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Winter Riding with Team Judson

Who is this man?

Copyright: Judy Freitag 2007

That's David D'Arcy. The picture was taken after a Judson weekend ride; the temperature was about 0 (that's Fahrenheit, or about 18 below for you Celsius fans) that day. You can estimate the temperature by the length of the icycle on David's chin; it's frozen to his beard through his balaclava.

And you can tell that he's smiling because he just finished a winter ride.

There's something magical about a good winter ride. And they come in several varieties -- but the best of all is 2 or 3 inches of new snow.

We explore places that you don't get to see on the usual march up and down Sheridan Road. Like the lakefront at Northwestern and at Gillson Park, or the golf course behind the Baha'i temple.

Tom Moran of Singletrack Photography joined us on the last weekend in February. Tom was generous in sharing some of his photos from Sunday's ride.

Snow Men

Bush Men

Ice Men

The riders are Troy Henikoff and Dave Schaer.


Winter Riding How To

Equipment

Just about any mountain or cyclocross bike is great for winter riding. The bike will get messy (especially if you ride on any Chicago street, expect to have to wash a layer of salt off your bike).

Many riders prefer studded tires for icy weather. Troy swears by Nokian tires. For snowy conditions, I prefer standard mountain bike tires that are good at shedding mud.


Clothing

Optional, but highly recommended.

A general rule of thumb is to add one layer for every 10 degrees below 30. Unfortunately, you have to experiment to figure out which layers from your cycling wardrobe work best for you at different temperatures, but here are some suggestions:

Headwear
In addition to your helmet, a balaclava is a great idea. In the coldest weather, many riders favor a skiing facemask and ski goggles.

Gloves
Many companies sell "cold-weather bike gloves" -- however, their definition of cold usually isn't quite Chicago's definition of cold. I prefer good ski gloves, one size larger than normal. When it's cold, I add liner (polypropylene) gloves, and when it's really cold, I add Goretex overmitts.

Footwear
Neoprene booties are a necessity. I usually wear liner socks plus fleece ski socks. Most riders, however, prefer Hotronic foot warmers (originally designed for skiing). The foot warmers use long-lasting rechargeable batteries.


What if I fall?

Unfortunately, the odds are good that you will fall at some point.

Keep it in perspective, though -- given the number of falls on the summertime Judson rides, the odds are good that if you ride with Judson, you will fall sometime.

Wintertime falls, however, are usually much easier than summertime falls. First, you're bundled up like the Michelin Man, so you've got lots more padding (so no road rash). Second, you'll be going much more slowly than on a road bike on dry roads. Finally, when you fall into a snow drift, the odds are good that you'll get up laughing, feeling like you haven't felt since you were a little kid out playing in the snow.

However, there can be exceptions.



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Copyright:  Mike Pechnyo  2007