Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Moans in Old Cyclists' Bones (but here's how you can beat the chill)

by Matt Cinelli
with contributions by Jim Sheipe, Owner, Wolverton’s Cycling

It’s nearing the official start of the winter season, and I can feel the cold, moist air deep in my bones.  Although the climate is only a few degrees colder here in Berks County than in my former home in the Delaware Valley, the piercing bone-chill that once visited me around the third week of January now arrives before the middle of December.  This discomfort makes me want to leave my bike in the basement and curl up under a warm blanket.

But for a cycling enthusiast like myself, there are ways to make cold weather rides almost as comfortable as a long winter’s nap.  Proper attire and carefully considered routes help this 50-year-old keep the wheels turning when the mercury drops below the 40 degrees mark.

Jim Sheipe of Wolverton’s Cycling and Fitness, located on Kutztown Road in Muhlenberg Township, recommends keeping the chill at bay with a windproof thermal jersey and tights under a wind block jacket, sometimes called a “shell.”  The key to finding the right garments, he says, is selecting materials that will prevent wind and water from penetrating, while still allowing perspiration to evaporate and pass away from the skin. Qualities to look for in a performance fabric are lightness, breathability, and comfort with the greatest heat conserving characteristics.  Gore-Tex remains the industry standard. 

If I’m working hard enough, my body makes enough heat for my core region.  It is the extremities—ears, fingers, toes, and of course, the face—where cold seems most biting during winter rides.  Sheipe suggests a balaclava or a skull cap under your helmet for the face and head, toe covers or thermal booties for the feet, and thermal windproof gloves for the hands.  While I’ve found that covering my whole face generates too much heat when I breathe, a fleece headband over my ears works wonders.  My latest discovery for the feet, the Gore-Tex sock, has made all those years of sloshing through small creeks with frozen feet only a memory.  Finally, my choice gloves are still the pair I bought in a boating shop during my honeymoon to the west coast of Scotland.  Made by Trespass UK to withstand the wet and wind of the North Sea, our Berks County winters are no match for them.

Now that you are properly dressed, it’s time to choose a route.  Here’s where my twenty years of winter cycling experience have proved invaluable.  First, the flat, open road is a brutal place for wind chill.  I search out routes with hills.  Not only are hill repeats good for building leg strength, they offer a welcome relief from direct wind.  Since I cannot do hills all day every day, my second option is to select a loop within my local suburban neighborhood that will give me 10-15 miles with 4-5 circuits.  It’s not the same as a 15-20 mile tempo ride, but these shorter rides enable me to maintain just enough fitness over the winter to keep my endurance up and my weight down.

Lastly, an option I discovered during business trips out west is off road riding.  Today, so many exotic flavors exist: downhill, cross country, all mountain, and free riding.  But I just relish the chance to be outdoors in winter and let nature shield me from the wind and cold.  We are fortunate in Berks County to have several outstanding venues like Blue Marsh, French Creek and the Mount Penn / Antietam Dam trail system.  A little further afield are Jim Thorpe, Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Valley, and the Brandywine State Park / Woodlawn Trust in Delaware County—all within an hour by car.  The conditions off road permit me to ride in temperatures as low as 20 degrees, and the aforementioned clothing makes for a toasty riding experience. 

While the technical challenges of some of the Mount Penn and French Creek trails are now beyond what my surgically repaired knees can handle, with due diligence, I’ve found trails at both of these locations that are within my skill set and below my pain threshold.  Just getting out there and riding—even, and perhaps especially, in the cold—keeps me agile.  It also gives me hope that I’ll be riding at least as long as my friend and local cycling advocate, 84-year-old Emily Weidner. 


Get in Gear: Clothes and Equipment for Optimal Winter Riding

by Justin Bernardo
Owner, JB Mountain Bikes

Photo courtesy of New Zealand Press Association
Bicycling in the winter is great fun and a fantastic way to maintain an active lifestyle once the temperature begins to drop. To make the most out of your winter cycling experience, make sure your bike is in good working order and that you’re dressed (i.e., “properly layered”) for the colder weather you’ll be riding in. For those new to cycling in the winter, I’ve included a breakdown of what you will need to get going once "Old Man Winter" starts blowing.

