perhaps a face mask for when your face feels frozen. Also, a biking headband or headwear might be important if your head gets cold under the helmet. While a helmet can seem warm in summer, in winter it provides little protection against cold wind.

Tip: You should start the winter commute off feeling comfortable, so layer yourself accordingly. Once you start pedaling, you’ll warm up. You can bring an extra layer just in case you need it, but usually you won’t.

Seeing is Key

Have eye protection, like a pair of alpine ski goggles is important for a winter commute.

Have eye protection, like a pair of alpine ski goggles is important for a winter commute.

Having clear vision is essential for your winter commute. You need to be able to see and be aware of what’s around you. If you can’t see it increases the risk of unnecessary crashes. Finding proper eye protection is relatively easy and affordable. You can use a cheap ski masks as well as wrap-around sunglasses, if the sun poses an issue. You should also be able to wear standard reading glasses, too, and they may even be able to fit behind your goggles. They may fog up once you get inside, but you’ll be safely off the road by then.

Be Visible While Staying Warm

The cold winter months bring early sunsets and snow that can make visibility for drivers on the route you define to ride. In addition to wearing reflective clothing, state law requires such things as a white light attached to the front of your bike so drivers can see you from at least 500 feet away (if they are looking at you from the front). There must also be Department of Public Safety-approved red reflector tape or light attached to the back of your bike so drivers can see you from 100 feet to 600 feet (when they are directly behind you). It is also wise to have reflector tape or lights that traffic can see you from side streets and alleys. For information on what the law requires, click here.

Since the cold temperatures can shorten the battery life on your lights, make sure you check them often so your lights work when you need them! In terms of the law, if an officer pulls you to the side for not having a front light that meets guidelines (even if it’s there and just not on), there’s no excuse that can help you.

Ride the Right Bike

If possible, buy a standard bike that’s a single speed. We’d recommend a used or old bike. Bikes with suspension, multiple gears, or that are specialized can get worn down or ruined by the snow, salt, and grit. So getting a bike that you can ride and that can withstand the wear and tear of winter is the best route to go.

Once you find the enjoyment of riding in the winter, plan to commute longer distances and if its in your budget, a fat bike might be an option to consider. Fat bikes have large balloon tires that increased your surface area, giving you a better grip on the ground under you. This makes riding on snow and ice easier and safer. To learn if a fat bike is for you, visit your local bike shop.

Drive Defensively

When winter commuting by bike you must always be aware of your surroundings even more than warmer months. General visibility may not  is an issue whrn winter bike riding, but also watch out for slippery surfaces. Also, drivers can be can be more distracted this time of year so drive your defensively. So even thought they’re supposed to watch for you, make sure you keep an eye out for them as well.

Be Aware of the Weather and Be a Smart Biker

Winter means snow, ice, and cold winds. It also means that there is less daylight. Be aware of what options you have if the snow starts coming down heavily, it becomes really icy, or if overall conditions start to worsen. Have an alternate plan in place if biking becomes too dangerous. Plot riding routes that are near bus or train routes or anywhere with public transportation. If conditions get bad then you have another way to get home or to your destination.

Also, don’t make any sudden moves or do tricks with your bike, especially in icy conditions. This means don’t lean into the turns, as an example. Going with the turn decreases the amount of contact the tire has with the road or trail surface.  This is bad because your bike will have less power to stay upright. This might seem like a no brainer, but we have seen plenty of people who break quickly or make quick turns only to wipe out. Doing this in the middle of the street is dangerous and could become fatal.

Why Winter Commute?

Winter bike commuting is not only a great way to ride year-round and keep you in shape, but also it can save you money. Looking at cost, in terms of transportation options, biking is definitely on the low end. By the time you add in all the costs that come with driving a car or public transportation, the costs of using anything besides your own legs as an engine will be greater. Plus, you’ll not only be in shape and ready to go in spring, but you’ll also be regarded as awesome for braving that cold air.

Have fun, be safe, and remember to use your best judgement this winter while riding!