The Most Difficult Thing About Winter Cycling

3 01 2011

It’s not the cold. It’s not the snow or the slush or the salt or the muck. It’s not the ice, even when you get right down to it (FTR, falling on ice > road rash). It’s not buying the perfect bike, or the right set of tires, or the right technical clothing. It’s not finding a light with batteries that aren’t affected by the cold or making your presence known to drivers who aren’t expecting you. And it’s certainly not the windchill.

The most difficult thing for me about winter cycling is the moments before I cross the threshold and leave the house.  The anticipation of the cold and the snow and the ever changing conditions is always worse than whatever the conditions of this frozen city actually are.

At the top of this parkade there is a giant pile of snow and a pretty cool view of snow and fog enveloping downtown.

Every morning brings a twinge of dread when I look out the window or check the forecast. Every morning, doubt worms its way into my head and tries to convince me that I can’t make it cross town under my own power on a two wheeled machine. Even though I know that I always feel better after a ride than before one. Even though I know that I’ll be warmer riding than waiting for a train or sitting on a bus. Even though I have never regretted a ride, but have certainly regretted not riding. A little momentum can take you to your goal, but the most difficult part is creating momentum when you start out with none. Everything gets easier after that.

This cool view doesn't have much to do with my post, except it wouldn't have happened had I not been riding like everyday was an adventure.

When people (outside of the bike scene) initially find out I ride all winter, I am pretty used to them thinking I’m crazy. I’ll often protest, “No, actually it’s pretty fun! And you’re moving so you stay warm. I don’t mind at all! It’s a great way to go, fast, cheap & good exercise. And my studded tires grip ice better than my boots…”

But as I peer out the window at my frozen bikes on a cold winter morning, I wonder, for a moment, if I really am crazy, and if this lifestyle actually is a bad choice. I’ve never counted, but I believe it takes me about 2 – 5 cranks of the chain (depending on how cold it is) to completely alleviate this doubt, at least until the next cold winter morning.

Empty streets, mysterious atmosphere, lights up 'til Orthodox Xmas, overall a fine night for parkade topping.

Maybe I am crazy, but it’s because I doubt doing something that’s always sure to put a smile on my face.

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