Chicago winter riders,
Great Lakes Adventure Project is putting together a short article on Chicago's winter cyclist. However, we can't do it without some input:
Tell us what you love about winter riding, braving the cold, what keeps you upright on slick roads, the necessary gear, favorite routes and anything else that keep you pedaling all winter.
I don't ride in snow and ice, but so far cold is no obstacle. I ride because riding my bike makes me happy. I ride to and from work and I feel better when I ride than when I take the subway. On tough work days, riding home clears my head.
Dressing is surprisingly easy. Wicking layers, wool, windbreaking outer layers, hand coverings that keep fingers together, sometimes goggles to keep eyes and face out of the wind, and, when it is in the teens and below, the chemical hand and toe warmers.
I ride outside to break the monotony of training indoors all winter. It is a lot harder to get in a good workout in the cold so indoors is still the best option for those on a training plan, but being on a stationary trainer makes ya feel like a hamster on a spinning wheel... While you do not need special gear to run errands or commute, the higher tech winter gear makes the bad weather easier to deal with. Riding in the snow also increases your handling skills and makes you a smoother cyclist.
4) free/easily available parking
Why freeze and wait for the CTA and risk being late to work when I can ride my trusty steed to work? I'm faster riding the 5 miles to work than taking the train. My bicycle is probably not going to derail or randomly stop working for apparently no reason. In the case of a flat tire, I can always throw my bicycle on the bus or train. Or depending on the time I can double lock it somewhere relatively safe and hop on the train/bus. Cycling keeps me warm. Waiting outside for the bus or train to appear is not. I can use my balaclava/neck gaiter to cover my entire face while cycling. If I were to do this while walking I'd probably look a little funny. How can I not smile when riding my bicycle during winter? I'm doing what I love and I'm getting to where I need to be. I'm staying in shape without wasting money on a gym membership. I'm outside. I get the little bit of winter sun that's available in Chicago by biking. I feel safer riding my bicycle than taking public transportation. My bicycle gives me the freedom to go where I want and when I want.
I love my bicycle(s). :)
Oh, and it's sooo easy to find parking in winter cause all the fair weather cyclists have moved indoors. Bike rack at the Water Tower-empty. No competition. It's nice (although a little sad since there are fewer cyclists).
Biking home from work in the cold dusk on nearly-empty streets makes me feel like I own the world. The closer I get to home, the more I find myself wishing my ride was just a little bit longer.
I also do not ride in the ice and snow after falling on black ice three winters ago.
My hands usually warm up after a few miles; my feet never do. I recommend battery-powered heated insoles.
Its the prescription remedy for Seasonal Affective Disorder. The side effects (cold hands and feet) will not diminish your capacity to think or be creative.
It gets me out of the house, and i dont care for the bus and train combo. I find the cold to be hard on the legs, but to be out there it is worth it.
With the right clothing and cycling gear it's much warmer than waiting for a train or bus, even waiting for the car to warm up.
You need to experience a solo ride on a silent cold and clear night with the moon and stars reflecting off the snow to know why.
We do what we must because we can.
I ride because I am happy on a bike, it is eco-friendly, I have a small carbon footprint, it keeps me fit and I can use the time to take photos while commuting.
I ride in winter for the challenge. Every day has a different set of clothing and route problems to solve. The feeling of having survived 33 degrees with rain and sleet or 5 degrees and a stiff wind is utterly delicious.