Bike – Specific bikes for snow riding are becoming increasingly popular, including “fat bikes,” which come equipped with exceptionally wide 4” and 5” super fat tires.  The truth is, almost any bicycle can be ridden year round.  Many cyclists choose to use an old mountain, road, or cyclocross bike during the winter to spare their new(er) bike the additional wear and tear created by winter riding conditions.  It only makes sense that you wouldn’t want to take your brand new road racing bicycle out when the streets are covered with salt, cinder, and possibly ice.  Additionally, some riders will attach fenders to both front and rear tires, so as to minimize road / trail spray.  The important thing is: most any bike will provide comfort and safety during winter rides, as long as it is in good working order and you are paying attention to the trail or road and riding at your own level.

Tires – Tire choice can be very important depending upon the kind of winter riding a person is looking to do. For trail and off-road riding, larger volume, knobby tires, and even tires that include metal studs (if riding icy terrain) are excellent choices. For unpacked snow, your only choice may be large volume mountain bike tires.  (If the snow is deep enough, it may be “fat bike only” terrain.)  In any instance, go with a lower tire pressure than you would for your normal MTB riding.  The lower pressure tire will flatten out more on the surface of the trail and will consequently provide a more secure grip.

For cyclists looking to stay on the road during the winter, a “maximum protection” road tire is essential, such as the Gator / Gator Hardshell series from Continental. These tires are built with an extra layer of protection against flats, which happen more frequently during the winter, mostly due to the sharp cinder that is spread on the roads.  Unexpected roadside flat changes can really diminish a cold weather riding experience; so minimizing them is crucial to your enjoyment.

Clothing – When it comes to winter riding, the cyclist’s mantra goes something like this, “the key to staying out and on the bike is staying comfortable, the key to staying comfortable is staying warm, and the key to staying warm is layering.”  To this end, always start off with a base layer to wick away moisture from your body. Wool is preferred, but there are many good synthetic materials that also do a nice job. From there, depending upon how cold it is, and how long you are going to be out riding, you may want to add an additional base layer. The base layer(s) are usually followed by a light, insulating layer that will act to trap in heat. Finally, either a long sleeve winter jersey or a long sleeve winter coat can be added as the outermost layer. It’s particularly useful if these out layers include zippered vents (usually under the sleeves) so that the rider can zip and unzip to regulate the amount of heat being retained.

The legs, feet, hands, and head are next on the list.  For your legs, I heartily recommend insulated bib tights as opposed to standard tights since bib tights give more coverage, stay in place better, and ultimately keep you warmer.  For the feet, I recommend a good pair of wool socks and, if the temperature goes low enough, some toe covers or booties. If you’re willing to invest the extra money, winter specific cycling shoes are the next step up. For hands, insulated cycling or ski specific gloves rated to the temperatures in which you intend to ride are essential.  Nothing will make you turn around quicker than cold hands and painfully numb fingers.  Additionally, a winter riding hat or skull cap for under your helmet is a must, as is cycling specific eyewear (designed for minimal fogging since it allows for specific airflow behind the lenses).

Lighting – Given the fewer daylight hours during the winter, you may need lights, especially if you plan to ride after work. The tail light is most easily addressed.  All you will need here is an inexpensive red “flasher or blinkie” light so that anyone approaching from the rear can spot and safely avoid you. For the front light, you must ask yourself:  do I just need to be seen, or do I also need to see? For the latter, when a rider is riding aggressively and wants to be able to react as if they were riding during daylight, a high quality helmet (recommended) or handlebar mounted lighting system is the only way to go. These can cost between $200 - $400, but are well-built, reliable, and have a battery life which, when fully charged, will assure 3 – 4 hours of high visibility light. If, however, you only plan to pedal around the neighborhood at dusk, a much less expensive handlebar mounted light will do the trick.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Note from Safe Routes Berks

Safe Routes Berks Presents:
Walking for Lifelong Health, Skills & Safety
A one-day professional development experience for K-8 Educators

November 8, 2012
BCIU Main Office
1111 Commons Blvd.
Reading, PA 19605

Click This Link for the Full Article:


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Public Meeting Notice

There will be an opportunity for you share your views on the transportation planning process in Berks County directly with representatives of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) in an open public meeting.

