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Winter Biking: Are You up to the Challenge?

Average is out. Extreme is in. If your average workout isn’t working out, it may be time to recharge your routine. Why not take biking to another level?�

Bike messengers do it and 1 out of every 20 commuter cyclists keeps pedaling all winter long. Cycling is popular in itself, but winter biking seems to be gaining popularity among fitness buffs looking for a challenge and those who have discovered the possibilities of commuting and riding weekend trails when the ground is covered with snow and ice.�

Cycling anytime of the year has many benefits. It improves physical fitness and reduces the risk of heart disease. Cycling for 30 minutes daily, for example, reduces the risk of heart disease by 50%. Like many other forms of exercise, biking may also relieve stress and anxiety.

Biking outdoors during the winter is a sure cure for cabin fever, but it offers mental benefits as well. Accomplishing anything outdoors during the brutal winter months can present a challenge. But biking during the chilly time of the year may be the challenge you need to boost your workout.�

If you decide you want to start biking during the winter months there are a few things to keep in mind when dressing for cold-weather riding. The key element to winter cycling is proper attire. The three most important areas to consider are the feet, the hands, and the head. For the feet, you should wear a solid pair of waterproof boots with thinsulate, an excellent and not-too-expensive boot insulator. For the hands the best bet is to buy leather glove shells and synthetic liners. You can also layer regular gloves, but just make sure you are able to maintenance your bike without fully removing your gloves. Keeping the head warm is easy. A few thin layers should do the trick as long as you wear your helmet.�

For the rest of the body, think layers. Long underwear and/or sweats, and a pair of waterproof/windproof outer pants should work just fine for the lower body. Dressing the upper body varies based on your level of comfort, level of exertion, and weather conditions. A polypropylene undershirt combined with a medium-weight synthetic middle layer and a water-resistant, breathable shell is probably all you need on cold days.

On days when there’s a serious wind chill, but you still feel up to the challenge; cover your body from head to toe. Wear a balaclava* to guard your face as well as a headband and ski hat to cover your ears. Goggles can protect your eyes as well as fill any gaps between the ski cap, headband and balaclava. *�

When riding outdoors in the winter, your bike should be treated differently than in the summer. First, if at all possible, leave your expensive mountain bike at home. Buy a cheaper bike, a used bike or an “old beater” if you can. The cheaper the better. Use the widest tires possible and use half of the air you would use normally. The more tread you put on the ice and snow, the less likely you are to slip and slide. Once your bike is prepped and you’re dressed and ready to roll, remember to be defensive when riding in traffic and use headlights and taillights when riding at night.�

With the right bike and the proper attire, winter biking can be a challenging and positive experience. And by the way, it can help you keep those winter pounds off too!�

****A balaclava is an outer shell that fits over the head and neck. It protects the head and neck from cold and draws moisture away from the head to keep you warm and dry. Go to www.rei.com to purchase a balaclava and other quality discounted winter gear.****

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