Portland Biking Safety for Fall/Winter

LED headlamp
Portland biking ebbs and flows. In the summer, the bike paths are packed. But once the rains set in each fall, the numbers of cyclists drops dramatically. It’s unfortunate that so many bikers let Portland’s rainy season dictate their riding patterns. Really, the Rose City is a great town for biking, even in the dead of winter. We don’t see the frozen roads and snow piles that Minneapolis bikers face in the winter, for instance. (There, avid bike commuters are known to put studded snow tires on their rides to maintain a proper grip on slippery winter roads.) Portland’s weather rarely dips below freezing. As long as you have the right gear, you can enjoy cycling in Portland all year round, even during the rainy season from October through April.

Wind, rain, and darkness are your main concerns. To combat biting winds and incessant rains, wear multiple layers. Start off with a wicking bottom layer to draw sweat away from your skin while you ride. Second, add an insulating middle layer to keep you warm on your commute. And to top it all off, wear a waterproof windbreaker that will keep you dry. Also: make sure your bike is equipped to tackle stormy weather, with fenders and good tires. Don’t forget to get a tune-up this fall, to ensure no unexpected breakdowns on the road. Finally, wader boots are a great way for newbie winter commuters to keep their feet dry. As you’re ready to invest in better rain gear, look for shoe covers to fit over your biking shoes. Finally, you’ll need a good pair of gloves, a hat that fits under your helmet, and warm socks to stay comfortable on your ride.

To combat the darkness, equip your bike with plenty of lights. In Portland, darkness falls as early as 4pm, so it’s almost inevitable that you’ll be sharing some roads with car drivers. Your lights are your number one form of protection against accidents. A well-lit biker is a visible biker. You’ll need at least one light in the front, and one red blinking bike in the rear. LED lights are a great choice, since they’re long lasting and energy efficient. In addition to these minimum lighting requirements, we suggest wearing an LED headlamp strapped onto your helmet. This ensures a steady stream of light exactly where you need it: where you’re looking. Portland’s winter darkness is thick, and a LED headlamp will illuminate the pavement in front of your bike, helping you avoid obstacles.

For many Portlanders, the winter rains make it hard to keep up a good exercise regimen. And it’s hard to connect with nature when you don’t want to get wet. Fortunately, you can enjoy a healthy body and a strong connection to nature by biking in Stumptown all year round.

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