Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What Makes Them Tick?

Empty bike racks at the hospital. 
As I stood with my son's Spanish teacher in the frosty sunshine in the schoolyard, I asked him how far he rides. I always see his bike locked to the rack all winter. He says he pedals a couple miles or up to five when he teaches at another school. "It's not so bad, though sometimes my derailleur refuses to shift."

I give up riding when it's 25F or below. Instead, my radius shrinks. I shop at a local market. I walk, walk everywhere and only hop in the car as a last resort. I'm not a hearty soul in the cold, nor can I easily handle heat and humidity, but I'm curious how others tolerate the dip in temperatures.

And, why? I can understand if it's the only form of transportation. Burlington has buses, yet they're not efficient for trips less than a mile. Might as well walk. For me, riding is not worth it for short jaunts nor can I stay warm on the bike. I've noticed an increasing number of winter riders: college students, UVM faculty—actually folks of any age. Is it because of the growing bike culture?

I didn't have the foresight to ask the above gentlemen why he rides, but he explained how he keeps warm. Balaclava and hat are necessary. "Hands are terrible to keep warm," he says, rubbing his mitts. He wears one size larger boots with three layers of socks. He also isn't outside for more than an hour at a time.

Newer rendition of my Trek 830 Antelope. Crusted with salt, it's someone's winter ride.

I liked the style of this bike. It's commonly locked outside the YMCA so it's someone's winter transportation of choice. Too bad about the rusted chain and frame wear from, ugh, that terrible rack position.

On the UVM campus, I spied a Raleigh Grand Prix redone with new bars, saddle, and whitewall tires.
Raleigh Grand Prix, another angle.

Though I long to belong to a growing group of riders out on the wintry roads, I'm still unconvinced. I'll stick with walking the streets and trails in the woods behind my house. They have their own magical appeal—ice patches, frozen ruts, and all.


  1. I ride everyday, and I mean everyday, because I love being outside. Whether it's sunny, rainy, snowy, icy, hot or cold. My bicycle ride to and from work is always the best part of my day.

    Granted we have some extreme winter weather here. But I see plenty of people out there enjoying winter sports. Skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, winter camping, skating, playing hockey, running, etc. I don't see what difference it makes if your choice of winter activities includes a bike.

    Any winter sport requires an investment and a bit of experimentation to be properly outfitted. It took me about four winters to get the clothing right after I sold my truck in 2002 and committed to year round riding. I had to buy a lot of different clothing to find out what works for me. For expample I have three different pairs of gloves for different temp ranges. Two different knds of very expensive boots to keep my feet warm. And many availalbe clothes for layering. But once I got it all figured out, it works. I can't remember the last time I was cold while out riding my bike. Not during the bleow zero commutes over the last few weeks, or the 3 hour fatbike rides over the weekend in single digit cold. It can be done, but there is a committment of money and time required.

    It alos requires a lot more bicycle maintenance to keep a bike operating efficiently as possible when it gets sloppy out. I clean my bike daily this time of year.

    1. I figured you'd comment. You are truly a rider who's made the commitment. I commend you on keeping warm too. That's my biggest obstacle for around town tootling on my days off. But, really, I'm happy to give up riding during the intense cold here - and I realize that's relative - and I will continue my commuting soon enough, usually by late February/early March when the time change allows more light to travel the unlit narrow back roads home from my workplace. I especially feel the lack of riding when there's not enough snow to cross country ski, which I truly enjoy.

    2. I think one of the factors that allows me to ride all year is the availability of low traffic roads I can take to get to my place of work. If I had to ride heavily traveled roads, I doubt I'd be riding a bike to work. So I can understand why many people choose not to ride in the winter. I've been there myself when I used to live in St Paul and worked in the suburbs. Impossible to find a winter route I felt comfortable riding.


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