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Monday, January 14, 2008

Pedaling through winter

Image of cold weather cyclist
From the Boston Globe, 01.13.08:

Pedaling through winter on a bicycle built for one
In summertime, biking makes sense--sunshine, warmth, the body's direct contact with the elements. I love the feel of wind on my face and arms, sweat cooling my brow, and sensing the thinness of me and my vehicle compared with the hulks of cars closing in around me. I love the rapidly changing sensory amalgamation of city sights, sounds, and smells that pass as the motion of my legs propels me to where I want to go.

Now, some might say, biking in this city in winter may not be the most logical, or sensible, activity. Or, it's plain stupid. But for someone like me who chooses not to own a car, it's a necessary part of my daily transportation mix. I'm not a biker for sport; I don't race. My bike gets me around Boston. When I'm not walking or taking the T (or mooching rides off friends), I'm pedaling my black Gary Fisher mountain bike from Tufts to Porter Square, from Harvard to Kendall, or from the Common back to Somerville. Even when it's 20 degrees out, in an inch of snow, or worse.

I've managed to maintain a car-free lifestyle during the three years since moving here--even if the most recent Bicycling magazine survey ranked our city as one of the nation's three worst for bicycling. Biking does save on expenses, but for me, it's less a practical issue than a physical expression of who I want to be on this planet--low impact, small carbon footprint, and alive to the world. (Read more.)
For those of us who persist with bicycle commuting during these dark, cold, wet months to the wonderment of our acquaintances--here's an inspiring article by guest columnist Ethan Gilsdorf published by the Boston Globe.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site


Anonymous said...

..but isn't it too cold to ride?

My responses to this are either
a) "it's not snowing yet"
or, if it is snowing
b) "do you ski?"

Now, we don't get -30 here, at which point, maybe it's too cold to be out at all.

The worst bit about winter riding is the muck which flings up from the road. The rain I can live with!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Paul for a splendidly thought out and elegantly written site.
I have a commute of around 1 hour which I try to do by road bike at least three times a week.
The only thing that stops me is rain. It's not that I haven't got the right gear or that it's too unpleasant. I'm just not prepared to take on the added risk of cycling in wet conditions.

I'm lucky enough to have an employer who provides a safe vehicle park, showers and even lockers so I don't have to carry clothes in.

Keep up the good work!


crotach said...

I commute on my bike year round and I live in a town at 7,000 feet. So, we get quite a bit of snow. I really enjoy seeing such a positive story about winter riding. But I admit I have a love/hate relationship with it. I love riding while a gorgeous snow is falling. I love knowing I am not going to have to take a giant risk driving tons of steel on ice. But I hate that I am a minority. Most people DO insist on driving and the city caters to them. People who walk slog through snow because shoveling walk ways is not a priority. People who ride have their bike paths burried by snow plows. It is frustrating to be told "bike paths and sidewalks are not the priority". So, people drive because those are the paths that are cleared. And that means there were over 20 car accidents after the last storm, while I walked and got to my office safely. Winter is really the time when those of us who commute by bike have to make our voices heard to the powers that be. (Sorry for the rant - I really love the positive stories you post here. They keep me charged up!)

Yokota Fritz said...

A guy on the bus this morning told me, "You're really brave riding your bike in the winter."

Note that it's about 45 degrees and dry out in the predawn darkness in California right now. :-) I told the guy I used to do this year round in the middle of Illinois.

Smudgemo said...

"For those of us who persist with bicycle commuting during these dark, cold, wet months..."

Yeah, it was about 45* in the East Bay today before dawn. I'll say nothing about the cold or rain as long as my pals in the Midwest and the Great White North are still commuting.

Anonymous said...

I live in Madison, Wisconsin. If stopped biking because it's "too cold," I'd be off my bike for four months of the year, and I'd develop a terminal case of cabin fever.

So I bike to work on most winter days. It's not quite as nice as biking on a sunny spring day, but it's not all that bad, really. Actually, biking's pretty nice when the temperature's around 20 degrees F; if it gets warmer, the snow turns to slush and you run into patches of wet ice (not good for biking), and if it gets much colder, bike parts start to freeze up, so it's hard to pedal or shift.

At some point, of course, it gets too cold for any sane person to ride; you can't feel your toes any more, and body parts start to fall off. But the temperature has to drop well below zero before you get to this point.

This winter, which has been rougher than most, I've taken the bus one or two days, when it's been too cold or too slippery for me to bike. But while I've been on the bus, I've seen others biking in the snow.