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Bellevue and the UW want to help you keep biking all winter

A bike commute in the Seattle region is like a daily shot of sunshine. I can’t imagine NOT biking during long, dark winters here. The daily exercise and fresh, perhaps misty, air keeps a smile on my face even when the sun has been hidden away for weeks.

The University of Washington has posted flyers around the U District urging people to bike every day in November. That’s a great idea! November is the rainiest month of the year in Seattle, so if you can make it through this month, you can bike all year.

If you are a member of the UW community, you can log your winter biking online for a chance to get prizes. The rest of you just get mad kudos.

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The City of Bellevue also wants to help you get ready for your winter bike commute, and they are holding a free lunchtime brown bag full of winter biking tips. So if you’re going to be close to Bellevue City Hall November 10, definitely RSVP to Hayley via email by November 8.

From Choose Your Way Bellevue:

Don’t let the darkness and weather drive you off your bike this winter. Both can be easily overcome with the right equipment, clothes, and attitude. Join Cascade Bicycle Club to learn the basics of great winter bike commuting at a FREE brown bag presentation at Bellevue City Hall, room 1E-112 on Thursday, November 10th from 12-1pm.

You’ll learn:
• What light systems are best for your commute
• How to maximize your visibility
• What clothing combinations work best for rain and cold
• How to keep your cargo dry and safe
• Fender options
• Wet-weather riding skills and safety considerations
• How to use transit to create a comfortable hybrid commuteRSVPs are required by November 8th: email [email protected]

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16 responses to “Bellevue and the UW want to help you keep biking all winter”

  1. Gary

    Anyone who waits until November 10th to find out what fenders and lights and clothes to wear probably is not going to start bicycling in November. Seriously, it’s already cold, and dark, and if you don’t have adequate lights by now you aren’t riding the rush hours.

    So in the interest of anyone reading this blog I’ll give you all my take on the essentials.

    Clothes: Wool (www.ibex.com) Get a Shak for the top, a set of ElFito 3/4 tights, and some wool knee socks from Big 5 or your ski drawer.
    Rain Gear: Eudora or Showers pass. With neoprene booties to fit.
    Lights: Dinotte (www.dinottelighting.com)
    Fenders: LBS (local bike shop, unless you are good at picking the right size, take your bike with you.) REI, Gregs, they all have a decent selection.
    Gloves: Buy a set of Johnsonstown Extraction gloves. (Kevlar lined) for rainy days, and a cheap set of fleece gloves from REI for just plain cold.

    Remember layers, and wash your wool clothes in Ivory Snow flakes, not detergent or Woolite.

    1. Kelli

      Wow Gary, you really have got this down. I feel like every year I realize there is some rain gear thing I am really missing and one new thing I fall in love with. This year I have fallen in love with the fleece lined leggings from Hub & Bespoke. I now own three pairs including one in purple. They dry off pretty quick and keep you warm and fashionable!

      1. Gary

        me too!

        I like leggings and have a pair, but the fashion ship left my dock a long time ago.

      2. Todd

        Yeah fashion typically is crap. The trick is not to get cold — which means get some good, breathable rain gear and limit your use of cotton. I ride long distances and after 5 miles, my body heat typically is not a factor unless I’m wearing cotton that is drenched with either rain water or my own sweat.

    2. Gary

      Oh yeah, a thin wool beanie for now (Ibex Zepher my current favorite) and a thin wool Balacalva for in about a month cold weather.

      I’ve been riding for a long time, so I’ve had plenty of opportunity to test drive a lot of different things. I’ve gone from the high tech fabrics back to wool and been really happy. Although I really like Showers pass Roadie pants for cold wet riding. I’ve got the commuter pants as well, but I’m still working on the kinks, as in what weather they work best in.

      But Lights! They are life itself. Don’t economize here. Wear second hand wool Pendleton shirts from Goodwill, buy a pair of wool pants and make knickers out of them. With clothes you can make do, with being seen not so much.

    3. Gary

      Sorry, the gloves are “Youngstown Glove 09-9083-10-M Titan XT Lined with Kevlar Glove”

      Why such serious gloves? Two reasons, first visibility, the lime green stands out in the daytime and the reflective patch at night. You can signal a turn and cars will see you. Second surviving a fall, these gloves won’t let the road get to your skin. It’ll still hurt but everything will still be attached.

      Wet roads, mud, especially with leaves, or ice or whatever make it more likely you’ll fall if you are not extra careful and even then.

