Since yesterday, it has snowed 12 inches in north Chicago and it’s still snowing. What’s a cyclist to do? Well, first, be grateful that’s it’s a Saturday and the commute to work is not an issue. Second, have fun with it! This morning I had to babysit my nephew and if I was late, my sister would have been late to work, so I caved and took the el. Later that afternoon, my husband stopped by – on his bike – after a trip to Sears to buy new boots, which were strapped to his rear rack. He then cycled the 2.5 miles home (6 miles total).
I woke up all prepared to finish my commute diary and talk about riding in the dark, but now I think it’s my turn to write about why biking is better.
Let me begin by saying I am an extremely lazy person. I would much rather be doing just about anything other than physical exertion for its own sake. Running makes me want to die, treadmills are the devil’s tool (all that walking and you’re not even going anywhere!) and don’t even talk to me about spinning or boot camps. Other than the occasional hike when the weather is right, and my weekly Iyengar yoga, exercise felt like a chore to me.
So the idea that I could exercise while also accomplishing something necessary to my life, getting to work or running errands, really appealed to me. That was what made me dust off the old Schwinn and bring it up to Nashville. The surprise came when I got on and realized that riding my bike was actually fun.
Since the forecast called for up to eight inches of snow and my cold is getting worse, I did not cycle today. The el ride was not too bad, but I missed my bike. It takes a lot to keep me off my bike, but I never force myself to ride if I feel it would be unsafe or really unpleasant. That’s one of my secrets to not burning out.
My other secret to riding my bike consistently is equally simple: cycling is almost always more desirable than the alternatives. Not only more desirable in all of the “biking will save the world” ways – no pollution, no dependence on foreign oil, no dangerous hazard to others, no isolation from my neighbors and surroundings, no obesity – but also more desirable in ways that most Americans would be interested in – Faster, Cheaper, More Comfortable.
You might be bike commuting in Nashville. In the spring and summer, I usually see a bike or two during my journey, but in winter? It’s just me. Or at least it was yesterday.
What I wore
So, here’s me just before leaving for the office (and yes, that is my bathroom mirror). As you can see, I wear my work clothes, down to the coat (I especially like this one because it is the perfect length for biking and I think the red color makes me stand out).
So, cardigan, tank top, work pants and normal socks. I threw on gloves, boots and a scarf before actually going out the door, along with my helmet. And no, I’m not wearing hammer pants, even though they were all the rage in France last summer. These particular dress pants are wide-legged and I have to clip them tight so that they don’t catch on my water-bottle holder. I hear tell there is actually biking equipment that does this, but I usually use hair clips or rubber bands, proving once again that you can bike commute without all the gear.
I left for work this morning at the same time as my husband. Once he saw that I was going the same direction as him and taking the city streets, instead of the other way to the lake front path, he said, “I hope you’re not trying to keep up with me; I’m in a rush.” Whatever, buddy, I’m just trying to get to work.
…you might be riding your bike in Chicago. I only wish I had thought to take a picture!
Snow has returned after a one-week hiatus and is making my daily rides a bit more interesting. My new Schwalbe Winter studded tires are working overtime keeping me upright, which I greatly appreciate, and my snowman companion is having a blast. (He totally forgives me for accidentally ripping off his left arm. Really.)
Or perhaps just ill-equipped? I couldn’t agree more with Dot’s thoughts on getting outdoors in winter. The cold isn’t an issue after the first few blocks, and the stark silhouettes of the leafless trees have a certain beauty. Unfortunately winter in the South tends to mean rain more than snow. Or at least it does this year, when the planet seems determined to make up for last year’s drought (it has rained for five of the seven days so far in 2009).
If this is a sign of things to come for the rest of the winter, Pinkie needs fenders and I need a raincoat! Anyone out there have any recommendations? I want a coat that breathes but still repels water. I know most of the readers so far aren’t bike commuters, but you’re all more outdoorsy than I am.
The forecast for tomorrow is clear, if chilly, so I’m hoping to have something to write about and perhaps pictures of my own commute!
ETA: The sun is suddenly making an appearance. Wishing I had ridden this morning!
My ride today was noteworthy for the disparate conditions in the morning and the evening. In the morning, strong headwinds coming from the south made the simple act of pedaling quite arduous. Not the worst wind I’ve encountered in the Windy City, but in the top 3. My mood lifted during the final leg of the commute, when it began snowing. I’m a sucker for snow, which is still a novelty for me after a lifetime of living in the South. So I stopped and took some pictures.
Many people seem to hibernate during winter, forgetting that the world is still out there. I was one of those people last winter, my first in Chicago. Now, on my bike every day, I’m reminded that the outdoors are just as interesting and even more beautiful on the bleakest days as on the sunniest days.