My No-Bike Commute

When the side streets look like this:

My commute looks like this:

I pulled Oma out of the garage this morning, but then I put her back and walked to the L train.  I could have biked, as Mr. Dottie did, but I felt like taking the stress-free route.

Now that I’ve successfully biked through two winters, I don’t need to prove myself over and over again.  If I’m not feeling it, I don’t force it.  I think some people expect winter bicyclists to be extreme-sport masochist types, but that’s so not my motivation.

I’ll be more adventurous once I get my studded tires on for the season.  Without them, my nerves fray easily, but I’ve been too lazy to either switch them myself or bring them into the shop.  Soon, soon.

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47 thoughts on “My No-Bike Commute

  1. Amy says:

    I only rode to my morning job today. It’s only 5 minutes from my home, so it seemed like a good test ride. Lesson learned: my mixte with her skinny little tires are not the best for snow! I’m hoping that my Pashley arrives soon. :) So I drove to the barn.

  2. Nicole says:

    We’ve had snow and sub-zero temperatures in the South-East of England for the last couple of weeks and I’ve been riding through it, commuting to my local railway station and then into London. When I say sub-zero, I’m talking celsius, but nothing like as cold as it gets in Chicago. I ride a Globe Vienna with thick tyres, but not studded. It never gets that bad.

    Dottie, I’ve been inspired by your guides to winter riding. I’m somewhere in between a Lycra-clad road cyclist and a vintage enthusiast so I find it quite a challenge to ride, keep warm and look okay for the office. Your winter cycling video really helped me to work out the layers. The most important thing for me is to wear a skirt or a dress. I just find them much more comfortable for riding. So layering tights and
    wool leggings is the way forward. And sheepskin-lined boots. The only thing I have to sort out now is my hands. I’m waiting for a pair of down mittents to arrive in the post. Hopefully that should do it.

    But thank you for the inspiration. And nobody has to feel bad for not riding. Let’s give ourselves a break and just enjoy the peace when we do. Life is stressful enough…

    • Mr Colostomy says:

      I always get thrown by the Fahrenheit temperatures when reading US-based blogs. When people complain about temperature in the teens I think “What’s so bad about that?” before remembering about the different scale and that 13-19F is pretty cold.

    • Dottie says:

      That’s so great to hear – I’m glad that information has been useful for you. On really cold days, I have started putting chemical warming packs in my mittens. It’s a wasteful and somewhat pricey habit, but otherwise my fingers sting with pain the whole ride.

  3. Oh Dot, this could the beginning of the end of a great period. Please, change those tires ASAP :)

  4. Peter says:

    I also backed out yesterday. It’s hard at times because the people who think I am crazy seem to want to see me defeated. We had rain and snow all day Sunday, then a freeze overnight. The roads were rutted and icy. I didn’t fear the weather or the roads on the bike (I got snow studs this fall!) It is the drivers on my rural roads that I don’t trust. I am the only cyclist out there at this time of the year and I saw too many cars in the ditch on Sunday that prove I’m right to park it on days like this. I am going out to see if my road is any better this morning. Thanks for being another voice (other than my wife’s and the one in my head) that doesn’t make me feel bad for wanting to see my family and not the front of a grill at the end of my commute.

    • Dottie says:

      I’ve noticed the same thing about some people seeming like they want to see me defeated – hence always asking on the worst possible days whether I rode my bike. Like, during terrible thunderstorms or ice storms. They just want to hear me say no.

  5. neighbourtease says:

    I am working at home today. Feels like 9 degrees = too cold for this baby.

  6. BikeBike says:

    I’m with you Dottie – when the roads are too sketchy, I hop on the bus. We had our first winter storm a few weeks back and the roads were really bad for a day or two. Car crashes everywhere, packed ice under fresh snow everywhere – simply not worth it especially when you hear that there were 1000+ collisions in a 24hr period. I will not expose my son to that kind of chaos.

    Plus, people watching on the bus is fun!

    • Dottie says:

      Dang, that’s a lot of collisions! The news here on Monday morning kept talking about all the auto crashes and cars stuck in ditches. Even if I have studded tires on my bike, that does not prevent a car from sliding into me, which I would like to avoid.

  7. Jason Tinkey says:

    I had pretty much the same experience yesterday. I ride in all but the coldest or slipperiest conditions, it doesn’t help that we’re getting both so early on this winter. So I opted for a brisk walk to work rather than subzero winds in my face.

    • Dottie says:

      I love walking, almost as good as biking. Walking all the way to work would take me almost two hours, but if I take the L I often get off early to walk the last mile.

  8. Jennifer says:

    I’ve been trying for the past two weekends to get to the bike shop to have my studded tyres put on but laziness always strikes and I just want to stay warm and read books at home. I’m apprehensive about winter biking, which doesn’t help. I relate to the over-thinking thing! In my case it can be analysis-paralysis.

    • Dottie says:

      I finally took the studded tire initiative. On my way to work, before the shop opened for the day, I locked Oma up outside Dutch Bike Chicago, dropped the key through their mail slot and left them a message about it. Then I got on the L for the rest of the commute. That’s a way to do it while maintaining my laziness pretty well. :)

  9. Treesounds says:

    We had a rain turned to snowstorm (so ice under the snow) and then zero temps. So lots of rutty conditions, and salt doesn’t work in these temps, etc.., so I have been bussing about. Even the best studded tires, you would need to slow way down, but would have a good chance of wiping it anyway. However, on the lane, it would be faster. Mostly back roads and driveways are really super bad. I’m giving a few days to make more passable.

