Lights, layers, caution: Tips for winter bike riding

By Laura Melamed



“I always have my lights,” says UB student Scott Thomsen. A senior at UB, Thomsen has been bicycle riding for transportation since he was 8 years old.

Thomsen started out by biking to swim lessons with his twin brother. The next summer, the twins biked to the pool again, this time for the swim team.

Now, an experienced year-round cyclist, Thomsen has several suggestions for biking in snow and rain.

“Not much weather stops me,” Thomsen says. He makes an excep- tion for lightning. Usually extremely punctual, he will be late to wait out a thunderstorm.

No matter what the season, Thomsen always has his lights. “You never know when you’re going to get stuck somewhere after dark,” he says.

“Since it gets dark early in winter, it’s best to be prepared.”

Thomsen is prepared with a Cygolite Hotshot, a red light he puts on the back of his bike. For the front of his bicycle, Thomsen uses a Cygolite 450 as a headlight. Both lights are water resistant. “I’ve been in pretty torrential downpours,” Thomsen says, “and I’ve had no issues with these lights.”

Thomsen will even use his lights during the day, if it’s raining. Setting them to flash in order to be more visible.



“You should strive to wear reflective clothing,” says Thomsen. “Something that says ‘don’t touch me—I’m poisonous.’

“Layering is important in winter, Thomsen says. He wears a baklava, long underwear and thick gloves.

“I will always wear layers that have zippers on them,” he adds. When he gets to the top of a hill, he usually takes one layer off.

“You have one base layer that stops your bones from being chilled to the core,” Thomsen says. “As long as you have that base layer on, you’ll warm up faster than you’ll cool down.”

Wilderness experts advise staying away from cotton when you’re looking for a winter base layer. Cotton retains moisture and even a small amount of sweating will make you colder.

Polyester makes a better base layer, because of its moisture wicking technology. Any polyester shirt, leggings or long underwear will preform better than cotton. Read labels in your closet or peruse a local thrift store.

DIY layering is low cost and can be effective with the right materials, especially for trips around the city. For recommendations on base layers designed specifically for bicycling, visit your local bike shop or REI.


“Another way you can take control of your body temperature is by controlling the speed of your ride,’” Thomsen says. If he’s hot, he’ll go slower.

Thomsen also rides more slowly if it’s snowing. He proceeds with caution during freezing rain, as well. He always tries to be especially careful when it’s raining and the temperature is 32 degrees Fahrenheit–or below.


“I typically run my tires at 80 percent of the recommended [tire pressure] in cold weather because you never know if there’s going to be ice,” Thomsen says. “Salt reduces traction, too.”

“Sometimes the salt is worse than the ice,” he adds.

Although studded tires are available for winter riding, Thomsen doesn’t use them in Baltimore. “In New York I’d buy studded tires,” he says, but there’s not enough snow in Charm City to make it worthwhile.


“The main enemy is salt,” says Thomsen. “I always wipe down my bike in winter. Every single time I bring it home.” He wipes down all the parts he can see. He also lightly wipes down his chain and puts a little bit of oil on it.

Why bike?

“I’m free of car payments,” says Thomsen, who also likes being independent of his parents with regard to transportation.

Thomsen had his bike every single day he was on campus last semester. “Anywhere I need to go I use my

bike as my main source of transportation, whether it be to school at UB or certification class on Pratt Street.”

Thomsen also rides his bike to work, to run errands and get groceries.

Want to bike?

Visit Baltimore Bicycle Works for bikes, advice and gear. The shop is located two blocks from the UB campus at 1813 Falls Road.

Want to bike with friends? Join the UB Bicycling Club! Have a safe and happy winter!

Photo courtesy of Laura Melamed

Getting in gear for spring

The UB Bicycling Club is planning rides around Baltimore in April and May

Laura Melamed and Scott Thomsen get ready to go to Baltimore Bike Party last Halloween. Poe stayed on campus. The UB Bicycling Club will ride to Bike Party this Spring on April 29. Photo credit: Curtis Stith

Are you ready to get outside and have some fun, this spring? If so, check out what the bike club is offering.

