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Winter Biking Clinic Prepares Riders for Slick Streets

By Josh McGhee | December 8, 2013 5:00pm
 The winter biking clinic offered advice to keep new cyclist biking throughout the co months.
Winter Biking Clinic
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LINCOLN PARK — Jazmin Rios is an avid bicyclist, riding three to four times a week during the summer. But the California transplant sings a different tune when temperatures dip and road conditions worsen during the winter.

"Once it gets cold, I often stop biking because it gets icy," she said. But that might change after Rios, 25, attended a winter biking workshop Saturday at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2340 Cannon Dr.

"I'm going to attempt now and possibly enroll in Divvy. I might try them out during the winter," she said.

The workshop, led by Lauren Crabtree, bicycling ambassador for the Chicago Department of Transportation, and representatives from Divvy, the city's bike-sharing program, explained to participants how to safely navigate the streets in the winter, how to dress and how to keep their bikes tuned up.

Crabtree said winter biking can be daunting to those unfamiliar with riding in inclement weather.

"They're worried about how to dress appropriately, the road conditions, the weather and safety in general," she said.

Crabtree said the key to dressing for a winter bike ride is not to "overdress."

"Overdressing is dangerous because you'll get sweaty. Then you'll be cold and wet for your bike ride," she said. "When you step out you should be cold, and when you're biking you'll become acclimated."

Another big concern for riders was the road conditions during snowy, rainy and icy conditions. She told riders to have a prepared bike route and check the weather before leaving — and reminded riders to keep their Ventra card handy just in case the weather gets out of hand.

"If you get nervous, take a bus. Always have a back-up plan. You don't have to force yourself to ride," she said.

Hannah Helbert, 23, a Divvy employee, said the baby-blue bikes are great for winter riding because they are kept tuned up, and the short trips of 30 minutes or less make them ideal for unpredictable weather.

"You're not committed to Divvying home. You can always take the train or bus home," Helbert said.

Lincoln Park resident Kara Fromme, 32, started biking this summer when Divvy bikes first became available. Though she enjoys cycling, she said she realized she may need some coaching after the first snow of the season.

"I thought it would be fine, but the bike lanes seemed to be icy," Fromme said. "We're new to biking so we just came to get some new information."

After the clinic, Fromme said she would be cycling during the winter "to an extent" but still avoid the roads during bad weather.

"If it's raining or snowing them I'm not [biking], and if it's below 20 degrees, I'll call it a day," she said.

Crabtree said the most important thing to remember about biking during the winter is to remember why you're doing it in the first place.

"You're riding a bike just like you used to do as a kid. It's what you like to do," she said "Be prepared to handle a little bit of a challenge and have fun with it. Don't let it stress you out."