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The secrets to successful winter bike commuting

This blog post originally appeared on the Oregon Environmental Council's "It's Your Oregon" blog. Fletcher Beaudoin, assistant director of Portland State's Institute for Sustainable Solutions, serves on the council's Emerging Leaders Board. 

As we enter November, shorter days and rain begin to creep into the lives of Oregonians. For many, this is also a reason to ditch the bike as a viable form of transportation to get to work. Being a year-round biker for the past four years, I’m here to convince you that this weather doesn’t need to be the reason for returning to your car or jumping onto the bus. Below are some approaches to winter biking that have helped me fit biking into my everyday—and year-round—life.

One trip in the car, five on the bike 

To ensure I have clean, dry clothes every day, I take one car or bus trip a week to drop off clothes and a few pairs of dry socks at work. This takes a bit of forethought, but I’ve found it much more convenient and effective than riding in my clothes or trying to wrap them up in my bike bag every day. 

Plan some extra time into your morning routine

Speaking of planning ahead, I try to come in a bit early so I can cool off before changing to avoid being wet or sweaty in my work clothes.

Find the route that works for you, and ride it a few times

Google Maps is a good starting place for looking at some options from your house to work; however, I would recommend riding a few different routes on a weekend to see what works best for you. The route I take every day was not recommended by Google, but it turned out to be the fastest and least accident-prone compared to the others. 

Get some key gear, but don’t go overboard

It’s important to have a few pieces of key gear for your ride, such as a water resistant jacket, a waterproof laptop cover or bike bag (if you’re lugging electronics each day), water resistant pants (or spandex pants and running shorts), and some gloves and ear covers. Front and rear lights are also a must. Most of the things I ride in I already had from playing soccer or hiking, and I only needed to buy a few additional items to complete the set.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve had some nasty winter rides, but by setting up a few key systems, biking quickly became the best option for my daily commute. Once you get started I’m sure you’ll agree.