Here’s a secret that bike people won’t tell you: Cycling in Chicago can be a pain in the ass. For every balmy ride down the 606, there’s one stuck behind a garbage truck. Or a cabby who wants you dead. Or a guy who drives his SUV into you, then insists on giving you a ride home but isn’t so hot on parting with $50 for your repairs. There are flat tires, broken chains, grated bridges, surprise rainstorms, helmet hair, puke in the bike lane, falling off your bike into puke in the bike lane …
By November, I’m tired. My butt hurts. My jeans are destroyed. So as the die-hards rig up their snow tires, I put my bicycle away.
Yes, I get that cycling in the winter is good for the environment, my heart, and my serotonin. But it also sucks. I cycle for joy, and I can’t think of a more joyless stunt than racing face-first into a subzero headwind.
It’s not just the cold. You know that radioactive combo of mud, snow, dog pee, and gasoline that clings to the bottom of cars all winter? When it flings off your bike tires and onto your clothes, you arrive at work or dinner looking like you’ve just come from motocross. Sorry, you didn’t see that pothole covered in fresh powder? Now you’re making snow angels in the middle of Damen.
Part of the fun of riding a bike is going fast, leaning into turns, throwing your weight around the frame like it’s a surfboard. But you can’t shred asphalt in an inch of snow. And when you can’t go fast, you also can’t get warm.
I get plenty of exposure to the elements on my walk to the grocery store or the bar or, better yet, the train. Sometimes in the summer, I even miss the train. So when winter hits, I ride it. I watch the people. I play with my phone. I read the news. I take a nap. And when it’s time to get the bike back out in April, I’m that much happier for it.
Sound like a load of poppycock? Read our guide to biking winter like a champ.