Time: 10:00 am
Date: Friday, November 9, 2012
Place: Berks County Services Center, 14th Floor 633 Court Street Reading, PA 19601

This public meeting is a part of a review that will assess compliance with Federal regulations pertaining to the transportation planning process conducted by the Reading Area Transportation Study, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and the Berks Area Regional Transportation Authority. If you are not able to attend this meeting, please address any comments to either:

Federal Highway Administration, PA Division
228 Walnut Street, 5th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17101-1720
Federal Transit Administration
1760 Market Street, Suite 500
Philadelphia, PA 19103-4124

The Reading MPO is committed to compliance with the nondiscrimination requirements of applicable civil rights statutes, executive orders, regulations, and policies. The meeting location is accessible to persons with disabilities and is served by public transit. With advance notification, accommodations may be provided for those with special needs related to language, sight, or hearing. If you have a request for a special need or desire additional information, please contact either Alan Piper or Michael Golembiewski of the Berks County Planning Commission at (610) 478-6300.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

WBB Board Member Emily Weidner is "Living Life to the Fullest"

In the October issue of Berks Living, our own Emily Weidner appears among a remarkable group of Berks County seniors who are Living Life to the Fullest.  From the article:

Photo by Mike Noble, courtesy of Berks Living Magazine.
First, there was her baby carriage, then a scooter. By age 12, when Emily Weidner received her first bicycle, her love of wheels was evident. “Back then, you just rode,” she says, pausing to smile. “It’s such a freeing feeling. It’s so fascinating to get on a bicycle and just go.”

Now 84, Weidner has taken full advantage of her license to ride. She’s spent her lifetime on two wheels, touring states from New York to Virginia and once participating in Ride to the Sun, a popular cycling event in which riders follow a route that stretches from Minnesota to Canada.

Read the full article in Berks Living.

Like Emily's iBike Berks t-shirt?  Get yours here.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Click to learn @ Safe Routes Berks Teacher Trainings
Walk to School Day Slated for October 3

Students, parents, municipal police and local officials from across Pennsylvania are urged to join schools and community leaders from around the state, the nation and the world to celebrate Walk to School Day on Wednesday, October 3.
Held each year on the first Wednesday of October, Walk to School Day is an internationally recognized day to celebrate the benefits of walking by encouraging schoolchildren to walk and bicycle to school. Now in its 16th year in the United States, the event is recognized as a way to bring school officials, local leaders, parents, and children together to build awareness of why communities should be more walkable. In Pennsylvania, the event is promoted as Walk or Roll to School Day.
This year, hundreds of elementary and middle school students across the commonwealth are expected to participate in Walk or Roll to School Day. Although events will vary from school to school, they all center on the effort to draw attention to the need for safer routes for walking and bicycling by emphasizing how these activities increase physical activity among children, reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, and build connections among families, schools, and the broader community.

Some schools plan to hold a community-wide celebration attended by local dignitaries and school officials and complete with speeches and music; others will simply encourage children and parents to meet and walk to school together.

WalkBikeBerks, in partnership with the Berks County Intermediate provide FREE ACT 48 professional development trainings to teachers of grades K-8.  To register for the upcoming Bicycle Education Training, visit:

“The hope is that Walk or Roll to School Day will generate enough enthusiasm for walking and bicycling that schoolchildren will continue to walk and bike to school long after the October 3 celebration has ended,” says Chris Metka, Pennsylvania’s Safe Routes to School coordinator.

Walk or Roll to School Day is promoted statewide by the Pennsylvania Safe Routes to School Resource Center on behalf of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and is part of the Safe Routes to School program, a statewide and national effort to promote and encourage safer routes to school.

For more information, contact the center at,, or (717) 763-0930 (ask for Safe Routes).

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

This is Your Chance to Change Transporation in Berks County

We've been told no one in Berks County cares. We know that's not true.

We know you care whether or not you are able to ride your bicycle from your house to a good, local trail. We know you care if children are protected on their way to school and when riding their bicycles to the park. We know you believe we can do more to save lives from serious injury and death as a result of car crashes. We know you care if the streets in Berks County are safe and accessible to everyone.

The Berks County Planning Commission has released its draft Comprehensive Plan. The planning commission requests Berks County residents who care to review and comment on the plan within 45 days.

The full plan is available at

Two public meetings are being held to discuss the plan:

    1. July 11, 2012 from 4:00 to 8:00 pm at Berks County Agricultural Center located at 1238 County Welfare Road, Leesport, PA 19533.
      July 17, 2012 from 4:00 to 8:00 pm at Berks County Fire Training Center (classrooms A, C, and D) located at 895 Morgantown Road, Reading, PA 19607.
  • Sunday, June 10, 2012

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    Friday, June 8, 2012

    Text taken from National Walking Survey
    America Walks in partnership with Hunter College
    September 2011

    19)  Pedestrian Safety Problems 
    Survey respondents were asked to indicate the extent to which each of nine items posed a problem in terms of pedestrian safety in their neighborhoods.  The response categories ranged from “very big problem,” to “somewhat of a problem,” to “only a small problem,” to “not a problem at all.” 