Canton Waterfront Ride

The UB Bicycling Club is planning a ride to Canton Waterfront Park on April 2nd. The ride will leave Gordon Plaza at 2:30 p.m. and head down the Jones Falls Trail, riding along the water through the Inner Harbor and Fells Point. 

  Riding along the bay downtown is one of my favorite things to do in Baltimore. Looking out across the water, checking out the boats and enjoying the peace, quiet, and absence of cars in the company of friends is a great way to spend a Saturday morning. Even alone, the ride is a good way to commune with nature and get some exercise.

  The ride to Canton starts out heading downhill and once you hit the Inner Harbor, it’s flat all the way to Canton. The only uphill section is going north on the Jones Falls Trail back to UB.

Farmer’s Market Ride

Look out for a farmer’s market ride on April 16th.  Meet the club at 9 a.m on Gordon Plaza. 

Last November, the club rode to the Waverly Farmers Market and loaded up with fresh vegetables and Zeke’s coffee and at least one of us stocked up on homemade pot pies. Okay that was me, but it was at the top of a hill at closing time and they were going for a great price!

 BWI Trail Ride

On April 23rd the club is planning to take the MARC train to the BWI Trail. For a 10-mile loop, the trail is fairly flat with some moderate hills. The trail is near Baltimore and Washington airport, hence the name. The ride will be be a fun way to get to know people and check out planes flying overhead.

Bike Party Ride

On April 29th, the club will ride with Baltimore Bike Party. If you’ve never checked out Bike Party, this may be the perfect time, with warmer weather and people you may know.

  Baltimore Bike Party is a sight to behold. With thousands of bicyclists riding en masse, it’s like a traffic jam that actually moves. There’s music, costumes, and people of all ages riding together. Generally a two or three-hour slow paced ride, there’s a break in between. At Bike Party’s final destination, which is different every time, there are usually plenty of food trucks, which I’m usually more than ready for, after a few hours of riding. Although I’m particularly partial to post-ride falafel, there are often many choices.

UB student Curtis Stith rides with Baltimore Bike Party Photo Credit: Laura Melamed

Bike to School Day and Ride

For even more food, you might want to try Bike to School Day on May 4th. Ride your bike to campus and check-in at Gordon Plaza in the morning or evening.

  Bike to School Day is celebrated nationally to promote healthy commuting that’s good for people and the environment. Also, it’s more fun than driving or waiting for the bus.

  Last year on Bike to School Day, people who rode their bikes to UB got free coffee in the morning as well as pizza in the evening, depending on when they arrived at school. Fun t-shirts especially designed for the occasion were also available. Maybe you’ve seen people wearing them around campus!

  A noontime discussion on the state of bicycling in Baltimore was informative and interesting, as part of Bike to School Day. UB Sustainability Planner, Jeff La Noue, discussed Bike to School Day and Baltimore City Bicycle and Pedestrian Planner, Caitlin Doolin, and Executive Director of Bikemore ,Greg Hinchliffe, gave an enlightening presentation. UB Police Officers Kemp and Shaw joined the discussion, as well.

  An afternoon ride up the Jones Falls Trail, later that same day, was a fun way to exercise and get to know new people.

Ride Details

For more information about Bike to School Day and other upcoming rides, email Scott Thomsen at . Feel free to join the UB Bicycling Club on Org Sync and visit us on Facebook, too!

Being green gets easier: improvements are planned for Baltimore’s bicycle network

UBGreen encourages alternative transportation, including bicycling, to reduce the university’s carbon footprint. Over the next two years there will be extensive improvements to the bicycle network around campus. Baltimore’s new Downtown Bicycle Network will consist of improved bike lanes running east and west as well as north and south. Also, a city-run bike-share system is coming later this summer. Bicycling will become a safer and more practical transportation choice.

