Thursday, March 10, 2016

"Why you no ride your bike?"

I don't know what happened to spring this year but summer has already arrived. It was 23C (74F) yesterday and this morning didn't feel much cooler either. I rode to work wearing no jacket, no gloves, no hat and just a short sleeve - something unimaginable in March a year ago.

The weather like this bring all kinds of cyclists onto the bike path. Some of them are now very recognizable to me, as those are the same ones who I usually see on the Minuteman Bikeway year round, except winter. Once warmer weather arrives, they restart their regular bike-to-work schedule.

Then, there are those who enter the bike path only in fair weather. By "fair", I mean something like at least 70F, sunny and no rain. Apparently, for most of folks out there, there is such thing as bicycling season and it doesn't include winter.

All of which brings me to ask this very important question - why don't you ride your bike year round?

Giving it some thought, I came up with a list of possible excuses (and my rebuttals):
  1. It's too cold - dress appropriately
  2. It's raining/snowing - see above
  3. It's getting dark early - get some lights
  4. My bicycle is too nice/expensive for it - get a cheap beater
  5. I would need to shower at work - no you don't, ride slowly and don't overdress
  6. I would need to change at work - use a bathroom?
Number 1 on the list is there above all others. I see more people cycling to work when it's warm but rainy than when it's cold and dry. For some reason people are scared of cold and once it drops below 30F they think their butts are going to freeze to saddles.
But seriously, if someone tells me that bicycling for transportation is stupid and doesn't make sense because you can only use those bike for like 2 months a year, I'm possibly going to kill them with my laughter. Interestingly, these kind of statements come often from people who live in a very favorable climate - bicycling-wise. Such as my hometown in Poland, where rain is scarce, temperatures are mild and snow in winter hasn't been seen in years. Still, you will hear frequently that bicycling in the city can't be done, because... you know, the weather.

That's not an excuse. No one says you should dare to bike to work in the middle of a thunderstorm and a downpour. But even those cool mornings or light drizzle are perfectly manageable. It always puzzled me that many more people use their bicycles for transportation in those "cold" countries in the north than those warm, nice places in the south. Which simply means that it's not about the weather.

Examples from Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Groningen, Berlin and many other cities show that if you want people cycle to work you need to provide infrastructure - something we usually lack here in the U.S. of A. But then why not try to ride to work in the week after Christmas? It's usually the best time of the year to start!

Or maybe I'm mistaken. Maybe it's something different? Perhaps people don't ride their bikes on daily basis because they can't answer some very basic questions, such as what is the optimum tire pressure?:
Hey, I'm mentioned on Bike Snob's blog - unimaginable!

Having said that, it was raining this afternoon, which made my commute back home much less pleasant. There were only a few other fellow cyclists on the bike path. Weirdos like me.


  1. I love this post. Totally agree!

    I have been biking all winter and now suddenly there are more bikes on the roads!

    A friend of mine bikes 3 seasons of the year, but he is reluctant to bike to work in winter because of the dark mornings (yes, he has lights). The problem, he says, is that one of the roads he takes to work is filled with angry, fast drivers who get worse before the sun comes up. It's a two-lane road, cars moving at 30 to 40 miles per hour, no shoulder -- and he needs to take the whole right lane a lot because there are a ton of treacherous potholes in the "bike lane" (not really a bike lane but the area where a bike lane should be). So he feels unsafe even with lights on his bike, because drivers are fast and angry. I suggested he take a longer route to avoid this road, but he said it would take too long. Any advice?

  2. @Josette
    Alternate route would be the best option. Maybe a (reasonably) longer commute wouldn't be such a bad thing if it takes him through a peaceful area (forest ride in winter can be relaxing)?

    Otherwise, the only other way would be to do exactly what he's doing - taking the lane. It really is the only way to ensure that cars and trucks leave you enough space when passing.

    My commute is 10 miles long and takes me nearly an hour. Yes, it's long but because 80% of it is on the bike path in the forest, I don't mind it at all. In winter it can be actually relaxing.

    If he can put some fun in his commute by going to work a less obvious way (offroad, etc.), it could be very rewarding, despite the lengthy ride.