Getting Out On Your Bike In The Winter
Errands can give a sense of purpose to cold weather rides
At this time of year, even I'll admit it can be tough to work up the enthusiasm for a long ride in the cold “for the fun of it”. Some folks do it... I see hardy souls out on long rides in the coldest of weather. But for most of us, the thought of being out for a couple of hours on a bike in sub-freezing temperatures just isn't appealing.
What to do? Well, my last column told you how to prepare yourself and your bike for winter riding, now I'm going to give you some suggestions on how to simply work riding into your life in the cold.
The first tip is to not set big, unrealistic goals... don't tell yourself “tomorrow, I'm going to get on all my winter gear and ride out to Purcellville in the bracing weather!” Chances are good you'll either look outside at the grey and cold and change your mind, or get out to Leesburg and be cursing your foolishness that put you so far from home in the freezing cold.
I find one good way to get out and ride in winter is to run errands on my bike. Stay within the town boundaries, and do some local shopping, banking, or visiting by bike. That way you can dress warmly without having to worry about special “technical fabrics” and cycling specific winter clothing. If you're just tootling around town a mile or two here, a mile or two there, you really don't need to “suit
up”... you can wear more or less “street” clothes as long as they are warm. And you still get some exercise and fresh air!
If you're visiting friends or banking or running to the post office by bike, there's no special equipment you need. However, if you want to try doing some of your shopping by bike, like me, you'll probably need to come up with a way to carry things. The simplest choice, for small loads, is to toss a small backpack on your back, but that can be limiting and tiring. A better choice is some sort of carrying
system on your bike. This can be as simple has having a rear rack mounted, with a milk crate bungeed on top, or you can buy special bags or baskets to hang on your bike. My “grocery getter” is set up with a smallish wire basket up front, which handles the minor shopping trips, and a rack with folding wire basket on the back, for when the front alone isn't enough. I also have a Brompton folding bicycle,
which allows me to bring the bike right into the store, partly folded, and roll it around as my shopping cart, putting items in the front bag as I shop. Other options are special “grocery panniers”, cloth bags that hang on either side of the rear rack and are perfect for a bag of groceries each. The truly dedicated bicycle shopper might consider something like a bicycle cargo trailer for the truly huge load
of groceries, but the point is to just get out and give it a try.
You might be surprised how running errands and visiting on your bike can be both practical AND fun. And your friends will smile when they realize you've come “all that way in this weather” by bike to see them!