Biking is viable transportation in winter

Despite constant sunshine, winter is here.  UAA students are once again at the point of waking up for school in darkness, only to find themselves going home from class in darkness.  Drivers take extra caution as daylight slips through their fingers, and with rising gas prices UAA’s bike club expects the city and campus to see an increased number of bikes during the snowy season.  On Oct. 19, the bike club hosted its annual Bike Winterization Clinic to provide tips for peddling through all kinds of weather.

Sam Deitz, a student who just moved to Anchorage from Kentucky, says she attended the workshop because she was curious as to how “feasible it is to ride your bike in the winter because in Kentucky we don’t have harsh winters.”  Deitz currently rides her bike to and from school and work every day and has set a goal to try and make it through the winter without a car.

Deitz, along with a record setting amount of people in attendance, learned just how feasible it really is by getting a closer look at the special challenges winter riders face through gear, clothing and route changes.

Matt Block, president of UAA’s bike club, pointed out some of the increased hazards Alaskan winter bikers have to face; namely ice and darkness. Visibility to others is the number one safety issue.

In order to spare yourself a trip to the emergency room, Block suggests spoke reflectors and wearing bright, reflective vests.

“Use the most annoying setting on your bike light, to make sure you’re seen,” Block said.

Advice on buying the right studs for your bike was also provided and, for avid bikers on a budget, a demonstration was provided on how to create homemade studs. Studded tires and bike lights were available for wholesale purchase after the workshop.

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Solid winter clothing is essential to any four-season biker.  Bicycling is strong exercise and can produce massive amounts of sweat.

“If you ever get a flat tire or get stuck, sweat immediately cools you down, so it’s important to protect your core,” said Spencer Douthit, a bike club member, said.

To avoid sweat build up and lower body temperatures, Douthit stressed the use of polypropylene or wool materials and to avoid cotton at all costs.  If temperatures drop to 15-below or colder, riders should take extra care to keep their limbs warm.  Warm gloves that keep fingers agile enough to shift gears and brake are vital for ice handling.

Snow ultimately affects different routes taken to each destination.  Bike advocate Dan Flores provided insight on planning a safe winter route. He suggests familiarizing with each possible route scenario and allotting enough extra time to ensure safe transportation on the ice and in the dark.  Flores also instructed riders to avoid heavy traffic areas and rush hour times.

Public trails are one of the best route options. They are groomed and cared for by the municipality of Anchorage and easy to ride; a good option for bikers without studs.

The bike club meets every Monday at 6 p.m in the Cuddy Center. They oversee do-it-yourself activities and provide experienced tips on riding.

Riding your bike is very practical and economical and “the bike club has worked hard to get covered bike racks on campus, fill ‘em up this winter,” Block said.

Check out www.icebike.com for more information on winterizing your bike.