It’s early morning. 6:00 am. I am working and I pass by the door and see that it has started snowing. Good snow. I can see that it is light and fluffy. The best part is, it’s accumulating.
I normally leave my first job at 8:30 and cross town to be at the second at 9:15. This usually means that I can’t ride my bike. But today, I finish half an hour early.
As I drive it becomes clear that people are in full snow-mode and driving with extreme caution. It is slow going.
My house is halfway between the two locations. So, when I get close to home, I do a mental calculation. At this rate, I can sit in traffic all the way to work and be 5 minutes late. Or I can stop at my house, hop on my bike and be 10 minutes late.
I choose bike.
10 minutes later I am on my bike rolling through the snow. The flakes are falling slowly and the air is crisp and clean. It’s cold but once you get the hang of it, dressing for winter cycling is easy enough and I am very comfortable.
The snow crunches slightly as my tires roll over it. This was a good choice.
I started winter commuting when I lived less than a mile from work, some years ago. I loved it. When I moved farther away I kept it up. I learned that the parks department keeps the paths clean and that cycling the quiet city streets and bike paths is far safer than attempting to drive the congested main roads in my car.
My ride to work is incredible. I ride hard. I slide around corners when I feel like it. I catch snowflakes on my tongue.
When I get to work, there is just a little bit of ice in my beard and I feel fantastic. There is something about winter air that seems to clean out one’s insides.
Winter is beautiful.
People often ask me how I manage to ride my bike when it’s cold and snowy.
I often wonder how they manage to stay in their cars.
Winter is something that I loved as a child. I remember the excitement I experienced when I woke up to find that it was snowing and the joy I felt as I tromped around in the cold. That feeling disappeared as I got older. I let the rest of the world around me, and their grumbling, get into my mind and started to grumble about cold, and snow, and ice, etc. etc. For many years I just didn’t go outside when it was cold.
Once again, bicycles brought me to my senses. I couldn’t stand the idea of not riding my bike, so I started riding less than a mile to work in the cold. I figured that I could handle that. Then one of my friends mentioned to me that he would often ride around town with a thermos of peppermint tea at Christmas time, to look at Christmas lights. I tried that. It was cold but nothing bad happened to me. I enjoyed my tea, I got to ride my bike, and for the first time in probably ten years, winter felt magical.
Since then, I ride all winter long. I don’t stay out as long as I do in other seasons because my toes get cold. I usually keep my rides under 1 hour (A thirty-minute coffee stop in the middle of a ride allows for warming up and more riding). Instead of being a season of grumbling, in which I pine for warmer temperatures, I now get excited about snowstorms and I am constantly experimenting with ways to stay warmer so that I can stay outside longer.
The most recent example
Last night Jason and I, as well as our good friend Ron, went for a nice ramble around town after work. They met me after work and we decided on our route. Temperatures were right around freezing. We ended up riding about fifteen miles of bike path, city streets, and sidewalks. There was some snow hanging around here and there. It was delightful.
Jason rode his single speed road/cross/gravel bike (Surly Straggler), Ron chose his fatbike (Borealis Flume), and I rode my Hilibike (Bridgestone MB-2). You don’t need any particular type of bike for winter. Although I have found that the fatter the tire, the less I fall over. We all had a grand time on our very different machines.
Jason got a flat tire, but we quickly got that fixed and then stopped for breakfast food at dinner time. We spent a good while in the restaurant eating hot food and drinking hot drinks, which we enjoyed all the more due to our recent foray into the cold.
After dinner we each went different directions, setting out for our homes. I put on the extra windbreaker that I had stashed in my handlebar bag. My best advice for winter riding is to always bring more layers, just in case.
Arriving home, I took off all of my layers with a giant smile on my face. Warming up in the living room, I wished I could have stayed out a bit longer, just as I always did as a kid.
I think everyone should ride bicycles in the wintertime.
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