Get out. I'm not biking in winter!
I know there are those among us who ride their bikes no matter what. The rest of us falter, at least once in a while. For most people, the Chicago winter is an enormous obstacle. But is it completely justified?
I've been in the bike industry long enough to know that when fall rolls around, never mind that it might be a beautiful, brisk 50 degrees, most Chicagoans start to retire their bikes for the season. But when you think about it, it makes not sense. Even when the temps fall to the truly wintry range, many people continue to walk their dogs, run, hike or otherwise enjoy the outdoors.
So, why not bike?
For me personally, cold is not enough of an obstacle. I have time-tested strategies for staying warm while I bike. The biggest block to riding for me -- and, I suspect, for many others -- is snow, ice, and more dangerous road conditions. These concerns are impossible to disregard.
Still, I can't help wondering if we've gotten just a bit too soft. The winter season in Chicago is as inevitable as it is long, and it's a crying shame to spend a third of the year simply waiting for conditions to improve. So, for myself, I've developed three strategies to keep biking this winter (at least some of the time):
Ride a bike on dry days. The reality is that between Thanksgiving and March there are lengthy dry, and sometimes even sunny stretches. Yes, it can be quite cold, but with proper attire, you'll warm up quickly on a bike, and dry winter streets are no less safe than in the summer. It's entirely possible to stick to a daily bike commute, but if the combination of distance and temperature is too much, you can at least consider local biking for groceries, errands, or simply for exercise.
Give the weather the finger. Sometimes, the most inspiring day for me to ride is one that is the least approachable. Granted, I may not want to do it all the time, but some of the most fun I've had on my bike is when the weather was absolutely fearsome and I biked just so I can say I did. A little bit of suffering is good for perspective, and there has never been a time when I arrived at my destination disappointed. When I do challenge myself this way, I use my comfort level as a gauge of safety, and you should too.
Embrace the weather. Not everyone has a snow-worthy bike, but if you have the opportunity, I heartily encourage you to give one a try. A few inches of snow will turn the local forest preserve or trail into winter adventureland for a fatbike. It will have you feeling like a kid again in a matter of minutes. On a recent -- very, very cold fatbike ride -- we spontaneously dropped down to the ground to make snow angels. And we're old enough to be grandparents, for heaven's sake! If you'd like to try a fatbike, we have a few basic demo models at Cosmic Bikes. Give us a call -- we'd love to get you hooked!