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cycling through the seasons

January 16, 2011

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…

Office with a View


Fruit, Milka, & Wine

Reading Spot on Campus

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.

yellow and orange

fall leaves

Flowers on my Legs


Fall Cycling
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

Nerp on a frozen bridge

Silver and Blue

Snowy Campus

All bundled up on my bike

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?

17 Comments leave one →
  1. January 16, 2011 20:28

    I think autumn is my favorite season, for cycling and otherwise. I’m not a big hot weather person, so for me, it’s a big relief from being sweaty all the time, but it’s not really terribly rainy yet, and there are a lot of bright, sunny days left. The air starts to get that nice, crisp chill to it, and the sunlight takes on that kind of warm, amber tone. I pretty much hide inside during the summer whenever I don’t really *need* to be out somewhere, but once autumn hits, I want to be outside all the time.

  2. January 16, 2011 23:39

    In Portugal I would say Spring and Autumn as the Summer is too hot and the Winter too rainy but in the UK I will go with Autumn :) (Although if I was still living in Vienna I would say all seasons! In such bike friendly places every day is a good day to bike). By the way, really like your yellow bag!

  3. January 16, 2011 23:44

    My favourite in Upstate New York for biking is Summer and Autumn, the summer warmth in the morning and night is very pleasant ( lights are a good or go it Bike Ninja on your fixed ) Autumn for the perfect temperatures and foliage

  4. January 17, 2011 03:19

    I’m so sad we’re in the crappiest season for cycling! Now that it’s so below-freezing and windy ALL THE OTHER SEASONS are my favorites! Bring them back!!!

  5. Barbara permalink
    January 17, 2011 04:07

    I don’t drive so I cycle yearround anyway. I do find that I tend
    to less in summer though – mainly because where I live in
    Australia it’s often over 40 degrees (100 fahrenheit) and it’s
    just too draining. Luckily our winters are mild and it’s a
    pleasure then.

  6. January 17, 2011 07:22

    Gorgeous post! I enjoyed reliving the warmer seasons with you. You’re right – summer cycling seems so carefree in retrospect, but if I think about the details, I remind all the sweat and exhaust fumes. But winter is definitely the most complicated time to ride for me, constantly having to stay on top of weather predictions and hauling around my warm accessories.

    My favorite season overall is fall, but my favorite cycling season is spring. Probably because I’m so thankful when winter is finally over! :)

  7. January 17, 2011 10:46

    Congratulations for your year round riding.
    I’ve loved this post a lot!

  8. January 17, 2011 14:09

    Beautiful post, S.! I love seeing all these seasonal photos together, especially the summer ones now that summer seems so far away. I started cycling again in the spring of 2010, with a bike loan from a friend. I think spring was my favorite season for cycling and in general for 2010. It was so exciting to have a bike again, and during the springtime in Texas, wildflowers pop up everywhere, which makes it a really beautiful place to be.

    I’m looking forward to your springtime cycling adventures!

  9. January 17, 2011 18:47

    Spring is the best for biking! There’s nothing better than starting to shed layers, see color again, hear birds again, and feel warm air hit your face after a winter of frozen cheeks. Your pictures make me loooong for summer biking. :D

  10. January 18, 2011 03:58

    Winter cycling is definitely more challenging in Flagstaff due to snow and ice on the roads. The ice melts under the sun on most days but not long after 5 p.m. it refreezes pretty fast. I find it pretty slippery riding and prefer to walk or car pool with my husband. I’m not a purist, although I always prefer to be on my bike.

  11. January 18, 2011 13:27

    No words needed at these beautiful photo’s!

  12. January 19, 2011 07:04

    Strangely enough I’m loving the winters more than anything. I spent years commuting in London, standing on railway station platforms and walking over the Thames freezing my ass off…now I hop on a bike and I’m warm in an instant. It has truly transformed my winter experience. The other seasons offer different and wonderful benefits but it is cycling on a daily basis in winter that makes the season bearable for me.

    What lovely pictures you’ve posted. It’s nice to be able to remember those impromptu picnics by bike. I do them with my children but they seem like a distant memory at the moment. Roll on spring and some light!

  13. January 19, 2011 14:01

    Wow..summer? Your photos are lovely and yet seem so incredibly unreal right now, as I look out at snow and ice. Thanks for the reminder that this is all temporary. Fall and Spring are my favorite seasons to ride because each is a season full of anticipation for the next season, and colorful, picturesque landscapes. I ride year round, but I don’t ride every day in the winter – depends on the snow and ice conditions. Too much snow narrows the available riding space on shared roads, and too much ice become daunting even for my studded tires.

  14. January 21, 2011 09:46

    Is that dark chocolate Milka???? Where did it come from?!

    Oooh, an update for you! I have a new apartment in my new city and the new city has a website where you can input your destination and it tells you the various cycle routes you could take. I have a cycle path right to my work! It’s so exciting.

    • January 21, 2011 18:04

      Yay, how fun! I’m so excited for you and wish you many happy rides! And yes, that Milka came from a friend straight from Germany :) Mmm.

  15. Rtell permalink
    February 3, 2011 01:47

    S, could you direct me to the maker of your yellow tote? I am looking for something similar to carry to and from campus, myself. :)

    • February 6, 2011 17:48

      Rtell, I found this at a garage sale a couple of summers ago. It’s a vintage “Sears” bag. Perhaps you could look on Ebay or Etsy for something similar. Good luck!

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