From the Mechanic’s Bench: Winter Self-Care


During the winter months, our mechanics will be providing blog readers with maintenance and mechanics articles on different skills, knowledge, and tips for safe riding.

In this article, Azul Kmiecik highlights self-care tips for winter and biking.


I think winter is beautiful. I love the soft snow piled on sleeping gardens and the steam rising off downtown in the morning sunlight. After a chilly bike ride–the wind nipping at my cheeks and my breath coming out in dragon puffs–I love walking into my home and feeling toasty. But even as much as I love winter, the short days, below zero temperatures, and howling Canadian winds can wear me down, especially when I’m out on a bike. So what to do? SELF CARE!

Here are some of my favorite self care tips:


  • FOOD: Your body burns more calories working to stay warm. I pack some nutrient-dense snacks–nuts, chocolate, dried fruits–in my bag so I can refuel after riding in the cold. I also cook more with cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, garlic, chili, cumin, pepper, and other spices associated with warming foods. Traditional Chinese medicine teaches that foods have cooling, warming, or neutral characteristics. And in winter, I seek out warming foods to add to the warming effects of my body.
  • SKIN: Although we might not realize it, winter quickly dehydrates us. I make a concerted effort to drink lots of water, which is good for my brain and my skin. I carry lip balm with me (and use it frequently). And I have a tub of Shea butter to slather on my hands.
  • MUSCLES: It’s harder for our muscles to warm up when it’s only 15 degrees out. Taking a few moments to stretch calves, hamstrings, and quads can help a lot. And don’t forget a few shoulder and neck circles to get out the kinks from being hunched up in the cold!
  • MIND: Do things that help you relax and feel positive. I like putting a few drops of a favorite essential oil in the bathtub and then taking a warm shower. If you’re a bath person, a mineral salt soak is heavenly. Put up some bright colors in your room to keep the gloom away or consider adding a full spectrum light.
  • LET YOURSELF TAKE A BREAK: Not feeling the bike ride today? That’s OK! We all have days where we need to rest and let our bodies rejuvenate. Take time to listen to your body and rest when you need it.

Those are a few of my favorite tips. How about you? What do you do to take care of yourself in the winter?

– Azul Kmiecik

From the Mechanic’s Bench: Light up the Night


During the winter months, our mechanics will be providing blog readers with maintenance and mechanics articles on different skills, knowledge, and tips for safe riding.

This month, Andrew “Light up the Night” Magill is highlighting the importance lighting.


As we enter the time of year where hours of daylight are few, it’s important for bicyclists to be visible when they are riding in the dark. This is accomplished by bicycle lights, reflectors on the bike, and reflective clothing. One easy way to make your bike more reflective is to purchase tires with a reflective strip on the sidewalls. The motion of the wheels helps drivers to see bicyclists. Many folks also add reflective tape or decals to their bike–more surface area equals more reflection. You can find reflective vests, jackets or pants, and gloves with reflective material.

Bike lights are also essential. Minnesota law requires that, at a minimum, bicyclists riding in the dark have a front light and a rear reflector. A rear light is highly recommended as well. A dim front light allow bicyclists to be seen by motorists, but it will not do much to light the path of travel. Bicyclists riding on dark roads away from ambient light or city lighting will want a brighter front light.  

Not able to spend a whole lot of money of lights? Cycles for Change carries a basic set (front and back) for about $15. We also sometimes have used lights for sale. The U of M’s Boynton Health services is a resource for free lights–check in their pharmacy. Want to spend a little more on lights? USB rechargeable lights are an option. Another option is generator lights–there are older models available: used and state of the art new ones (you will need a special hub or wheel for these). The brightness of bicycle lights is usually measured in lumens or in candlepower. A 50 lumen rear light will be relatively bright. Front lights can range for 50 to 800 or more lumens.  

Where folks mount their lights is important–lower on the bike helps a bicyclist to see the road or path better, while a helmet-mounted light shines in the direction they turn their head. For extra visibility, it is recommended to  mount a rear light on legs or wheels, as the movement will stand out to drivers (find wheel-mounted systems online). Multiple lights makes bicyclists more visible, and it’s nice to have a backup if one light runs out of juice or stops working. Also, many studies suggest blinking lights are more visible to motorists than a solid beam. When riding in the street, a bicyclist’s position in the lane of travel can also affect ability to be seen during the day or night.

Safe riding means being visible, and at night this means proper lighting and hi-viz (high visibility) or reflective clothing. For more information on this important and fascinating topic, try a simple internet search. I used the search term “car light reflection at night, bicycles.” C4C staff love to talk about riding, bikes, and lighting, so come visit us! In the meantime, ride visible, ride safe, and keep smiling. – Andrew Magill