Ride indoors or embrace the Polar Vortex?

Bar Mitts, Dillinger studded tires, a Schlick Northpaw, wool sweater and insulated jeans keep me rolling even on the coldest commutes.

Old Man Winter came knocking a bit earlier than normal this year. Maybe it is time to redefine “normal” winters, with 73 inches of snow already on the ground up in Gile, WI and 10 degree commutes down here in Southeastern part of the state. I have friends who swear they just recovered from PVSD (Polar Vortex Stress Disorder) after last winter.

Personally, I try to embrace my inner Inuit when the temperatures drop. With two fat bikes, both with studded tires, I love the cold, ice and snow. As soon as the trails on my commute to work turned icy, I swapped my 1936 Raleigh for my belt-dive Schlick Northpaw. The Schlick has dynamo lighting, full fenders, a rack, and my two favorite winter weapons: Barr Mitts and 45Nrth Dillenger studded tires. The Bar Mitts keep my fingers warm, even in the coldest weather and the Dillengers keep the rubber side down on the icy, off-camber sections of the Oak Leaf Trail and Hank Aaron State Trail that make up most of my commute.

My wife Liz commuting in her cute vintage snowmobile suit last winter on her Dutch Workcycles Omafiets.

OK, I admit that I am not in the norm here. Most of you are not going to don your wool sweaters and insulated Carharts so you can pedal to work on studded tires. I have plenty of friends who do ride all winter, and even my wife, who is quick to tell anyone who asks that she is not a “bicyclist” pulls on her vintage snowmobile suit and rides Oma to work. Although winter cycling continues to get more popular, I recognize that most people put the bike away for the winter.

For those of you who don’t like the cold, but still want to keep your fitness, many local bike shops offer really fun indoor cycling classes. I have listed a few from the Milwaukee area below, but there are many others. If you know of a shop offering an indoor class that I missed, please share it in the comment section below. If you are cut from the same bolt of wool that I am, say hi to me when you see me on the trail!


One of the Computrainer sessions at Crank Daddy’s

Crank Daddy’s Bicycle Works Fitness Center: Crank Daddy’s Bicycle Works offers has a state-of-the-art 2,000 square foot training center featuring a big-screen TV with DVD/VHS and cable hookup, stereo system, computer with projection equipment, and16 CompuTrainers. CompuTrainers are high tech and allow you to choose a customizable course, adjust the difficulty based on hills, grades, wind and drafting, and track critical stats such as speed, calories, watts, distance and even check your spin. Best of all, you can ride with and race your friends!


Brent is still out there racing!

Coach Brent Emery’s Winter Indoor Training Sessions: Emery’s has CompuTrainers as well, and you get the benefit of Brent Emery’s experience. How often do you get a chance to ride with a multi-time World Champion and Olympian? Well, Brent has been running his winter training sessions for 26 years!

The workouts are open to anyone desiring to workout smarter, learn how to be a better athlete, improve your physiology, gain intimate knowledge of the many ways to pedal a bicycle, and develop great training and recovery habits in a time efficient manner, all while becoming a faster cyclist. Participants may do as many or as few of the sessions as their schedule sees fit.

Emery’s asks that your RSVP a few days in advance is highly suggested to be sure there is space available.

Wheel & Sprocket Indoor Training Hub: What I really like about Wheel’s new indoor classes is that they include some bicycle safety instruction every class. Just because you are riding indoors doesn’t mean you can reinforce safe, legal riding! The other cool thing is they have Sally Edwards, world-renowned triathlete and author of 40 books on Heart Zone Training and Bike Fed pals from Tri-Faster as coaches. You can learn more and meet Sally Edwards this weekend at their Learn more at our Open Houses:

  • Friday, November 21st­ 7:00pm – 8:30pm at Wheel & Sprocket Hales Corners: 5722 S. 108th Street
  • Saturday, November 22nd 11:00am-12:30pm at Wheel & Sprocket Fox Point: 6940 N. Santa Monica Blvd
  • Saturday, November 22nd 3:00pm-4:30pm at Wheel & Sprocket Brookfield: 13925 W. Capitol Drive


About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

6 thoughts on “Ride indoors or embrace the Polar Vortex?

  1. I’m headed out on the OLT shortly to get to my downtown MIlwaukee office. Lean in to it. It only gets better, the more you do it, get the right clothing and equipment, and learn how to do it well and comfortably. Winter bike commuting is the only way to go. Why get into a cold, expensive, environmental-detrimental car, and drive around at restricted speeds a midst a bunch of nimrod’s texting on their phones, when you can instead head out on the Hank Aaron or the Eastside OLT on your own joy-inducing epic adventure? (Re-post sometime that old great Miller High Life Beer commercial, showing the Milwaukee guy bike through the snow with his beer, in defiance of OPEC). Thanks.
    Sandie Pendleton
    Greater Shorewood Bikers

  2. Tough it out.
    This is Wisconsin, you already have all the right clothes.
    Why would you drive somewhere to pretend to ride a bike?
    Some tips for first timers-
    Put new batteries in your lights, it gets dark early.
    Scout out a route before the snow flies. Plows will push snow to the curb forcing people to park in the bike lanes. Find side streets that go where you’re going.
    Studded tires are awesome but pricey. You can make your own for cheap.
    Fenders help you avoid the wet butt. Light plastic ones are fairly inexpensive.
    Keep some basic tools and extra clothes/gloves in your backpack, conditions can change rapidly.
    Keep your eyes open, drivers aren’t really watching for bikes in winter.
    Allow a little extra time, my 25 min commute takes 35 in the snow.
    Good luck, have fun and I’ll see you out there.

  3. Are there any bike shop training classes near Kenosha or Racine area? I’m 71 and want to keep riding but don’t want to breathe cold air.

  4. What do you wear on your feet when you ride? That’s the one thing I had trouble with last winter. I could only last about 15 minutes when it was below zero before having to go in somewhere and warm up.

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