The time between the end of summer and the beginning of winter is usually my favorite time of the year to ride. It’s cool enough to wear full gear and not cold enough yet to shorten my rides. It seems like I just wrote The First Ride of Autumn (October 3, 2012) and here it is Tuesday, November 27th and we are experiencing our first snowfall of the year. Sandwiched in between was super storm Sandy which brought with it a week without power, a giant fallen evergreen tree blocking my driveway, and a bike that got picked up and slammed into my car. For me this has been the shortest fall riding season in recent memory but hopefully it’s only a temporary delay.
Pennsylvania is a funny state where weather is concerned, not far enough north to convince me to put the bike away for the winter and not far enough south to assure me of year-round riding. Over the years I’ve developed a strategy for winter riding that so far has worked out fairly well. There are a few things to watch out for that are of particular concern.
Winter snows, depending on the temperature, can coat the ground yet still leave the roads ride-able. One worry, however, is melting and re-freezing. Standing water can freeze quickly when the temperature drops so the puddle or runoff you drove through in the morning can turn to ice by the time you ride home. For that reason alone I always take the same route home that I took to work. That way there are few surprises if you pay attention to what you see on the ride in. Water in shade and wind can freeze before water in the sun as well so it pays to err on the side of caution when deciding whether or not to ride at this time of year.
I hate having to put the bike away and there have been winters with very little snowfall in which I’ve ridden all year and that’s fantastic. You have to be part weatherman to ride year round but it’s fairly easy to know when it’s time to bring the bike inside until the mid-March thaw. That’s when I confine my riding to the Dakar Rally on T.V., MotoGP on the Xbox, and my motorcycle DVD collection until it’s time to hit the road again for a new season.
What’s the climate like where you live? Who is lucky enough to ride year round and what tips would you have for those of us who do? As always, ride safe.