MARQUETTE - Winter bicycling has become increasingly popular over the years. Better accessibility to trails and roadways has helped to boost the trend.
For Stephen Andreae, an employee at Lakeshore Bikes, and Nicholas Dobbs, who works at DownWind Sports and others throughout town, winter mountain biking has many benefits.
Andreae and Dobbs both said commuting by bike has helped them save money on gasoline.
Stephen Andreae rides his Surly Pugsley-brand bicycle equipped with 4-inch diameter tires down Ohio Street Wednesday in Marquette. Winter biking of this sort is becoming increasingly popular in Superiorland and other winter areas. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)
A 4-inch diameter Surly-brand tire is seen on the left and a studded two inch tire at the right. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)
Last summer, Dobbs sold his perfectly-working vehicle to rely completely on his bike.
"It is a great way to stay in shape and keep your muscles conditioned for next season," observed Dobbs.
Andreae said it is not only a health choice but riding is also economic and environmental friendly.
"With all the talk of global warming and to save money with the economy the way it is, I don't have to fill up my car every week," said Andreae.
Biking is a great way of year-round commuting.
Winter biking does require certain modifications be made as well as an awareness of safety concerns before hitting the streets or trails.
There are several different options that can be made, either purchasing a new specially-customized bike or making specific modifications to your already-existing bike.
Surly Bikes, from Bloomington, Minn., makes a specialized bike called a Pugsley.
"These bikes have a modified frame and wider fork designed to accommodate the wider tires," said Andreae.
Compared to a regular bike tire, which is about 2 inches in diameter, the tires on the Pugsley are 4 inches in diameter.
"These tires have a larger surface area that increases the floatation of the bike so it stays near the surface of the snow instead of cutting through and sinking," he said.
If purchasing a new bike is not in your budget, there are simple modifications that can be done to your current bike and at a reasonable price, too
The first and perhaps most important modification is purchasing new tires. Swapping out your regular, treaded tires with studded tires will help with traction on slippery roads.
"Riding through the snow is like riding through the mud all the time," Dobbs said. "It is very soft and squirrley. You definitely learn to ride a bike when you ride in snow."
Another modification that can be made is installing full-length fenders over both front and rear tires with mud flaps.
"These will help keep all the road grime off you," said Andreae.
Some safety issues should also be addressed before heading out on the roads or trails.
In addition to wearing weather appropriate, high visibility and reflective clothing, a helmet and lights are very important.
"Wearing a helmet whenever riding a bike should be a given, especially in the winter," said Dobbs.
All the modification to the bike will not necessarily stop it from slipping on the roads and trails, he said.
Having the lights on the bike is also a nice thing to have. Bike lights will not only help one to see in a low visibility situation, but it will also help others on the road to see you.
"You can wear all the high visibility and reflective clothing but some people still won't see," said Andreae.
Winter biking has become more and more popular.
"There are several trails around town that can be ridden year-round," Andreae said.
Bikers will go out looking for trails to ride that are packed down regularly from hikers and snowshoers.
Andreae said, "There are some guys that groom trails. They have little groomers for the back of their snowmobiles so you can go on south trails right now and it would be just a little bit wider than a mountain bike trail."
The snow doesn't have to stop you from riding your bike whether commuting or trail riding.
Andy Nelson-Zaleski can be reached at 906-228-2500 ext. 256. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.