Cycling Through The Seasons

An intrepid commuter sees her breath and finds chilly contentment on two wheels.

Photo by Eric Levin.

An intrepid commuter sees her breath and finds chilly contentment on two wheels.

When temperatures drop and certain hours of daylight are tucked away until spring; when wind stings the skin and the energy of impending snow permeates the air; these are the moments when commuting to work becomes a mental challenge. No, not because I dread the dash from warm house to cold car, and not because I can’t stand a frigid wait at the corner bus stop. Rather, it is the thought of facing a piercing chill with but a few thin layers of spandex that is less than inviting.

It is not until the first few minutes of pedaling have passed, when the heat generated by a body in motion gives life to fingers and toes, that I come face-to-face with the mental game of cycling in subfreezing temperatures. At such a point, I always arrive at the same conclusion: I would not have it any other way.

One might suppose the winter months would call for some transportation  other than a Specialized road bike for my six-mile commute. On the contrary, the onset of winter signifies only one thing: warmer clothing. Come nightfall, helmet-mounted lights, winter riding boots, gloves, and a second skin of spandex and neoprene come to serve a purpose all their own. Transformed by my clothing, it is as if I am inside a muted cocoon. Walking from the office to my chained bike, I feel like an astronaut or a scuba diver. On the road, my earflaps muffle the outside world, leaving me with the Darth Vader rasp of my own breath as it synchs with the cadence of pedaling legs.

Morning and night, my two-wheeled commute continues through most weather, save for torrential rain, treacherous ice, and sometimes snow. More than the elements, though, I must be conscious of aggressive and oblivious drivers. A few choice words come to mind when recalling the actions of certain drivers—especially the woman who laid on her horn one evening when I stopped in front of her for a red light.

After she nearly hit me from behind, I decided to strike up a conversation and tapped on the driver-side glass. The woman took a moment’s break from her cell phone and lowered the window, fake nails flashing in my direction. Her face conveyed sarcastic denial as I explained the risk of her actions and the laws as they apply to bikers and motorists alike. The confrontation seemed to fluster the woman; she raised the window and returned to her cell phone. I returned to my cocoon.

As winter sets in, the glow of electric decorations becomes a beacon for my night ride home. The sensation while gliding through darkness, lights streaking into the periphery of my vision, the recognition of coldness in the sight of my breath, it all brings me back to a point of contentment in being able to ride my bike to work, and not wanting it any other way.

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