Year-round cyclists welcome winter’s wicked weather

Ed Lipski takes on Old Carversville Rd. in Upper Bucks County just after a December snowstorm. (Fred Stucky photo)
      You know that guy you’ve seen running down the street wearing shorts in the middle of a snowstorm?
      Or the woman in a T-shirt out walking her dog when it’s so cold your car won’t start?
      And then there’s the annual Polar Bear Plunge – don’t even get us started on that.
      Well, you get the idea. Some folks just have their spirits go up when the thermometer goes down.
      That includes “year-round cyclists,’’ an ever-growing bunch of hearty bicycle enthusiasts who don’t believe in taking a season off.
      They saddle up all 12 months of the year and, sort of like the postal service, deliver a workout through snow, rain, heat or, in some instances, gloom of night.
      With the dog days of winter upon us, it should be noted there are probably more bicyclists out in this January than any other in decades.
      Reason No. 1: The pandemic. Reason No. 2: Cabin fever from the pandemic. And Reason No. 3: A lot of “new’’ people started biking last spring due to the pandemic’s outbreak and just haven’t stopped.
      “I have seen a marked increase in winter cyclists lately,’’ said Harry Betz, who owns and operates Newtown Bicycle and Fitness Shop. “Getting out for even a short ride works wonders for the psyche in getting through these difficult times.’’
      There’s been a similar uptick observed by Bob Burke, who owns and operates Guy’s Bicycles in Feasterville.
      “I have a very large customer base that rides all year round,’’ said Burke, “regardless of weather, temperature or conditions.’’
      And Mike Joseph, proprietor of Firehouse Cycles in Yardley, says there are no more down months in his store operations.
      “In the past, I typically took in zero revenue and sat around twiddling my fingers for six weeks (in winter),’’ Joseph said. “January and February are now regular months of business.’’
      Unofficially, there are three general rules of “offseason’’ biking:
      >1. Have your bike properly tuned up, fitted and prepared for tougher conditions.
      >2. Dress for the elements, specifically keeping your head, hands and feet weatherproof.
      >3. Know the conditions, including the amount of moisture on road or trail surfaces, as well as the wind factor.
      Bike preparation includes having the right tires, functional lights, back fenders to prevent “rooster-tailing’’ on wet byways and brakes and gears tuned up.
      “For road cycling, in the winter, all tires are equal — equally bad at keeping you upright,’’ Joseph said.  “You are taking that risk that if you hit an ice patch, you’re going down.
      “A few people use studded tires on their bike. That helps, but you still need to be careful. Stay off the painted lines in winter or cross them perpendicular. If you bank a turn on them it’s very dangerous.’’
      Lights are important, day or night.
      “A good light system is invaluable if one chooses to be a ‘night rider,’ ” Betz said. “The light technology is crazy good lately, lots of illumination for a reasonable price.’’
      All three stores have plenty of apparel to fend off “Ol’ Man Winter.’’
      Burke rides year-round, so he knows the drill.
      “From heavier cycling tights, base layers, jackets to winter cycling shoes, wool socks and even extra shoe covers, we do stock plenty of these accessories,’’ Burke said. “Base layers are the most important part of dressing properly. Once you have the base layer, the next level of clothing is determined by the temperature and/or the wind chill.
      “There are caps to wear under your helmet that are a must to keep the warmth in. There are also varying levels of winter gloves. Some folks, like myself, choose battery-operated heated gloves that can last up to five hours for the long rides.’’
      The key, says Joseph, is getting comfortable for the start of the ride.
      “You need to fend off the weather for the first 10 minutes of your ride in winter,’’ Joseph said. “That means head, hands, feet. If you cover those well, you’re going to have a nice ride.’’
      Going off-road in winter can be even more challenging.
      “Even for snow, there are ‘fat-tire’ bikes that are very popular,’’ Burke said. “They have tires as wide as five inches.
      “Also, the latest and most popular type of bicycle, gravel bikes, can be ridden in all conditions. Lots of riders are looking for an alternative to paved roads where there is so much automobile traffic. These gravel bikes let you ride on back country roads that are not paved as well as paved roads.’’
      Sometimes discretion, as the cliché adage goes, can be the better part of valor.
      Like this Friday, when the high for the day is only supposed to be 25 degrees. Time to hit the Peleton?
      “That varies depending on the person, sunlight, wind velocity. . .they all enter into the equation,’’ Betz said. “Sometimes in the dead of winter when it’s too cold and not fun, a break is a good thing.’’
      Perhaps. But even on the most frigid day, you’re still going to find one or two of these folks pedaling around without a care in the world.
      Race calendar
      Sunday
      Bucks County Roadrunners Club Winter Series Wild Card (4-6 miles), 9 a.m., Tyler State Park, Newtown. Contact www.bcrrclub.com
About Wayne Fish 1291 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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