Bike lanes coming

A cycle track is planned for Maryland Avenue, with a June start date for construction. A cycle track is a protected bike lane, with a physical barrier between the bike lane and traffic. Several of these facilities already exist in Washington DC, a city with fast rising cycling rates. The Maryland Avenue project is expected to take 90 days to complete. The cycle track will run right through campus to the Inner Harbor southbound and north to 29th St. in Charles Village near Johns Hopkins University.

183 UB students live in the 21218 zip code, 239 live in 21201 and 205 live in 21202. All three zip codes will be a short distance from the new cycle track, putting at least 627 UB students within easy biking distance of UB.

Additionally, students biking to UB from zip code 21211, where 89 students live and which includes Hampden and other northwest locations, will be able to bike the Jones Falls Trail and connect directly with the Maryland Ave. Cycle Track and take it south to campus.

“I would definitely use that route,” said UB student Mia White. “It would give me a safer, more populated route back up to Hampden after dark. And it will mean I can get from my house to campus without having to use any major roads!”

“Charles Village residents would be able to get to UB pretty much instantaneously—and safely, of course–using the cycle track,” said UB student Zachary Holbrook, who commuted to UB by bicycle, regularly, when he lived in Charles Village.

“It’s quicker by bike than car,” said Joshua Davis, assistant professor of history at UB. Davis currently commutes to UB by bicycle, from the Charles Village area, whenever weather allows. “I think the main reason it’s quicker is that it takes a decent amount of time to find a parking spot in the garage and then walk a few blocks back to campus. So a lot depends on where in Charles Village one’s coming from but also where one would be parking.” Davis currently commutes down the bike boulevard on Guilford Ave. and would actually benefit from a second cycle track, planned for Mt. Royal Ave.

The Mt. Royal Streetscape/Cycle Track is another bike facility that will connect our campus with MICA and Bolton Hill. It is scheduled to break ground in 2017, according to a news post by Bikemore, Baltimore City’s bicycle advocacy group. The post appeared on the organization’s website Jan. 7.

Advocating for safe bicycling

Bikemore wants more students to join the campaign to make Baltimore safer and friendlier for bicycles. Adding members helps Bikemore be persuasive with politicians who sometimes don’t realize many people want safe and convenient bike routes. Bikemore offers a $25 student membership for any student who wants to get on board.


In addition to the cycle tracks, a Baltimore bike-share system is sched- uled to launch this fall. Bike-share is a public system that rents bicycles for short-term use. $500 thousand for a bike share system implementation is part of Baltimore’s new public transit plan. With UB right across the street from Penn Station, students are likely to have ample opportunity to participate in bike-share. Baltimore City estimates 300-400 bicycles to be available, initially. UB is evaluating adding a bike-share station directly on campus, according to Jeff La Noue, UB’s sustainability planner.

New at UB

UB recently installed covered bike parking in the Maryland Avenue Garage (MAG). The rack is geared for UB students living in the Mt. Vernon area who may not want to lug their bikes to upper floor apartments, but still want to keep their bikes in a safe, covered area. However, bicycle parking at the MAG is not meant to be treated as an attic. UB commuters are welcome to it as well. Bicycle parking in the MAG is free.

Look out for a bicycle-commuter class this semester. The UB Student Government Association (SGA) and the UB Bicycling Club are working to bring you this event to help make your trip to campus easier.

UB has free showers and lockers at the gym on the third floor of the Academic Center. There are additional state-of-the art showers located in the basement of UB’s Law Center. Showers on campus help make bicycle commuting convenient. There is bicycle parking, outside and under cover, near most of UB’s major buildings.

Join the UB Bicycling Club and get to know the local routes with a group. Scott Thomsen, president of the club, plans to use the Maryland Avenue Cycle Track frequently for club rides. “We could definitely make use of it whenever we go north, or even south for that matter,” he says. To join the club or find out more, visit Org Sync or search the University of Baltimore Bicycling Club on Facebook. Additionally, you can contact Thomsen at Scott.Thomsen@ubalt. edu. Thomsen is a freshman at UB and plans to commute to campus by bicycle for the next three years.

