I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like people’s reactions to my winter bike riding. It’s maybe a bit unusual. Most people (even a lot of bike riders) hit the gym in the winter, revert to another outdoor sport, or take the season off all together. ). I know I’m missing some good strength training opportunities by not hitting the gym, but I haven’t been able to consistently motivate myself to make it to the gym in the past so I avoid that. I haven’t bought a trainer for my bike (for indoor stationary cycling, either, so instead I bundle up and head outside.
There’s really only a couple of things to remember for winter riding: dress warm (I’ll cover this in another blog post) and expect to work hard. Riding on snow is really just more work. I consider it strength and balance training for the most part. I’m probably only going to be able to ride in 4-6” of snow if its fresh and there aren’t any major snow drifts. Around my house the bike paths are plowed during the winter, but usually not down to the pavement so there’s a lot of resistance and uneven terrain.
I also pay attention for spots that look like it may have been wet during the day as those spots will turn to ice at night. The bike path down Ottawa Beach Road and Lakeshore Drive is paved with black asphalt so the snow melts quicker than on concrete sidewalks and can create these icy spots at night. They’re not impassable, you just need to be careful to keep good balance while riding over them. A good strong core body will help you keep your balance over these spots.
In addition to my local bike paths which provide a fun, challenging work-out, I like to ride local wooded trails that are open to mountain biking in the winter. Riley Trails for example is only open to cross country skiers, as well as Pigeon Creek Park, which is groomed specifically for cross country skiing. The nearest open trail to me is the Bass River Recreation area near Grand Haven. I ride with a group on Wednesday nights and have a blast cruising through the woods with a group all lit up and riding in a train.
There are also several winter races across the state, one of which is coming up this weekend near Grand Rapids. There’s a new craze going on right now with ‘Fat Tire Bike’s’ (mountain bikes that can accept a 4½” wide wheel/tire) and on Saturday at Versluis Farms the first annual ‘Farmer’s Fat Bike Race’ will be held at noon. We’ll see if they have any snow to race in, but it should be a ton of fun to watch either way. So far there are 75 racers registered to ride which seems really good to me considering the infancy of the Fat Tire Bike. The race runs from 12-3 when riders compete to ride as many laps in 3 hours as they (or their 2-person team) can. For anyone interested in grabbing a hot chocolate and checking this out, you can grab the information you need from here: http://www.farmteamracing.com/2011/11/farmers-fat-bike-race.html