Reflections on Winter Biking: My Maiden Voyage




I love my red Nishiki road bike. She was a gift from my Dad to my Mom three decades ago, and somewhere along the way she became mine. Together we’ve watched the sun rise at Montrose Harbor and the seasons change riding alongside Urbana cornfields. This fall she would faithfully wait for me to finish work each night, guiding me around pot holes and under bridges, home through humid August air and soggy October evenings.  
And then it got cold. It snowed.   I put my bike in the basement and resigned myself to taking the bus. I missed the consistency with which biking makes me feel better when I hop off then I did when I got on; I missed the feeling of being fully present, alone with my thoughts but also aware of my surroundings;  I missed sleeping better, eating better, moving better that  came with commuting on my bike.

Thankfully, collaborating with Women Bike Chicago and Active Trans means that I’m surrounded by folks who are doing what I had decided just wasn’t going to work. With this mental block out of the way, I needed to get a handle on how I was going to make this work.
First up: I did some research to prepare myself for my first foray into winter riding. Women Bike Chicago’s own Anne Alt has a helpful summary here:
http://www.urbanimage5.net/wbc/WBC_presentation_gear%20for%20weather.pdf.
Because, as Anne says, “Fenders are your friend,” my next stop was the bike shop to get front and back fenders put on (somehow, I didn’t find getting up-splash from the rain quite annoying enough to do this when I should have, long ago). With the exception of some socks to beat my fear of getting cold feet, I resisted the temptation to buy out the clothing section, in favor of sticking to my budget and trying to make what I already have work first.

I stuck mostly to larger streets to avoid some of the lingering ice & slush on smaller ones
In terms of keeping myself warm, my face and neck were my biggest lingering concerns. How do I keep my neck warm without investing in a balaclava from the bike shop (for now, anyway)? Here’s a cool photo shoot from Bike Winter, with some inspiration: http://bikewinter.org/photo_shoot_2011_Done.

This time I got away with pretty light clothing. Chicago has recovered from its cold spell and is back in the 30s. It was a good day to ease into winter riding- for now, I’m going to commit to riding when the weather is above 20 and there isn’t enough residual snow on the major roads to be an issue for me. The long term goal is to have temperature be a non-issue, and to better understand and equip my bike to get through winter elements.

My first winter ride was different than I had expected. Some drivers made an extra effort to give me a wide berth or let me merge. Others drove per usual. And one or two was particularly frustrated and frustrating. It helped that I allowed plenty of extra time so that my focus could remain on the ride itself. I wasn’t cold. I was a bit uneasy. I wasn’t sure how my Nishiki would react to the snow and slush. Overall, it did fine. Tomorrow, I’ll be better able to gage my beloved bike’s reactions to our new riding conditions, and the day after more still. Already, my body and my mind are thanking me.
 

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to the sorority! All of us will be happy to help you stay on your bike and do it with what is already in your closet.

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