Can UB be a “Bike Friendly University?”

Bicycle Friendly University (BFU) is an official designation given by the League of American Bicyclists with awards ranging from bronze to platinum.

BFU awards are official recognition that a campus creates safe and convenient places to ride and park bicycles, teaches people of all ages and skill levels, builds a strong bike culture that welcomes and celebrates bicycling, ensures safe roads for all users and plans for bicycling as a safe and viable transportation option, states the League of American Bi- cyclists on its website. In Maryland, designated BFU’s include Towson University (bronze) and University of Maryland (gold). UB, Salisbury University, and UMBC are expected to apply for official Bicycle Friendly University Status in August. UB’s 2011 BFU application fell short. “Progress is happening so we have more to offer in our application this time” said Jeff La Noue. If UB gets official BFU status, we will be the first Baltimore City university to achieve that goal.

It seems like a practical choice to me.

Riding in a winter wonderland: Stay safe after dark, in the cold, rain and snow

Copy of Melamed_BikeColumnWinter“Don’t skimp on being seen,” says UB Sustainability Planner, Jeff La Noue. You’re more likely to be riding in the dark during the winter because of shorter days. Windshields can be foggy or icy. Visibility is reduced on the road. Sometimes it’s raining, sleeting or snowing.

Wear bright and reflective clothing, lights on your bike–both front and back, as well as lights on your helmet or backpack, says La Noue, who commutes to UB by bicycle.

“Reflective tape on the bike is a cheap way to increase luminescence.”

“The more you glow and light up the dark the more likely it is you will be seen,” says La Noue.

“Lights are the biggest thing,” says Bernardo Vigil, who works at Baltimore Bicycle Works (BBW) a bike shop two blocks from campus on the Jones Falls Trail.

BBW sells lights that allow you to be seen–and lights that allow you to see. There are red lights for the back of your bike and white lights for the front of your bike. Some lights can be adapted to fit on your backpack or helmet. Other lights are made specifically for these locations.

I rely heavily on a 300-volt Cat Eye white light that sits on my handlebars. I don’t leave home without it. It does double duty: it lets me see on dark, wet streets, and it makes me visible to drivers and pedestrians in similar conditions.

I also wear a turquoise helmet, and sometimes even day-glow orange yoga leggings which do double duty as cycling pants. Both stand out at night and against a snowy background.

A bright orange wind jacket helped Pete Ramsey stay visible whenever he commuted from UB at night during the winter. Pete, who used to work at UB’s Langsdale Library, always set his lights to flash before he took off.

“I always use lights after dark,” says Pete. “One small flasher in each wheel, two lights forward–one flashing and one to see the ground–and one bright red flasher in the back.

Now you know several ways to stay visible. But how will you ever stay warm?

It can be done, say staff at BBW. “It’s all about layers,” says Casey McMann, who has experience bike riding through Michigan winters. Vigil agrees. Vigil is from Minnesota and bike rides in winter as well. “I’m very partial to Merino wool for everything,” says Vigil. “It doesn’t smell as bad as synthetics. It’s very warm, but still breathable.” Virgil advises not to wear a heavy jacket, as you heat up very fast once you get moving.

I’ve seen bike-riders stuck with a heavy coat, luckily accompanied by friends with backpacks. They always, without fail, pass their coat over to the person with the pack.

“I might wear a pea-coat if I were going a really short distance,” says Virgil, “but otherwise a thin waterproof shell is essential. It should be large enough that you can layer underneath.”

You also want a good cinch between your sleeves and gloves, says Vigil, to keep out the wind. A tube-like scarf can keep your neck warm, without risk of getting caught in your chain or your wheels.

About gloves, Vigil says “You want them!”

Vigil wore wool liner gloves under leather work gloves, while bike-riding through Minnesota winters, mainly because he had them around.

