Pedaling when it’s cold outside

After a spell of unseasonably warm weather, the air finally turned crisp again this morning. Fall is, by far, my favorite time of the year. But it is also a harbinger of winter, and so this year it is accompanied by thoughts of bicycling in the cold. The temptation to give the bike a good cleaning and then tuck it away safe in the garage is a strong one indeed. But somehow the question of whether or how much to ride seems like a test (of the good sort), a challenge, a hard question put forward by an anonymous but stern interlocutor insisting I prove that I am who I claim to be. (Yes, it’s all a bit dramatic, and it certainly puts far too much pressure on the situation. But we all need something to motivate us, and it makes for better reading anyway … or so I hope.)

Hence, in an effort to both convince and prepare myself, I’ve begun reading various bits and pieces on winter riding. Today, I came across something published nearly a year ago on RocBike.Com titled “Ten Reasons Why Bikes Are Better for Winter Commuting.”

  1. No need to brush/scrape your windows
  2. You can skip shoveling the driveway
  3. Bikes never get stuck in the snow
  4. Biking: a low-cost winter sport
  5. Pumping gas is a bad excuse to stand still in the cold
  6. Avoid “Winter Weight Gain”
  7. Studded tires rock
  8. Losing control of a bike is a bit less scary than losing control of a car
  9. Bikes are easier to maintain
  10. Bikes let you enjoy the season

Unfortunately, riding my bicycle won’t get me out of shoveling the driveway. Outside of baseball and softball, seasonal sports are not high on my list of concerns. And I’m not sure I’ll be swapping out my tires for the studded variety. But that still leaves me with seven really fantastic reasons to pedal instead of drive.

What I like most about these reasons is that they point to how silly it is to opt out of riding on account of the cold. Granted, most of these reasons really have more to do with snow and ice specifically than with cold in general. Nevertheless, if we’re talking about trips of, say, three miles or less (no more than 15-20 minutes), then how absurd is it that we spend so much time and energy getting the car ready to go, when a bicycle would have us at our destination already and offer numerous peripheral benefits besides? And even if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t worry about warming up the car before you take off, you’ve just spent nearly the same amount of time shivering in a motorized ice box as you would have spent generating your own warmth pedaling to your destination.

OK, I’ll admit, this is a far easier conversation to have with one’s self in mid-October with the sun shining brightly and the temperature in the mid-60s. Riding in the cold, especially when snow and ice are involved, requires additional planning, focus, and skills. Check out the of tips on winter biking at Chicago Bike Blog.

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