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About 100 Chicagoans gathered in Daley Plaza Tuesday for warm drinks and conversation in celebration of Winter Bike to Work Day.Winter biking: How to stay warm

Bikers brave the cold, make pit stop

by Melissa May
Jan 20, 2009

Winter biking: How to stay warm

Think your bike-loving heart of fire will provide enough warmth for the winter? Lauren Sailor, a member of Bike Winter, offers some tips to keep you warm and safe should you decide to bike your morning commute.

Clothing:  “Wool and silk tend to be a lot better than cotton,” Sailor said. “When cotton gets wet from your sweat, it’s going to get cold and make you clammy, whereas wool will insulate you even when it is wet. Waterproof layers are great for outerwear.”

Sailor also recommended keeping your eyes covered against snow.

Gear:  “Fenders are a must,” Sailor said. “It’s going to prevent cold, sloshy stuff from flying onto your feet as well as your back.

“Along with fenders, lights are a real biggie. You should have them all year. You want to be as visible as you can, especially when the streets aren’t at their best.”

While most of Chicago commuted in toasty cars, buses or trains Tuesday morning, about 100 Chicagoans rode into the snow-covered city on two wheels and met up in Daley Plaza to grab a warm drink and celebrate Winter Bike to Work Day.

The event, sponsored by the Active Transportation Alliance, has been conducted for more than 10 years. Bikers have seen some pretty cold days in that time, including this Tuesday, when temperatures hovered in the teens.

But snow and frigid winds appeared to be no deterrent for bikers like Lauren Sailor, a member of Bike Winter, an organization that promotes winter biking and safety.

“I’m … from Florida, so I have no cold tolerance,” said Sailor, who commuted from Bridgeport, about five miles. “If you’re out biking and moving, you’re generating a lot of heat, so it’s actually the warmest option, as far as I’m concerned.”

Sailor took the day off to promote the event, but others were actually riding to work.

For 60-year-old Lynn Danford, biking is a way to stay fit and healthy.

“I’ve been riding to work for 10 years at least,” the Albany Park resident said. “I prefer it to any other way of getting to work. It’s more fun than driving, and it’s a lot more fun than riding the El.

“I think it’s pretty cool, actually, that I’m 60 and can still do this. You’re never too old to ride a bike, I don’t think.”

In addition to being a green way to travel, biking helps many Chicagoans save a little green. For Mark Dawson, a 48-year-old who commutes about seven miles from Lincoln Square, this is a major incentive.

“I haven’t had a car for 25 years,” Dawson said. “I chose a lifestyle that allows me not to need one. That’s sort of what biking makes possible. I save myself a lot of money, and I can use that more wisely somewhere else.”

Westlake resident James Longfield said he hopes to renew his commitment to biking into the city.

“I’ve been doing it off and on for 10 years, since I’ve been in Chicago,” Longfield said. “I haven’t really ridden that much in the winter for awhile. I mainly came in for the event, but I need to get back into it, so I used that as a reason.”