They need to stop wind, said Vigil of winter-riding gloves. They shouldn’t be bulky—you want to make sure you can maintain dexterity. BBW has cycling-specific gloves made for various temperature ranges, says Grace Blair, who also works at BBW.
Endura Deluge gloves are designed to keep you warm down to 35 degrees–but Blair has worn them at 20 degrees while cycling downhill 7 miles, from Towson, to BBW.

The shop also has Giro gloves for winter. According to the label, the Giro gloves (specifically the “proof” glove) will keep you warm down to 25 degrees.

BBW also sells wool caps you can wear under your helmet.

Pete Ramsey doubles up on socks when it drops to 25 degrees.

You can find winter-specific cycling shoes at BBW as well as covers you can put over your existing shoes.

Now that you’ve got the gear down, how do you get around?

Vigil recommends non-studded winter-specific tires that can handle the regular road as well as snow and ice. They are a little wider and a little softer than regular tires, but they harden when exposed to cold. These tires have a little extra tread, as well.

Another option for winter riding, says Vigil, is to get the fattest tires your bike can handle. Don’t fill them up as much. You want them a little soft, so they widen when you’re on the bike, giving you a little more traction.

Allow extra time for travel. “I leave more time so I can ride a little slower and pay a little more attention than I usually do,” says Vigil.

Fenders help, Vigil adds, but wouldn’t say they’re necessary. They do keep your drive train clean, though, which includes the chain, crank set and cogs. You need to clean your bike more often in winter, says Vigil, especially the chain. Otherwise, grit will wear things out faster.

Do you want to save money?

BBW is having a 30 percent off sale on all Endura products. Also, there may be a tune up special in February.

BBW is located at 1813 Falls Road on the Jones Falls Trail

BBW Hours:

Mondays 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Tuesday through Friday 11 a.m. to 7p.m.

Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Go visit them before you get cold feet.


Bike More, Bee More

One of the great joys of bike riding is being able to load up on French fries while also losing weight.

One of the great pains of bike riding is finding a place to park without losing your bike to the ravages of rain — especially on a longterm basis.

With a new sheltered bike rack installed inside the Maryland Avenue Garage (MAG), UB students who live in midtown now have a new option for bicycle parking.

MAG bike parking is free.

“We want to see if there’s demand for covered bike parking for people who live in the neighborhood,” said UB Sustainability Planner Jeff La Noue.

The rack is mainly geared toward students who reside near UB but it’s open to UB bicycle commuters, as well.

Six bikes can be locked at the rack, with protection from the elements. There is room for expansion if the new bike rack proves popular.

The MAG is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. Bee card access is available all other times through the Biddle Street entrance.

Residents of the Varsity have a special room for bicycle storage. The Varsity, an apartment building for UB students at 30 W. Biddle St., is two blocks from campus. Up to 323 students can live in the Varsity.

But how many students live near UB without access to a bike room?

239 UB students live in the 21201 zip code, the same zip code as UB.

205 UB students live in 21202, the zip code next door. 

Christine Wertz, who lives ten blocks from UB, rents a fourth floor walk-up with no elevator and no room for storage.

UB students Scott Thomsen and Christine Wertz check out the bike room that provides longterm and overnight bicycle storage for residents of the Varsity, near campus. How many students living in midtown don’t have access to a bike room? Photo Credit: Laura Melamed
UB students Scott Thomsen and Christine Wertz check out the bike room that provides longterm and overnight bicycle storage for residents of the Varsity, near campus. How many students living in midtown don’t have access to a bike room?
Photo Credit: Laura Melamed

Even if there were room for bike storage in her apartment, getting a bike up and down the stairs would be impossible.

“It’s so annoying!” said Wertz, who is majoring in history at UB. “Literally, the top flight of stairs is just wide enough for me to get through.”

How many UB students are in Wertz’s situation?

When Alexis Jeter lived in Bolton Hill, she kept her bike in her living room. Jeter, an English major at UB, said bike parking in the MAG might have helped her out.

It’s challenging to get around a bike parked in the middle of your living space. My bike is now leaning against my dresser. I make sure I keep most of my work clothes elsewhere, but when I need something out of that dresser, it requires wheeling the bike halfway around the room.

