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Pro tips and tricks for bike riding in winter weather, from Jimmy John’s riders

Ian Butler is a Jimmy John’s delivery rider. He braves snow, cold, wind and hail delivering sandwiches. He’s pictured here riding his bike on Feb. 15. (Eli Francovich / The Spokesman-Review)
Ian Butler is a Jimmy John’s delivery rider. He braves snow, cold, wind and hail delivering sandwiches. He’s pictured here riding his bike on Feb. 15. (Eli Francovich / The Spokesman-Review)

Intimidated to ride your bike in the snow? Ice and cold keeping you off the saddle?

Think again.

“It’s hogwash,” Levi Guthmiller said. “It’s just about preparation. Just look at the weather and dress prepared.”

Guthmiller has been a Jimmy John’s delivery rider for nearly eight years. He averages between 100 and 150 miles per week. Weather has only stopped him from delivering sandwiches on his steel steed a handful of times, he said.

Like Guthmiller, Ian Butler said he’s become comfortable riding in inclement weather, although it wasn’t always that way.

“You definitely gain some experience when you ride and come home soaking wet,” he said.

When he first started delivering sandwiches three years ago he didn’t wear the right gear, instead improvising.

“I would ride in jeans and regular socks,” he said. “I would wrap my foot in Saran Wrap to keep my socks dry.”

Since then, he’s learned a lot about layering, fenders and jackets.

For cold weather apparel the two sandwich jockeys recommend long underwear, water resistant pants, gloves and glasses, packing extra socks and occasionally extra pants.

It can be helpful to use glove and shoe warmers.

As for bike accessories, the two keep it simple. They ride bikes that have wider wheels, eschewing studded tires. They have a good set of front and back fenders and they have front and tail lights, even during the day.

Disc brakes are vital, Butler said.

Obviously, wet and icy conditions warrant more caution. In particular, Guthmiller said he keeps an eye out for “metal grates on the sidewalks” because they get slick. He notes that falling in the snow is better than falling on uncovered concrete.

Butler said he prefers the snow in some cases.

“I really like commuting in the snow because you can play in it … you can throw on your back brake and do a sweet skid,” he said. “When you’re going really fast, the snow looks like you’re going into hyperspace from ‘Star Wars.’ ”

While it may seem counterintuitive Guthmiller said he’s found drivers to be more respectful and careful around bikers during inclement winter weather.

“For the most part, cars give you more room,” he said.

When biking in traffic Butler recommends “holding your line but also being kind of loose.”

Ultimately, though, winter biking requires the right outlook.

“You have to have the mentality going into it that it’s not a sunny day on the bike,” Butler said.

Cold weather riding can make nice weather riding even better.

“It’s not impossible, it just takes a little more patience and bravery,” Butler said.

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