Biking Tips for Winter Weather

Rain and Cold Need Not Shut Down Your Two-Wheeled Commute

UCSB grad student Katherine Hyatt braces the elements
Paul Wellman

Cool breezes, billowy clouds, and epic sunsets all signal the arrival of winter in Santa Barbara. While it’s one of the most beautiful times of year, it can bring some challenges to cyclists. Wet weather and dark evenings require a little more planning than summer riding. But winter biking also provides an opportunity to connect to the outdoors, maintain fitness, and fully experience the seasons.

Santa Barbarans can take a few tips from cyclists living in cooler, wetter climates. In the Bay Area, for example, the San Francisco Bike Coalition offers classes to address winter riding conditions. Program Director Christopher White said the two most important considerations are visibility and braking. In fog or wet weather, he recommends front and rear lights, even during daylight hours, and they’re a must for commuters who clock out in the dark, due to daylight savings time. Being mindful of stopping distances on wet roads is also key. “Giving yourself twice the time and twice the distance to stop is a good rule of thumb,” said White. “Reducing speed is also a good idea because unexpected things that require quick stopping are even more likely to happen.”

In addition to lights, fenders, and some defensive riding tactics, the right clothing can make all the difference. Comfortable, durable rain gear has become a passion for Morgan Scherer, founding director of Familybike Seattle. She maintains a commitment to sustainable transportation, despite living in a city that averages 152 rainy days a year. Scherer, who doesn’t own a car, uses her cargo bike to buy groceries, run errands, and take her wife to work, rain or shine. A few years ago, she became fed up with the deterioration of expensive, petroleum-based jackets and rain pants, so she started wearing natural fibers. “All our rain gear is made of wool, leather, or cotton,” she said. “It needs to be treated and cared for, but it lasts much longer, and I’ve never been so dry and comfortable riding in the rain.”

Scherer added that her naturally treated winter wardrobe allows her to keep doing what she loves, which provides powerful endorphins and helps her stay positive during dreary weather. “I don’t have the low energy and low mood that many people struggle with in the winter — biking keeps me happy.”


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