For many New Yorkers, cycling doesn’t end when the winter begins. On extremely cold and icy days like today, extra precaution is necessary. Avid cyclist and employee at 9th Street Cycles (375 9th Street at 6th Avenue), Giovanni Ramirez shares his top five tips that will help fellow cyclists get through the winter season while keeping warm and staying safe.
1. Wear A Helmet
Giovanni, who has been working in Park Slope for about two years, feels that by working at a bike shop he can’t instruct people how to ride if he doesn’t lead by example.
“Safety is paramount,” says Giovanni, who never rides without his helmet. “My sales pitch with helmets is this: Helmets don’t make you pretty. They keep you pretty.”
2. Use Bike Lights
“Lights are a must in New York City — aside from being the law, it’s just a lot safer,” he says. “I just feel more comfortable with the car seeing me from a block and a half away rather than 10 feet away. Lights come in so many different styles, from USB rechargeable to LED operated, whatever you prefer. They make a world of difference.”
3. Slow Your Pace
Giovanni suggests finding your comfortable pace and then slowing down, giving yourself plenty of space to stop. “You may be able to stop on time, but the car might not or the lady walking across the street with her stroller might not notice you. Be careful not only for yourself, but for everyone else.”
Taking a defensive riding stance, Giovanni recommends taking responsibility for ultimate safety. “Personally I don’t expect everyone around me to be careful, but I’m going to be careful for everyone. Don’t even worry about it, I’m going to cover both of us.”
4. Dress In Layers
“You can’t let the elements stop you,” he says, noting that even a five-degree change in weather makes all the difference, urging that layers are the way to go. “You want to be able to peel stuff off and put stuff on as the weather changes.”
Cycling gloves that are wind and waterproof are the most essential, in addition to headgear such as a balaclava, which keeps the neck and head warm. “People stop wearing helmets because it’s too cold. A lot of helmets are designed to keep you cool, but if you wear a balaclava with a helmet on top you’re absolutely fine.”
5. Stay Alert
“You never see it coming, otherwise you’d never get hit,” says Giovanni, who has been struck twice by vehicles. “A lot of people just get complacent, especially in New York City, so you have to be extremely careful out there at all times. You have to show confidence when you’re riding, but at the same time also respect that there are things that could hurt you.” Use common sense, follow general biking rules, and stay focused.
Bonus: Now’s A Great Time For Bike Fixes
Something else to consider during the winter months is that, due to fewer people riding, business at shops like 9th Street Cycles slows down, making it an ideal time to get work done on your bike with a quick turn around.
“Because it’s slow, we’ve had guys do almost anything from a complete build to changing all the parts on the bike,” Giovanni says. ”You’re looking at a day or two turn-around, as opposed to taking a week for something like that in the spring or summer.”
9th Street Cycles is located at 375 9th Street, 718-768-2453. Hours are Monday-Friday 11am-7pm, Saturday 10am-6pm, and Sunday 11am-5pm.