Repeat After Me: Winter Commuters Aren't Heroes

Winter Commuting in OntarioMy winter bike commuting setup is coming together. I’m feeling prematurely proud of myself for simply intending to commute by bike through a Flagstaff winter for the first time. Then along comes this article and photo from Ontario’s “Globe and Mail” to knock me off my high, er,  saddle.

Odds are that this true believer spent money winterizing his ride, bought studded tires, wears reflective clothing and may have even equipped his ride with disk brakes, which are not as affected by adverse weather conditions.

This fellow has taken the appropriate precautions. He loves cycling and won’t quit when the going gets cold. The worst thing you can do to him is ignore him when he huffs into the office in his gear waiting for his chorus of gasps. If he wants to bike, cool, but he’s no hero. The guy who keeps jogging through the winter is the true maniac. He battles icy sidewalks and arctic temperatures and he has to run by all those coffee shops, delis and bakeries without once stopping.

The cyclist you really should be concerned about is the one with his winter hood on (who needs peripheral vision?) and his hands stuffed in his pockets, and who is biking on bald summer tires. These guys aren’t cycling to make a statement and, if they are, that statement is “I have no money.” These are the folks who give drivers the jitters. The only thing they are prepared for is getting into an accident.

He has a point, though.

If we want our winter commute to be seen as a heroic, we are also saying, “You mere mortals couldn’t handle it.” And if they internalize this message, they won’t ever try. Exactly the opposite of what a cycling advocate would want.

I was looking forward to bragging about my winterized bike here on this blog. I even took pictures today. This article won’t stop me. But when I do write about it, I will try very hard to be nonchalant about it, and show no signs of hidden superpowers.

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18 thoughts on “Repeat After Me: Winter Commuters Aren't Heroes”

  1. Adam says:

    Flagstaff? I commuted a couple of winters in Flagstaff. As I’m sure you suspect, you’ll live.


  2. ethan says:

    I’m not trying to be anybody else’s hero. I’m just trying to be MY hero.

  3. Steve Grimmer says:

    I’ve been commuting daily on my bike through the winters in Winnipeg for about 5 years now. At first it was to challenge myself, then it was to make a point about transportation. Now it’s just about having fun.
    Steve in the ‘Peg

  4. Dwight Mark says:

    Come spend a winter week in Anchorage. There are hundreds here like that guy. Winter is 6-7 months long, mostly dark. I love trying out new light combos.

  5. David says:

    Try a velomobile. Recumbent comfort within the protective shell of a human powered vehicle.

  6. Jansen says:

    Who cares what that reporter thinks. He’s writing trash because trash sells.
    Ride because it’s fun. Ride because you want to. Less time you worry about what others think, the more time you’ll have to focus on you and your ride.
    Have fun, stay safe, and enjoy the coffee while the maniac runs by freezing his balls off.

  7. Mark says:

    As much as my ego may not want to admit it, it’s kind of true. Winter commuting is tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s really not that tough. With proper clothing and equipment, it’s not substantially more challenging than summer commuting. If anything, we’re probably warmer than many drivers, since we’re generating our own heat.

  8. Robert Rowe says:

    I definitely don’t see myself as a hero (and I definitely chicken-out when the weather is too bad).
    I also don’t believe that any winter cyclist commuter has “superpowers”. They just have money and the right gear. That said, I’m not putting studded tires on my bike, so if the roads require them, I’m using the bus or car instead.

  9. Jack says:

    It’s that old saying, “the only person I have to impress is me.”

    Whatever motivates.

    Gear up, ride on.

  10. I think it all depends on the perspective of what you are talking about. Surely Batman isn’t a hero when it comes to winter cycling. But we’d all say he’s a hero at least in the comic book realm and bringing order to Gotham city.

    Does implying that cycling through the winter makes you a hero mean that it is inaccessible to others? Why can’t we all be heroes?

    Its the one less car idea. Its not that you are the difference, its that you are part of the difference and an advocate of cycling. Lets all ride, all year round, and be part of something great.

  11. Matt says:

    Where does one get studded snow bike tires. I am the guy on bald summer tires with no brakes. Is there a good article on winterizing for upstate NY?

  12. Columbus commuter says:

    I have commuted through the last five winters. I will admit that I do not really like slick, slushy roads, but I bike because I hate to drive and I want the daily exercise. For the most part bicycling in the winter is not difficult but there are the inevitable spills that leave me a little sore. I definitely don’t do it because I want others to think that I am superhuman or any of that nonsense. These winter rides make me better appreciate the beautiful spring commutes that await.

  13. Casey says:

    I commuted all through two winters when I lived in Santa Fe and it was hardly heroic. It’s really not hard at all. Warm clothes and the right tires are really the important part. Of course, everyone I worked with, at a bike company nonetheless, thought I was crazy. Really, I enjoy riding in the snow.

  14. Marvin says:

    I’ve been a year-round commuter in Boston for ~ 15 years. At first, my coworkers thought I was crazy, now they just shrug when I roll in.
    Studded Nokians and appropriate clothing make it not that different from the rest of the year (mostly)..

  15. Randy says:

    I have always commuted to work by bike. Miami, Atlantic City, and now Cape Cod.
    Weather makes the commute interesting. Riding the same route day after day gets to be a routine but when you add weather, that makes it a challenge. My goal is to never call my wife to have her pick be up.

  16. Randy says:

    I commute during the winter and have very little money. All of my cold weather cycling gear was used bought on Ebay. Pretty cheap cheaper that a tank of gas.

  17. dr2chase says:

    No more heroic than going skiing, and fair amount of the same gear.

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