    Listed in descending order in Table 19 below is the percent who said a given item was a “very big problem” or “somewhat of a problem.” Topping the list was distracted drivers.  More than a quarter of all respondents indicated inattentive drivers were a serious problem facing pedestrians in their neighborhoods.  Trailing closely behind was another automobile-related item – speeding motor vehicles.  The next two items concerned the scarcity of sidewalks or unsmooth walking surfaces.  Though not on the list of problems in the survey, several respondents mentioned in the open-ended “comments” section of the survey that cyclists who disobeyed traffic laws also posed a hazard to pedestrians.  

    Table 19. Safety Problems for Pedestrians

    Percent Who Say Very Big Problem
    Percent Who Say Somewhat of a Problem
    Total Percent
    Drivers talking on cell phones or using other electronic devices
    Speeding motor vehicles
    Unsmooth sidewalks or other walking surfaces
    Not enough sidewalks
    Poorly-lit streets
    The sidewalks are too narrow
    The Walk Signs or street signals do not give me enough time to walk across the street safely
    Dogs or other animals

    Source: America Walks. 2011. National Walking Survey,

    Coinciding with expectations, the percent who report a given problem as being serious varies by the type of neighborhood in which the respondent lives.  Residents of the most densely-populated areas are significantly more likely to indicate that distracted drivers, speeding motor vehicles, and crime are “very big problems.”   Oppositely, residents of the least-populated areas are much more likely to indicate that too few sidewalks, unsmooth walking surfaces, poorly-lit streets, and dogs constitute “very big problems.”  Also residents of lower income areas, with the exception of the two automobile-related items, are more likely to view the other seven pedestrian safety items as being more serious than residents of more affluent areas. 

    Interestingly, the “instrumental walkers” and the “hybrid walkers” were far more concerned about both distracted drivers and speeding motor vehicles than either the “health/relaxation walkers” or the infrequent walkers.  This finding persists even when controlling for the population density of the neighborhood in which they reside. 

    In conjunction with the nine items relating to pedestrian safety, we asked respondents whether they had “ever been hit by a car or truck” or whether they had “ever been hit by a cyclist.”  All together, 6.1 percent of the respondents reported that they had been hit by a car and 4.8 percent report having been struck by a cyclist. 
    The proportion of those saying they have been hit by a car decreases with age.   Alternatively, the proportion increases as the population density of the area in which the respondent resides goes up.   Males and those whose basic orientation towards walking is mainly to get to a specific destination (the “instrumentalists”) or equally to get to a specific destination and for purposes of health and relaxation (the “hybrids”) are more likely to report having been hit by a car than those whose primary purpose in walking is for health and relaxation.

    Similar to those who say they have been hit by a car, there is a positive relationship between population density and the percent of those who say they have been struck by a cyclist.  As the population of an area becomes increasingly concentrated, more people say they have been struck by a cyclist.  However, age is now curvilinearly related to saying one has been hit by a cyclist.  Among the youngest age category (18-24) and the oldest age category (65 years or older), there is a greater percent reporting being hit by a cyclist than among the age categories falling in the middle.  Finally, those who describe their walking pace as “brisk” are more likely to say they have been hit by a cyclist. 

    Wednesday, May 23, 2012

    Federal Transportation Bill Threatens Bicycle and Pedestrian Funding
    Posted on May 22, 2012 by Shayne

    Congress is conferring on the next Federal Transportation Bill, and bicycle and pedestrian funding is still at stake. In the Senate transportation bill, programs that fund bicycle and pedestrian funding are preserved and improved, continuing to fund projects that benefit bicyclist and pedestrians. To contrast, the bill from the House of Representatives repeals programs that fund bicycle and pedestrian projects, and places the priority on our highway network. Federal funding for bicycle and pedestrian has been used in every congressional district in Pennsylvania, and has funded hundreds of projects that have improved conditions for bicycles and pedestrians.