    4. I’ll second your recommendation of Dinotte lighting. American made, great customer service, and powerful lighting. I’ve heard many people who are happy with Light and Motion lights which are also made in the US. (For those who need a lower cost solution, Planet Bike makes many very adequate lights that are reasonable, although imported…)

      Thanks for the tip about Ivory Snow Flakes. I’ve been washing my wool in detergent since I didn’t know of a better solution.

      RE: Booties – I personally just bring an extra pair of SmartWool socks. For my commutes of 4-8 miles one way, my feet get wet but don’t get cold in my biking shoes, except when it gets *really* cold. It’s worth a try before you invest in neoprene.

      I LOVE Hub & Bespoke!!! Frankly the “fashion ship left my dock” long ago as well. But Juliette at Hub & Bespoke has been helping to reverse that trend a bit. Comfortable for cycling but I also wear a lot of what I buy there when I’m not on the bike.

      1. Gary

        I find my shoes don’t dry out during the day if I don’t cover them when it’s raining. The covers are warmer but it isn’t essential.

        Also the booties only seem to last two seasons, even with repairs. They get a lot of abuse when you put your foot down even if you stop first.

      2. Gary

        Oh, on those Planet Bike lights, maybe the current generation is bright enough, but the previous one’s are not. They need to outshine the street lights in order to be seen and they didn’t. Also you’ll need to buy rechargeable batteries or else you’ll eventually lose the cost advantage of them.

      3. Troy

        I would agree that the Planet Bikelights are not bright enough to light your way, but I do use the Planet Bike lights to get drivers attention, a One watt Blaze on the handlebars and white/red Spoks on the front and back of my helmet. Costco Kirkland batteries are super cheap and they last quite awhile on flash mode. I do wish they made the Blaze in a usb rechargeable version.

        I have a Magicshine 900 for seeing my way, but have used the Blaze as a backup when my main light died.

      4. Tom Fucoloro

        I find rechargable batteries beneficial in three super important ways:

        1. They end up saving money after a handful of charges vs buying new ones.
        2. They are more enviromentally-friendly
        3. They remove the incentive to keep riding with dimming lights.

        If you are buying batteries, you might want to cheap out and let your batteries keep dying before replacing them. after all, they still work, just not as well. With rechargeables, you can just throw them in the charger on a regular schedule or as soon as you notice them getting weaker. This is much safer.

  2. Bill Bacon

    Regarding cold weather head gear, I like the Smartwool brand of marino wool beanie hat. I can wear it under my helmet comfortably and it keeps my shaved head warm leading to sniffle-free riding. Now, if I just wouldn’t be losing these, I’d save a lot more money. They’re a little on the pricey side, but well worth it in outdoor comfort. And who cares about fashion under the bike helmet?

  3. Mitch

    First time commenting on this blog.

    Last night, 11/4/11, someone stole a bike helmet and was trying to sell it downtown (3rd and Pike), some homeless guy, claimed he “found it in some bushes.” I know he didn’t know what it was worth because he was willing to sell it to me for $5.

    Anyways, I want to get the helmet back to its owner. So if you or someone you know had their bike helmet stolen, I would gladly arrange to get it to the rightful owner.

    Helmet is a black, white, and red, Lazer brand adjustable helmet, compact, sized Small to Medium. Send me an e-mail at [email protected] with either the serial number and/or the distinguishing physical characteristic of this particular helmet and we can arrange a way to get it back. Also, if anyone know other forums or message boards where this information might be useful, please let me know and I’ll try to get the message out.


    1. Gary

      Hi Mitch, you might try a posting on Craig’s list.
      Thanks for being a good samaritan on this. And knowing some homeless guys, he might have found it in the bushes. I see some guys riding with their helmets on the rack and it could have fallen off. And a guy who steals a helmet often takes the bike.
      One homeless guy I met was standing on the corner waiting for handouts in the rain, I suggested he go to the Metro lost and found and ask for an umbrella, wouldn’t do it.

  4. Todd

    I ride my bike 365 days a year in rain or shine. If you live in Seattle, you CANNOT let the weather here deter you. When I stepped up and made the commitment to bike on a regular basis, I told myself rain cannot be an excuse not to ride. It is not snow. I used to practice outdoors in the rain routinely as a kid and the one thing I learned is that rain is not an obstacle — it’s all in your head. But I do think it warrants investing in a good set of rain gear to help you along. Buck up and pay, get the good stuff, and get your ass on your bike. There are some valid excuses for not riding/commuting — but rain is not one of them.

  5. […] For additional safety-related information on biking throughout the winter in Washington state, check out the Seattle Bike Blog’s recent article on biking year-round in the Seattle area. […]

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