Neither snow nor rain nor freezing temperatures can keep these Milwaukeeans out of the saddle.
Mauriah Kraker has had many return addresses in the past 10 years. The dancer/choreographer spent the past decade living in far-flung outposts like New York, Taiwan and Thailand. Through all those moves, one constant has seen her through: biking. Now back in her native Milwaukee, Kraker rides (or walks) just about everywhere.
“Walking and biking a city allows me to feel a city’s pulse,” she says, “in a way cars do not.”
Andrew Temperly’s mind is on the same track. For the past 14 years, he’s set out from his Bay View home to commute to and from work. The store manager of Erik’s Bike and Board Shop in Whitefish Bay insists he would be pedaling year-round even if he wasn’t employed at a bike shop; he rides for the thrill of it.
“Winter riding is a blast,” Temperly says. “You get the challenge of the weather and the street conditions, so it’s like mountain biking in that respect.”
Temperly has a “do-all” Specialized bike that he outfits with studded tires for icy conditions, but the rest remains the same.
For his winter commute, he sports a balaclava hood that goes under his helmet and protects his head and face, leaving only his eyes uncovered. Winter-specific riding Specialized shoes are covered with a neoprene bootie on very cold days, and a breathable soft-shell fleece blocks the wind. He’ll also sport Chrome knickers atop a pair of long underwear and slides his hands into a pair of Bar Mitts, thick mittens that attach to the handlebars.
He does admit dressing and undressing can be a chore, but he wouldn’t trade it for a heated seat on the bus. He can’t stand waiting around and insists his commute is always quicker by bike. “Winter can be so oppressive,” Temperly says. “Riding helps break down cabin fever.”
Kraker also admits she’s not a fan of the cold and slush. But if she wasn’t forcing herself to get on the bike, she fears she would hibernate until spring makes an appearance. Of course, just like the rest of us battling the elements, sporting the right gear makes all the difference.
“It may be 16 degrees. But with no wind, it can still be a great bike ride,” Kraker says. She swears by a fleece liner that zips into her Bern helmet. As for the body, a lighter wind- and waterproof Lululemon jacket with a removable fleece liner works wonders. Sorel snow boots and fashion glasses or old ski goggles complete her armor. She layers Craft cycling mittens under a pair of her grandma’s hand-knit wool mittens and sports SmartWool socks to keep her digits toasty.
“Riding a single speed builds an enormous amount of body heat,” Kraker says. “If I dress too warmly, I will arrive to my destination sweaty, then immediately become cold. Wearing fewer, lighter layers is really key to happy winter biking.”
Staying visible on city streets is paramount. For that, Kraker outfits her ride with two lights that can switch from blinking to steady depending on her surroundings. She’ll also wear an LED headlamp on top of her helmet to ensure motorists can spot her.
Both cyclists agree that most of the clothing can be found in the closet of a hardy Wisconsinite. As for the mindset, Temperly has become so accustomed to riding in the elements that he doesn’t think much of it.
He urges newbies to make a weeklong effort to try winter riding. He knows it becomes easier with each ride.
“Once you get the clothing figured out, staying warm isn’t an issue,” he says.