I have access to storage space but it’s down a flight stairs and through heavy doors. I have to hold those heavy doors open while bike pedals scape mercilessly against my legs as I try to squeeze my transportation through a tiny space and keep it from crashing to dangerous depths at the same time.

I would definitely experiment with bike parking in the MAG if I lived close to UB.

Even bike commuters were excited to hear about the new sheltered racks.

“Absolutely,” said UB student Timothy Kleiner when I asked him if he would use the new bicycle parking in the MAG. Kleiner has a fifteen minute bicycle commute to campus.

For extra protection but no extra cost, students can register their bikes with the UB police, as well.

Please see comments below for updates on how to register your bike with campus security.

Bicycle registration, like bicycle parking, is free.

Free + free sounds like a good deal to me.

Of course you have to pay for bicycle fuel, but what’s a few extra french fries?

From party to port — to campus

Bicycling is social in Baltimore

It’s hard to describe the exhilaration I felt, riding my bike up North Charles Street between the UB Law School and the Academic Center with about two thousand people on bikes behind me. I waved to an UB student standing on the corner of Charles St. and Mt. Royal Ave. who seemed more than a little surprised to see us.

Every month Bike Party has a theme — August was circus!
Every month Bike Party has a theme — August was circus!

It was Friday, August 28, 2015, but more importantly, it was the last Friday of the month in Baltimore.

Baltimore Bike Party takes place the last Friday of every month, all year long.

I’d only gone once before — in the summer of 2014, when I took up the tail end of a teaming mass of bicycles with a little trepidation and followed them nervously but determinedly for two hours. It was my first summer of bike riding after fifteen years of steering completely clear of bicycles. As a Gen X’er used to riding the light rail or the quiet car on the MARC train, the bells, whistles, and blasting music of Bike Party were a bit of a change.

I felt right at home wearing my University of Baltimore shirt, which was part of my costume for the “Boasting Baltimore” Bike Party theme that night. I was following instructions on the Bike Party.

Facebook page that said “dress up in what you love about Baltimore and Maryland.”

UB student Zachary Holbrook led the ride. Holbrook had led the ride that originally got me back into cycling — a trip up the Jones Falls Trail the previous November — along with UB Sustainability Planner Jeff La Noue as part of a UBGreen event. Intermittently, during that entire August Bike Party, I wondered if Holbrook would turn out to be the leader of every ride I went on. But I didn’t see him on the next group ride.

When I joined the Crank Mavens Monday Night Riders, it was a small group of women organized by Molly Williams, who took the name from an earlier women’s cycling group.

“A bunch of women I knew had been on other group rides and we all talked about how great it would be to have one geared towards a community of women,” said Williams.

A few people picked a route, on the spot, and off we went. It was a quiet ride where I got to chat and get to know people. One woman even carried a radio that played some really mellow music.

Equally mellow was the Maryland Historical Society Bike Ride which started out with a happy hour and a tour of the museum. Bikes going back to the 1800s were on exhibit. The ride went through Reservoir Hill and ended with an outdoor party and food stands featuring local vendors.

During May 2015, the UB Out- doors Club hosted Bike to School Day right on campus with the assis- tance of the Helen P. Denit Honors Program and UBGreen. Thirty members of the UB community participated and a few said they would like to see a cycling club on campus.

Why not?, I thought. There are regular group rides all around Baltimore. Along with the rides I’d been on, there was also the popular Tour du Port and Tour D’em Parks, to name just a few.

It would be really cool if UB had its own bike rides, I thought.

Or, a UB group could join larger rides like Tour du Port.

By the time you read this article a UB Cycling Club may be ready to roll.

This August I was ready for another Bike Party and I was ready to ride at the front instead of the back. There is nothing like looking behind you and seeing thousands of bicycles fill the street as if they were cars.

It was a curb-to-curb phenomenon of shiny two-wheeled wonders.

Imagine what UB students could do if we got on our bikes and joined in with all the others.

Photos courtesy of Laura Melamed