Cycling In The Cities: Winter Breakdowns

It’s going to be 10 degrees tomorrow. I’m still figuring out the magic formula for layering clothes so that I don’t freeze to death. Yesterday 1 pair of socks under my running shoes wasn’t enough. I wore two pairs today and I was toasty. On top I wore two running tech shirts, a long underwear shirt, a wind jacket and a winter coat. On the bottom I wore running tights, long underwear and wind pants. I was so hot! But, tomorrow that may be the perfect match for the cold and flurries. Finding the right fabric combination to defend the cold and wind is a daily challenge. Even the most seasoned riders say they overdo it or under dress from time to time. I guess as long as my toes and feet are warm I’ll have to learn to cope with occasional discomfort.

Although I’m figuring out how to dress for the weather I am not prepared for how to deal with a bike emergency on the road. Real cyclists (I’m not one) carry pumps and patches and glue and lube. And apparently there are several added factors to prepare for in case you break down in the dead of winter. Nate Molenda is the guru of all things that need cleaning, fixing, ordering and more here at WCCO-TV. He’s also our resident expert on all things about bikes. I bend his ear when I’m curious about how to tackle a bike-commuting challenge and I’m never disappointed by his insightful, honest and really entertaining advice. Sometimes his speaking-from-experience stories are more useful to me than others. He’s given me thorough tips on how to protect certain body parts from the cold… body parts I don’t even have (if you know what I’m saying). But he also told me that if I do get a flat I should put my glue in my armpit while I remove the bike tube. That way my body heat will warm it up and it will be pliable. Also, people like Nate carry rubber gloves so that the snow and ice doesn’t get their hands wet and cold while they work on a flat tire. And if a frozen flat isn’t enough to scare me from this winter riding adventure, I’m also told that in extreme conditions my chain and gear head can freeze and lock. I don’t even know what my gear head is! I guess the best thing I’ve heard regarding mechanical failures in the winter is that there’s a universal symbol for, “My bike broke down. Help!” If you ever see someone standing next to a bike flipped on its handle bars with the wheels up it means they need a hand. That’s pretty cool. But still, I really hope I don’t have any need for help this winter. I’m just praying that old man winter will have mercy on me.

Angela Keegan Benson is the Assistant News Director at WCCO-TV and a mother of two. On August 1, 2011 she began her quest to live one full year as a bike commuter. Follow along as she figures out how to mesh the cycling culture with the demands of parenthood and an affinity for 4-inch heels. And yes, she’s committed to sticking it out through February storms. For more Cycling In The Cities, follow @Angela_Keegan on Twitter.


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