Some Quick Tips for Chilly Days

It’s finally getting cold here in Nashville, with temps running some 20 degrees below average, eek! We don’t get enough winter here for me to ever get completely accustomed to winter riding, and it seems like every year I relearn that

  • One should take care with the ears, toes and fingers
  • Never say no to extra lights
  • It’s really hard to take photos of yourself with gloves on, in the dark

Hard to tell in these photos, but I’m wearing my maxidress layered over a turtleneck covered with a cardigan and riding the Bat. It was nice to wear a long dress riding; felt kind of like having a cozy warm blanket draped over my knees.

This night was also a reminder that I probably should ride with mace/pepper spray, since I saw what was either an extremely mangy dog or an urban coyote darting into some bushes as I topped the hill behind The Melrose. Anyone have tips on handling animal encounters?

(For more comprehensive tips on winter cycling, and a compilation of all our past posts, check out the LGRAB Guide to Winter Cycling.)

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  • dukiebiddle

    I can give you some tips on riding with pepper spray. I always ride with it. Most of this is for defense against humans, but some is equally relevant against animals.

    a) You have to wear it on your wrist. If it’s in your pocket or purse you won’t be able to get to it in time to help you in any situation where you may need it. I use a cloth thick shoelace-like chord, loose enough I can snap it into my palm with a flick of my wrist, but snug enough that I have to narrow my gloved hand to remove it.
    b) Make sure the safety tab is facing left when you put it your preferred wrist. Practice the wrist motion of snapping it into your palm and turning the safety tab at red lights.
    c) You can’t spray it while riding. If something is behind you, you’re better off peddling like hell to escape than you would be slowing down, turning around and attempting to aim. Spraying in front of you is guaranteed to blow right back into your eyes. Spraying to either side of you has a pretty good chance of blowing right back into your eyes, depending on wind direction, and when you are in such a situation you’re not able to rationally calibrate wind direction.
    d) Pepper spray for self defense on a bicycle against bad guys or animals is really only a last ditch, last line defense, you have absolutely no other option to save yourself sort of a tool. You actually have to stop and put your feet down, already have your feet down, or have already have been knocked off and laying on the ground for it to be effective. Even if a dog has a hold of your ankle, try to keep peddling and get away and go to a doctor before trying to stop and use the pepper spray. Slowing down and trying to point and aim pepper spray will just increase the likelihood of more injury.
    e) If you ever do need to use it against an attacker [this was recommended to me by Baltimore's finest] when you are being questioned by the police afterwords, make sure that you emphatically cry hysterically and clearly articulate “I had no other choice. I he/they were going to kill (or the other horrible thing) me.” Really get those waterworks going. It there is any vague ambiguity to the situation, you could potentially be facing an assault charge, or sued by your assailant, even from inside prison.
    f) Don’t use it against jerk drivers that yell at you with their windows open while they buzz you, no matter how tempting it may be. ;)

    • dukiebiddle

      But in all honesty, if your only concern is dogs/coyotes, I wouldn’t recommend pepper spray. Coyotes are very unlikely to actually attack you, and dogs are more likely you chase and bark than actually bite. Even if they do bite, as I described above, you’re probably better off just trying to pedal like hell [did I actually type "peddling" above? Ugh.] than trying to spray them. Now if you’re riding through park land and are worried about mommy black bears protecting their young, that’s an entirely different story.

      • http://carolynsflightoffancy.blogspot.com/ Carolyn I.

        I did a bike tour this Summer that went through Grizzly Bear country. Was very tempted to bring pepper spray along. I did encounter a black bear going into the campsite, but it was a startled of me as I was of it and it climbed up a tree.

        A couple in our group actually did meet up with a mother Grizzly and cubs along the highway. A driver in a vehicle saw what was happening, and did his best to scare the bears off of the highway and into the bush so that the bicyclists could continue on safely.

  • http://www.dfwptp.blogspot.com Steve A

    I have heard that a firm “get off the couch” works with every dog ever born. Haven’t tried it myself, though.

  • http://www.titianknitter.wordpress.com Lynn

    I carry pepper spray for long rides in rural areas. It’s vital to have it within easy reach, because if you need it, you’re not going to have time to go digging in your bag. I clip mine to the outside of my handlebar bag, but you can buy or make a dedicated handlebar holder.

    Go outside and practice with the pepper spray before you need to use it. It may not have as much range as you think. If you have to use it on a dog, try and get upwind if you can, but keep your bike between you and the dog. Most dogs will stop following at their property line, so if you can slowly walk up the hill without turning your back on it, try that first.

