Now that the polar vortex has, thankfully, left the Midwest, bicyclists feel a bit more comfortable commuting around the city. Though we admire their courage, the bike injury attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm would like to outline a few recommendations to help you ride safely through the snow.
It’s All About Layers
As temperatures remain in the teens and single digits, it is critically important to dress appropriately. Experts at Active.com assert that putting on at least three types of layers will work best in winter conditions. The first layer should be a snug-fitting base made from a material that helps move moisture away from the skin, such as wool or polypropylene.
The second layer should act as an insulator and be a bit looser than the base layer to trap air close to the body. This layer can be any type of material, depending on the weather: wool or fleece if it’s inordinately cold, synthetics if it’s warmer. The top layer should block wind and be as water-resistant as possible while still allowing sweat to escape (you are aiming to be as dry and warm as possible). Some cyclists like to wear down vests on top of this third layer as well.
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Just as important as keeping your body dry and warm is ensuring your hands and feet are getting attention as well. The type of gloves and footwear you sport completely depends on the weather conditions, and sometimes leg warmers may be necessary if it’s particularly windy or cold. Liners and lobster gloves are great for hands, while double-layered but lightweight socks are ideal for the feet. Remember: most of your body heat is released through the head, so always wear an insulated skullcap, headband or helmet cover.
Warm Up, Carb Up, and Hydrate
In cold weather your body is already working hard just to maintain its core temperature, which means it will need a longer time to warm up, get blood flowing, and will ultimately expend more energy while riding. All the tendons, muscles and ligaments need adequate blood flow to function properly, so if your normal warm up is around 15 minutes, extend it to between 20 and 25 minutes to avoid injury.
Cycling experts estimate that a biker needs to consume between 30 and 60 grams of carbohydrates for every hour of riding. Digesting food heats the body, so try consuming a small snack before your ride. Although cold-weather riders may not realize it, fluid replacement is just as critical in cold temperatures as in hot. In the summer you lose the majority of body fluids through sweat, while in winter, breathing in cold air requires your internal organs to release fluids to warm and moisten the less-humid air (this is why your throat often feels dry in the winter). You also lose a lot of water while exhaling, so it is essential to frequently replace fluids.
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Studded snow tires, though expensive, are well-worth the investment if you plan to be winter cycling for years to come. Your bike frame and handle bars also take a beating in the winter with snow, ice, slush and salt. This can lead to corroded chains and cables, adversely affecting brakes and shift gears. Fenders can help immensely with this type of corrosion, as will regularly washing and inspecting your bike. Winter also means less daylight, so as always, remember to turn on your front and back lights.
If the roads are still snow-packed or icy as they are here in Chicago, try to take a low-traffic route, avoid downhill sections, and decrease tire pressure. If you can, get a riding buddy who can help you in times of distress, or at the very least keep a charged cell phone on you at all times.
Ultimately, no matter how well you plan, accidents can always happen. If a driver or another party is responsible for an accident that causes serious injury, the victim is entitled to receive compensation for their medical bills, lost wages or damaged property. Our bicycle accident attorneys have decades of experience litigating these types of cases and negotiating with insurance companies and the responsible parties. Contact our firm today with any questions you may have about a recent bicycle accident. Our legal consultations are always free of charge, and available to victims nationwide.