    People think I’m crazy all year round though anyway, since I ride 25mi a day.

    • Dottie says:

      Sounds like a good plan, waiting a couple of days for conditions to improve is totally worth it. Rutted ice is the worst – nothing can prevent slipping on that, not even studs.

      25 miles a day is awesome!

  10. Gram Bev says:

    I like the photo with the pink balloons. Was that taken looking out your window from indoors or were the balloons attached to a post outdoors ?

  11. Rebekah says:

    I feel the same way. After my first year of riding through a Chicago winter (every single day), I think I proved that I can do it. Now on days when I don’t feel like I take the el. Still, on most days the bike wins out.

  12. Rob says:

    I’ve had all sorts of reasons (not excuses!) that I haven’t been able to bike in. Mondays, it’s usually that I can’t cover 8.5 miles in 45 minutes this time of year.

    Today the wife wanted to eat lunch with me, and try as I might, I just can’t ride 30 miles in an hour and a half. (Bartlett to Warrenville, round-trip.)

    Gonna show up at tomorrow morning’s Stearns Road opening, though. :-D

    • Dottie says:

      Those are reasons. :)

      Your website and the advocacy in Carol Stream that goes with it sound great. I’m going to forward the link to my friend Melissa, who is big on bike advocacy in Aurora.

  13. SM says:

    Vee, your comment cracked me up.

    Dottie, thanks for showing us this side of you and that sometimes riding the bike in the snow is just not doable. When I wake up in the morning and it’s cold (no snow yet) outside and I’m feeling wimpy… I always think, Dottie is out there braving the elements, so stop being a wimp. But, we forget, and know, that you’re
    human too :) . So, thanks for making us feel not so wimpy.

  14. Holly says:

    I’m totally new to bicycling in Chicago winter. It’s been a real challenge to stick to it because my typical cut-off temp for riding is about 40-45º. I hope I don’t seem like I’m a masochist, but I’m really trying to stay with this because the habit is there and I don’t want to fall out of the zone.

    I took a day off last week because I was sick, but rode yesterday and today. It wasn’t so bad. I’m really proud that I’ve been able to brave it. I am glad to know that I skip it without falling into a routine of just stopping entirely. It’s more a matter of proving something to myself more than anyone else.

    I am enjoying being on my bike year round and very pleased with my self-reliance. I feel kinda tough, in a good way. Thanks you for being an inspiration in this department, Dottie!

  15. donna says:

    Dottie, when I left home this morning the roads were clear and dry. Then it started snowing and it was more than the dusting promised but a bit less than in your pic. Riding the Pashley home for close to an hour was not easy for me as I’ve never ridden in snow before. I took it real slow but I had to walk at times (across a bridge for example or down hilly parts because I was afraid of picking up speed). Most of my commute is on single lane roads with a bike lane but the bike lane was full of cruddy snow and I didn’t feel safe taking the lane because I felt like a nuisance . Do studded tires make a real difference? my boy tells me they work best on ice but don’t really make a difference in snow. I felt really wobbly at times and, I won’t lie, the whole experience was a big turn off. Do you stick to the bike lane all the time on city roads?

    • Dottie says:

      Studded tires don’t help much when there is deep snow (as in one or more inches) but for slushy gunk in the bike lane and the general slippery mess that snow creates on city streets, studded tires help. In those situations, the biggest danger for me is what ice may be hidden under the slush/gunk.

      But I do not ride in the bike lane when it’s not clean. Yes, it’s more stressful to put myself in the car lane, but I consider that my only choice. If I’m on a one-way side street where I have to ride in the center where the tire tracks are, I pull over at stop signs and wave by any cars that may be following behind me (every block here has a stop sign). Cars are patient riding behind me until I can wave them by. If I’m on a major route, vehicles just have to wait behind me until it’s safe for them to cross into the other lane to pass, as they would have to do with any other slow moving vehicle. It’s not an ideal situation for me, but I get used to it.

  16. Maureen says:

    Stay warm and cozy!

  17. E A says:

    Yesterday I rode — home sick today… but main streets were just fine. Today… I felt more the need to fend off getting sicker. Missed the ride..

  18. […] I was getting ready to write this post, I spied that Dottie of Let’s Go Ride a Bike wrote about the same thing. And Anna of Cycling is Good for You also wrote about cycling or not cycling in extreme snow, […]

  19. misskaz says:

    Finally built up my winter bike last night, studded tires and all, so I rode this morning. The ride wasn’t bad (11 miles for me, much of it on the Lake Front Trail. Others that take the trail should be warned that it’s closed south of Fullerton now, which is different from last year when they closed it at Oak St.) My biggest hurdle is I haven’t been riding much so I’m out of shape and my winter bike is slow and heavy.

    This is my second winter riding in Chicago so I also feel I have less to prove. But my CTA commute kind of sucks and I get so disillusioned by my rude and/or oblivious fellow passengers that I just had to get on the bike or lose my faith in humanity entirely. Then again, my train ride is when I get my knitting done and I have lots of Christmas presents to finish, so it’s a trade-off. I’ll be back on the CTA the rest of the week due to scheduling circumstances but hope to ride most of next week.

  20. Scott says:

    I think I am the same. The 2008/09 winter was my first riding the dutch bike to work. I took it out of the garage every morning, although twice the snow was so deep I stopped and got on the L. This year, I’ll take the L when we have extreme weather (like the days this Fall when the wind was 60+ mph). I have had no problems this week in the snow with my non-tire studded oma.

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