    I had to spray a German Shepherd last spring. It sucked and I still feel bad about it. He was just doing what he thought was his job – protecting his property and his people. I got him at close range, and he tucked his tail and ran away whimpering.

    I would not pepper spray a person. Chances are too great that it would just piss them off.

  • Rich

    “As I topped the hill behind The Melrose”. That’s where I live. I’m on Dewees. We have a neighbor with a mangy dog that roams from time to time. Never causes much trouble (other than crapping in my yard) and has never barked or paid me any attention when I’m riding. I’ve never had any trouble with dogs or wildlife in our area.

  • http://markus.alyra.org/ Savanni D’Gerinel

    Fingers are pretty tough. I have a pair of smartwool gloves that I wear inside of a pair of thicker skiing gloves. My fingers still get cold on the cold mornings (and I’m only dealing with 30F – 40F on the low end down here in Austin), but it’s manageable. I have only once had to abandon a trip because of cold fingers.

    I’ve discovered that a woolen base layer is totally made of Win.

  • Stephen

    Coyotes are increasingly common in the eastern U.S. However, most of the time, they want nothing to do with humans and will run off easily. If one does seem way too comfortable around humans, it’s best to avoid it. The easiest way to do that on a bicycle is to just keep riding. Fast, if you have to.

  • Andrew Duthie

    I saw a coyote very near there a few months ago, so it’s certainly possible. Wouldn’t worry about them unless I had a small pet with me, though.

    Best defensive action I’ve ever seen against a dog worked great for me the next time I needed it. Stop and dismount, put the bicycle between you and the dog, and spread your arms wide to make yourself look bigger. I stopped two hyper Jack Russell terriers with it; the guy I learned it from stopped a loose pit bull from chasing a group of eight cyclists with it.

    But you could keep the spray handy just in case the dog doesn’t stop.

  • http://suburbanbikemama.blogspot.com/ Vee

    I don’t like wild like animals. I have turkey’s around and they freak me out. The bike path I was riding on last summer was also filled with geese- I don’t like geese either. I riding fast and ring my bell at them. they honk back.

    stay warm and safe!

    • http://letsgorideabike.com Dottie

      Geese are mean!

  • http://bikesinmotion.blogspot.com/ SM

    OMG! Yes, geese are cruel. You just reminded me of an experience I had years ago. I couldn’t believe it, I was chased by a flock of geese. My husband laughed at me when I told him. It is pretty funny when you think about it.

  • Darryl

    We show dogs (Chow Chow’s) and I’ve been around thousands of different dogs and many, many different breeds. Most of the dogs that give chase to you on a bike are following an ancient instict they inherited from the wolf. The instinct is to chase. Very rarely is it taken to the next level of biting. I’ve been chased on bikes too, and even had a couple of them nip at the rear tire. Don’t worry, they won’t hang on to it but a split second. It’s very painful to have a spinning tire going through your mouth. The best advice I can give you is to ignore them. They might actually come up to the rear tire and give chase till they get tired, but that’s about it. Yes, I know there are exceptions, but your chances of winning the lottery are about the same as getting bit by a bike chasing dog.

    As far as coyote, they are much more scared of you than you are of them. It’s usually hard to even get a glimpse of a coyote. You certainly aren’t going to get chased by one.

    Having said all this, it’s a different story if you’re coming into their territory (yard). Many of them feel threatened at this point and if they are agressive, you could get bitten. Lastly, I’ve been bitten several times while breaking up dog fights. It’s not pleasant, but it’s also not the end of the world. My worries on a bike are about getting hit by a car. The bike chasing dogs —- not so much.

  • http://www.thecitybirdsnest.blogspot.com cb

    soooo inmportant to keep your fingers warm! i just bought some fingerless gloves that have a pull over mitten, works perfect! i did post about what i wear while riding last week as the morning nad after work commmute was freezing!

    xo,
    cb

  • http://bobbinandsprocket.blogspot.com/ Amy

    It’s been in the 20′s (and teens at night) on this side of TN too! That’s cold enough that my double knit wool mittens don’t seem to be warm enough. :/ I need to find a good way to keep my face warm and still be able to see where I’m going too. Hopefully this doesn’t last for long!

    I used to carry a collapsable riot baton, but since I found out that they’re illegal to carry I stopped. The coyotes here all seem apt to run away. I suppose an ill-tempered domestic dog is more worrisome. I think that your idea of mace is best. Dog treats might actually encourage the dog to want to come after you everyday looking for more!

  • http://zigeunerlesen.blogspot.com e

    When dogs come after me (and they inevitably do), a good, loud yell from the gut (think primal gowl) will deter the things.