cycling through the seasons
The other day, I was walking home from campus with my eyes glued to the road, the entire time tracing out a possible riding path for my bike. And then it struck me how unlikely this kind of thought experiment would have been a winter ago. Although I haven’t felt like a bike commuter this past week as I’ve left Nerp in the garage and carpooled or walked to campus and home, I fully plan on being back on the bike this coming week as soon as the roads are a little better. (Which they already seem to be, hooray!) And what’s a week off when I wasn’t sure that I would still be cycling in January at all. When I first took to bike commuting last summer, I had more than a couple of people laugh at my saying that I planned to continue doing it year round – including in the winter. We live in a pretty snowy and cold state and so I don’t blame people for chuckling. I wasn’t quite sure that I’d do it either, but I wanted to at least give it a try.
Thinking back to those conversations and to how my cycling began made me remember how unique each season was and how much I enjoyed discovering it all by bike. I’m sure I will keep enjoying the changing seasons in the years to come, but there is probably something about this first summer, first fall, and now, first winter cycling that will always remain dear to my heart.
So here is a look back at some of the highlights from these three seasons on a bike…
Summer cycling was full of picnics on campus, rides to the lake, ice coffees in my cup holder, and sunny hours spent outside. I took to permanently carrying a picnic blanket in my bike basket, ready to throw on the ground for impromptu reading breaks under a tree, outdoor concerts with friends, and study sessions in the park.
Summer cycling seems easy and carefree now that I’m looking back on it. Although I do remember that when I first started cycling, going around town made me exhausted by the end of the day. Then, as I started building endurance, distances seemed shorter and the town began to shrink. By the end of the summer, it seemed like no big deal to hop on the bike and ride to the lake about six miles away.
Fall cycling came and brought with it wonderful weather. No longer hot and humid, and not yet cold and snowy, this was the perfect season for hopping on my bike and arriving to my destination just as I left – not sweaty or frozen. My daily rides were mostly to campus and home as the semester started and I learned to bike to work in my professional wardrobe, carting my laptop and lesson plans.
Winter cycling has been the most unpredictable and challenging, yet has brought with it a host of rewards as well. Just the fact that I’m doing it (albeit on a less regular schedule than summer and fall cycling) feels like a small victory. I’ve learned how to dress adequately, how to ride over snow and some ice, how to clean the salt off my boots afterwards, and how to enjoy the chillier season out there. The cold has really not been a problem, because there is always another layer you could put on or a second pair of wool socks. The roads and ice have been the main reason I’ve been forced to take riding breaks here and there. Sharing an icey road with cars that are swerving around and fishtailing is a bit more adventure that I’m willing to take on (especially while pregnant). But even with the few days off here and there, I’ve still been able to hop on my mountain bike (fatter tires = better traction) to ride to campus or around town. And I’m really looking forward to discovering the next season to come: Spring by Bike! Yes, please!
Have you been riding year-round? Which is your favorite season for cycling and why?