365 Days Commuting by Bike: Wait… You are going to bike in this?

Wait... You are going to bike in this- So you have decided to bike through winter. Your mind is made up and you are already getting everything in order to have a safe, warm, and successful winter ride. Everything should be dandy, right?

Unfortunately, I have begun to realize that the idea of biking through winter doesn’t seem to sit too well with my friends’, family members’, significant other’s, or volunteer acquaintances’ minds. Which leads me to believe that many of you who have decided to bike through winter may be receiving the same hesitant responses and questions that I have been receiving since announcing my intension to bike in the snow. Here is a list of some of the most popular questions, and comments I continuously here from the concerned parties mentioned above and my typical responses. I would love to hear the questions you receive and how you respond in the comments after this article as well!

1.       Isn’t it dangerous?

  • For this question I usually like to mention how all mode of transportation can be dangerous and when you are aware of the dangerous points you can make changes to avoid them or reduce the danger.
  • For me this means altering the path I take from summer to a safer and more bike path focused commute this winter.
  •  I also like a vehicle or snowmobile going out for the first time in the winter snow will make sure that my bike is tuned up for winter.
  • Like people who ride in cars but still wear their winter jackets;  I to will wear my winter biking apparel.
  • And finally like people who walk anywhere in the snow and ice, I too will keep an eye out for any potentially risky paths layered with ice.

2.       How will you manage to bike through all the snow and Ice?

  • The great thing about this question is I can talk about the wonderful amends Madison has made for its yearly bike commuters. In order to keep the paths open the City of Madison has to be sure that they are clear of snow for commuters. In fact, some fellow winter commuters in the office mentioned that the paths are sometimes cleared before the road!
  • As for the ice, once the weather hits the worse many winter cyclists, reduce air pressure, and increase the traction in their tires, perhaps even adding studs to their tires.

3.       Isn’t that bad for your bike?

  • Well actually, yes, it can be. That is why many cyclist have a winter bike, a “beater” or a bike specifically for commuting. You would never take you really nice sports car through a winter in Wisconsin and likewise I don’t plan on taking my prized road bike through the winter either. (More on this topic later 😉 )
  • Instead I will combat the cold and dirt with a bicycle that has fenders and is rough and ready.

4.       It gets dark in the winter…

  • Yes… it does. This is something that I realize I need to be prepared for even before it gets pitch black at 5:30 p.m. and it is the creeping reduction in daylight that I think should be all 365 day commuter’s concern. To combat this is as simple as beginning to make practice of riding with your lights on when commuting as early as the beginning of October. This way you will never run into that issue where you can see the road but the vehicles find it hard to see you.

5.       What if it is really cold?

  • I have to admit here I always hesitate a bit since the cold is really one thing I am dreading, but many people have commented here and on Facebook telling me that once you get going the cold really isn’t an issue anymore. They key seems to be keeping the core warm so that the blood can continue to circulate into your feet and hands. I have taken that to heart and often remind the questioners that biking is cardio exercise and that if I am not warm enough I just have to work a bit harder.

6.       Why don’t you just buy a car?

  • This is probably the most common question I run into when telling people about my winter commute. Apparently, it is very hard to understand why someone who could buy a car would decide not to in favor of biking in the cold.
  • Now I am pretty sure you cannot change people’s minds on this one, but I like to explain to them a few key elements that keep me on the bike such as:
  • When I bike I don’t feel obligated to get a gym membership. I torch an average of 300 calories a day just commuting.
  1. I don’t have to fill up on gas
  2. I don’t have to buy car insurance
  3. There is no need for a parking spot, which living in the city can get ridiculous or can be hard to find.
  4. I don’t have monthly car payments….
  5. And to top it all off my commute is on average 15 minutes shorter. It is hard to argue with the facts!

7.       Are you really biking in the winter?

  • Yup… I’m writing a mini blog series about it on SchwinnRed, so yeah it’s happening!

If you are or have ever ridden in the winter what questions do you receive and how do you respond to them? bundled up for winterKeep an eye out for an article about my hunt for the right Schwinn for winter and for a post that explores my preparation to stay warm this winter. (Hopefully I will find a more efficient way to stay warm then when I wore 4 layers in the picture to the right from when I went to visit the Ice Caves in Northern Wisconsin). Get out and Ride, Samantha C

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