    We do not want to halt the progress that has been made in the past two decades. Chances are, your favorite bike path was partly funded with federal funding. Many communities have benefited from sidewalk replacement projects funded with federal dollars. In more recent years, the funds have been used to make walking and biking to school safer, and will have lifelong benefits for the children that attend schools that participated in the Safe Routes to Schools program.

    Pennsylvania Walks and Bikes has a resource to help you learn which projects in your community have benefited from federal transportation dollars. If you want to see more of these projects; if you have benefited from better sidewalks, safer bike paths, and healthier children, tell your representative in congress.

    Pennsylvania is well represented on the House Transportation Committee by Congressmen Bill Shuster, Lou Barletta, Patrick Meehan, Tim Holden, Jason Altmire; and also well represented in the conference committee by Representative Bill Shuster.

    Congressman Shuster has not been supportive of preserving bicycle and pedestrian funding, and has been very open about his belief that the federal transportation bill should focus on our highway system. We do not want to see the progress towards a more walkable and bikeable Pennsylvania come to a halt. 

    We enjoy the benefits of these programs, and we do not want to see the end. Let your representative know that walkable and bikeable communities are important. Let them know that we want to continue to improve Pennsylvania, not stop it with a flat.

    Monday, April 23, 2012

    May is Bike Month

    Show your support for bicycling in our Berks communities by attending these 2012 Bike Month events.

    Tuesday, May 1 :: Berks County Bike Month Proclamation Ceremony
    When? 10:30 am
    Where? Berks County Services Building, 633 Court St, Reading
    What? Be there as the County Commissioners issue the proclamation to WalkBikeBerks, declaring May Bike Month in all of Berks County.
    Saturday, May 5 :: WBB Bike Rodeo at Youth Safety Day
    When? 10 am – 2pm
    Where? Lake Drive Recreation Area, Douglassville
    What? A day of fun-filled family activities hosted by the Daniel Boone Optimist Club. The focus of this year's event will be bicycle safety. Kids in grades K-8 can register to win a bike. Download a flyer.
    Friday, May 18 :: Bike to Work Day
    When? 7:00 am
    Where? Brentwood Trailhead of the Thun Trail, just off of Rte 10 near Millmont (see map right)
    What? Join us at the Brentwood Trailhead at 7:00am (ride begins at 7:15) and ride with the pack, including Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer and Rep. David Maloney, to the Bike to Work Day ceremony at the Berks County Services Building (ceremony begins at 7:45am with address by Sen. Judy Schwank). The easy ride of approximately 2 miles will be escorted by police and promises to be a fun, visible way to promote bicycling in Greater Reading.

    Saturday, May 19 :: Bicycle Basics Class
    When? 8:30 am
    Where? Upland Center Community Room, Alvernia University, 540 Upland Ave, Reading
    What? Learn effective cycling techniques with League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructor and WBB Board member, Benton Levengood. The primary focus of the class will be bicycle maintenance: learn to change tires, adjust brakes and gears, maintain and replace chains.  Bring your bicycle and helmet.

    There is no fee for this class, but a voluntary, tax-deductible donation of $20 to WalkBikeBerks per individual or family will be greatly appreciated.  PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED:  email or call 717-449-4474.  Class size is limited to 10 students.


    Monday, April 16, 2012

    Unwalkable America

    From Tom Vanderbilt's Slate Column, America's Pedestrian Problem:

    "This failure to plan for anyone on foot is just one of a number of shortcomings of our overbuilt, undermaintained road network that are coming into relief. In Orlando parents of children who live closer than two miles to school are worried about looming cuts in bus service due to budget constraints. There is even concern about those who face a relatively short walk of 100 yards to catch a bus. Why? Because the environment was not built to accommodate anyone walking—there are no sidewalks and only poor crossings amid fast-moving traffic. Elsewhere, schools built without sidewalks scramble for funding as students walk in the ditches beside busy roads. In South Jordan, Utah, a woman was cited with child neglect for allowing her son to walk to school. Why was he walking? Because the school had eliminated its “hazardous bus routes.” What’s a hazardous bus route? A bus route meant to pick up kids who live in areas without sidewalks. There is child neglect going on here, for sure, but it’s the neglect of a system in which children within walking distance of school cannot actually do so." 

    Read the full article.


    Thursday, April 12, 2012


    Asked how they would like to see the Business 222 corridor improved, Muhlenberg Township residents listed walkability as a priority.

    WBB participated in the development planning meeting last week.  Thanks to the Reading Eagle for this coverage.