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Letter: Get out and enjoying biking, even during winter

By Luke Ewald, Friends of the Jackson County Trails Committee

Minnesota is one of the coldest States during the winter season. With colder weather, many unique physical activity traditions exist, including hockey, fat tire biking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating and ice fishing, just to name a few. However, a newer activity is becoming more prevalent during the winter. Since the mid-2000s, Minnesota's winter biking community has outgrown its competition-oriented niche, and expanded — with help from some homegrown manufacturers and retailers — to welcome laid-back students, middle-class suburbanites and folks committed to sustainable living. In the Twin Cities/Metro alone, over 20 percent of cyclists continue to bike in the winter season.

Winter biking — especially on salt-slicked roads — is harder on bike frames and chains than road or mountain biking. You can also rinse your bike off in a shower to clean it. Using stainless steel chains and encased crankshafts can reduce wear on bikes' most sensitive parts. Keep your chain and gears lubricated.

Use an older bike (if you do not have a fat-tire bike) you designate for cold-weather use, adding fenders, bright lights and wheel treads that are studded/treaded; a good option would be single speed bikes in the winter, as they have fewer moving parts and require less maintenance. Always remember to keep your body and extremities warm — this is called “layering” — using moisture wicking material. Wearing a helmet that is a little larger so insulated head-ware fits is recommended. Having fenders on your bikes will keep sand/salt and slush from getting onto you and the bike. Always ride a slower on snowy and icy roads/trails. Use your rear brake to avoid spinouts on slick surfaces.

Keep in mind that winter clothing traps more heat, thereby increasing your body temperature and causing you to sweat more; because of this is, sweat evaporates faster. The atmosphere tenders to be drier in the winter, which pulls more moisture out of your with every breath you take. It is important to stay hydrate before, while and after you ride your bike outside during the winter season. The same hydration routine applies to walkers as well. Remember the 8×8 rule: drink 8, 8-ounce glass of water per day; this equals about half a gallon. Remember: the more you exercise, the more water you need!

Happy trails!