Here’s how we do it:
1) Studded Tires – Today, you can get studded tires from 30mm to 4.8in wide to fit mountain bikes at all wheel sizes, and any disc brake road bike (and Seven’s RedSky series, too, if you like rim brakes). Nothing provides the confidence to take on winter riding quite like a pair of studded tires.
2) Bar Mitts and Boots – Hands and feet bear the brunt of the cold when you’re riding, so we like Bar Mitts to keep our hands warm, and a pair of serious winter cycling boots like these or these. You will be surprised how much easier it is to get out the door once you’ve solved the problem of cold hands and feet.
3) Layers – One of the great things about riding is that it raises your body temperature, so you won’t be cold long. That means that your best strategy for regulating comfort will be layering your clothing. We like full zip jerseys and jackets that we can open when we’re warming and close when we’re cooling off.
4) Friends – We all like a solo ride for clearing our minds and simplifying things, but in winter we prefer to travel in packs. We’re more likely to show up for a ride if friends will be there.
5) Adventures – All the places we go during the year are different in winter. Sometimes the thrill of a cold weather ride is just in seeing old sights through new eyes. They say it’s the journey, not the destination, but in wintertime, we make sure the destination is part of the motivation.
In New England, where we live and work and ride, the winter can seem unkind to cyclists. Snow falls, the roadways shrink, and the melt-freeze cycle makes ice a constant hazard on paved roads and dirt trails alike. Oh, and it’s cold.
Having said all that, there are few things we look forward to more than pedaling through the first snow, or cresting frozen climbs in our local woods, the air perfectly still in among the trees, everything quiet. Winter gives you those peaceful moments in ways the other seasons never quite manage.
It’s funny the way, in summer, we can find ourselves out riding at all hours. Late sunsets help, early sunrises. Winter compresses the active part of the day. We get home after work, and the day feels over, just because it’s dark. For us, that makes it all the more important for our health (and sanity) to get out on the bike as much as possible. It’s the endorphins, but also the inspiration that riding provides.
Naturally, we take it a bit easier this time of year. We cut back on the distance, tone down the effort. Our bodies need time to recover. Winter gives us permission to do that. In many ways, it’s easier to appreciate riding in this mindset, because we’re unplugged from goals. We’re not trying to be fast. We’re not trying to go far. We’re just pedaling.
And for those who want to continue to test their mettle, the cold offers ample opportunity. Temperatures here the last week of the year were most in the single digits, but day-after-day the Seven crew came rolling through the door, some with ice in their beards, but all with a smile on their face.
Our good friends, just up the road at the Ride Studio Cafe, have developed a tradition. When the first snow flies, they flock together and ride. In the cold weeks at the beginning of winter, their social media feed comes alive with messages parsing the forecast, weighing the likelihood of snow. The first flakes seldom fall in measurable inches. The season usually eases us in with a charming threadbare blanket.
Your forget what this is like, the downy, white floating down, your tires crunching over the white crust, everyone peering around at each other, smiling. The snow gets caught in your hair and sometimes in your eyelashes and on the tip of your nose. Traction, you find, is not too challenging. You go slowly, but not so slowly that a broad grin doesn’t affix itself and linger.
There is a real value in this tradition, we think. Winter can be chastening for cyclists. Many will hang their bike in the rafters and pull it down again in the spring. This seems a shame, though we understand that colder temperatures aren’t for everyone.
The bike is an ideal way to see the beauty that is all around us. The bike will take us places our feet might be more reluctant to go. We can cover more ground on two wheels.
And all the places we’ve ridden during the year are changed. The leaves are down and the winter birds flit from naked branch to naked branch. Browns hue into the picture, the tall grasses gone rusty as their roots burrow for warmth.
The best way to ride through a New England winter is to begin at the beginning, and then go on from there. The first snow, like a season starting over, just outside our doors.
With spring in the New England air, the time to gird our loins against snow and cold has (mostly) passed. Now we just have to concern ourselves with staying upright on the ice that comes from snow melting during the day and refreezing at night. We’re all still running our studded tires, so it shouldn’t be an issue. In fact, if there is one lesson from this record setting winter season, it’s that there is no weather that doesn’t offer the promise of fun on a bike. We challenged ourselves to ride through snow storms this year. We braved the cold. And we found, over and over, that riding bikes was still fun.
Next fall we will look back and know there is nothing to be afraid of when you have a bike suited to its purpose and a love for riding to keep you warm and willing.
We’re at a funny spot in our local cycling season. After record snow and cold, we are beginning to see more sunlight and significant melt. Many of us have been riding our Evergreens all winter with studded tires, which are good for keeping you upright on icy surfaces. You don’t go fast with studded tires, but arrival at your destination is more likely. We have had fun riding through snow storms, through cold snaps, over icy trails and slick roads. The time has come, maybe, to think about switching back to an everyday tire, like a 32mm file tread.
It was in contemplating that change, and ultimately deciding that we have more ice in front of us, that we realized the value of the Evergreen.
In the summer we ride dirt roads, trails, gravel, pavement, really any surface, on the Evergreen, with tires that range from 25mm road tires to 40mm all-terrain rubber. That range of options for tire selection is a real game changer. Add on top, the effectiveness of disc brakes in foul weather, and you have a bike that will go almost anywhere, at any time of year. We highlighted this bike’s versatility in a post a few months ago, but since then we’ve ridden it in some of the heaviest weather New England has seen in more than a century.
Now, as we contemplate converting back into something like spring riding mode, it is amazing to think of all of the places we’ve ridden our Evergreens over the last year, and how good they are at just about everything. They might just be the most versatile bikes we’ve ever built.