I saw my breath this morning — winter is coming. This post is the first of four in a series on riding your bike to work in the winter. This post looks at why; subsequent articles will describe taking care of yourself, taking care of your bike, and winter riding techniques.
I began my bike to work experiment in the middle of summer — June 30 to be exact. As winter approached, I figured I would be taking at least December, January, and February off…after all you can’t bike in the winter, right? What I learned that first winter (and every winter since) is that there are at least five reasons you should consider riding your bike to work in winter.
1. Traffic Jams
You may have experienced the pleasure of blowing past cars backed up for blocks because a lane is closed for summertime road work. Winter traffic can be even worse.
Last winter I rode to work on a day that saw hundreds of fender-benders, and while I don’t remember having any trouble myself, traffic was backed up like crazy all over the city. Some co-workers’ commute time was tripled; they got to work late and angry (and some with damaged cars), so I didn’t rub it in that my commute had been only a few minutes longer than usual.
2. You Need the Exercise More Than Ever
You know the drill: gain weight in the winter because there is so much holiday food and zero motivation to exercise. You feel bloated and lethargic and grumpy because you aren’t working off the stress that comes from both everyday sources and the holidays.
By preserving your commuting routine, you can alleviate stress, stay in touch with your body’s needs, eat and play better, and even enjoy those holiday treats guilt-free, knowing that you can burn them off on your commute. As a bonus, you won’t be stuck in a car listening to that awful song about some kid buying shoes for momma to meet Jesus in.
3. Be Remarkable and Prove to Yourself Your Strength
Some of your co-workers will try to be remarkable by wearing a different Christmas sweater every day of December. Do something that will get people’s attention and admiration: ride to work in winter, actually lose weight during the holidays — that’ll get people talking.
Even more important than impressing others is impressing yourself. You may think riding a bike to work when it’s dark and cold is hard (and in many ways it is). Imagine how empowered you will feel when you actually do it (then imagine how you will feel on the first day that you also enjoy it).
4. Save Money
I estimate that taking the bus from November through February would cost me a little over $400. That amount can buy you a plane ticket to a place with a warm beach. If you are riding during the other three seasons, but holding on to a car for winter, this one season of driving is costing you big bucks.
5. Enjoy the Season
If you are lucky enough to live in a place that has winter, you should get out and enjoy it (it will be hot again soon). Did you know that the moon sets in a different spot on the horizon in winter? One of my favorite memories of biking to work was coming to the top of a hill in the morning light and seeing through the fog of my own breath a full pink moon setting over Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake.
There is a special camaraderie in seeing the tracks of someone else’s tires in a fresh skiff of snow. Many riders also find the cold weather gives them a great excuse to stop on the way home at that interesting cafe they passed everyday during the rest of the year “just to warm up.”
Biking to work in the winter is not for everyone, and there are some days you just won’t be able to do it. Don’t let the occasional impossible day or fear of the unknown make you write off the season entirely — you may find that winter is your favorite commuting season.
Question: Why do you or don’t you bike to work in the winter?