Start Winter Commuting Part III: Planning

Okay, so far we have shown you what to ride, and what to wear, now it’s time to actually sit down plan the trip.

This is a one time only event, once you have been riding for a while you will naturally know the timing of the day and the best routes to go in the wintertime, but for your first attempt, take a minute to think things through.

Why Plan?

Well, you are headed to work, we don’t want you to be late, but also we don’t want you there a half an hour early, so a little bit of planning work will end up in your favor.  Also riding the roads in the winter time are not the same as in the summer, therefore your commuting route might not be the same, better to plan ahead and not get stuck on a bad road.


Especially on your first trip, everything is going to take a little bit longer.  This includes getting dressed in the morning, getting out of the house, getting to work, and once you get to work, getting out of your riding gear and into work gear.

A good tip is to get everything prepared the night before, including clothes, bike lights, air in your tires, etc., so that you aren’t trying to decide what layers to wear in a pre-coffee haze or frantically searching for your pump.

The route:

There are some special things to consider when picking your travel route in the winter that make it unique compared to summer route planning.  Using Google maps bike planner, can be a good starting point, but it should be taken with a huge grain of salt. Likewise the City of Minneapolis and City of Saint Paul each have detailed bike maps.

So what should you be thinking about while planning?

1) Bike lanes are non-existent and dangerous during the winter.  Check out our post from earlier this month about the treachery of Minneapolis bike lanes here.  It is based on this that we recommend that you avoid trying to ride in bike lanes during the winter months. They are icy and dangerous and often times filled with parked cars, this forces you the cyclist into a bad position.  You are better off staying to the right of the street and taking your lane, just remember your tax dollars paid for it, you deserve to use it.

2) The Greenway and other bike routes are plowed in winter.  Minneapolis deserves credit for their dedicated plowing of the Greenway throughout winter.  Even after large snowfalls, it usually takes them less than a day to get the path cleared.  If at all convenient, make this part of your planned route.

3) If you can’t make an off-street route happen, try to ride on roads that were formerly two lanes, or on side streets.  During the wintertime two lane roads generally turn into one and a half lane roads.  Here you can feel free to take up the full half lane without any problems.  The drawback to taking side streets is that while there is generally less traffic, the road condition is usually worse.  If you are on a mountain bike or fat tire, you should have no problems, if not you might want to stick to the 1.5 lane roads.

Dry run:

Think you have a good route planned out for the ride on Friday?  Why not drive that way home from work tonight?  This will give you an opportunity to check to see how clear the streets are, and if you have planned out a good way there.

We debated including this section about the dry run.  Part of the fun and excitement of riding your bike in the winter is the spontaneity and resourcefulness that it requires. However, we remembered that we are writing these posts to get people outside and commuting in winter for the first time ever and this is one way to help.

Tomorrow Part IV – The Ride.

This entry was posted in Salute to the Winter Commuter, Tips, Twin Cities Cyclist and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Start Winter Commuting Part III: Planning

  1. Pingback: Thursday Give-Away: Freewheel Gift Card | Cycle Twin Cities

  2. Chris Warren says:

    Cyclopath ( is another great tool for working out a route. It’s a project from the University of Minnesota, and is basically a map wiki for where you can note which blocks have good bike lanes, large hills, or bad pot holes. It’s a cool way to get an idea of whether or not that new route you want to take has any obstacles you might not have considered.

  3. Randall says:

    I use cyclopath quite a bit for routing. One thing that I’ve found really helpful for feeling safe in the winter has been trying to avoid peak travel times especially around residential side streets, and especially after it snows when people don’t scrape their windows well enough to see you.

  4. Pingback: Start Winter Commuting Part IV – The Ride | Cycle Twin Cities

  5. ben says:

    I usually will check to see what bus routes are by my route and have change.

    Falling down is just one thing I can mention sending me to a bus.

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