Winter biking: Cyclists brave elements, enjoy ride

January 11, 2010 6:51:17 AM PST
A half-foot of snow can be daunting for drivers, a headache for walkers and make a calamity of the commute. But for some cyclists it makes a great ride. Sure, anyone can do it when the sun is shining and the thermometer reads 80-degrees. But, it takes a special breed to break out the bike during a winter snowstorm.

"Winter in Chicago doesn't conqueror cyclists, cyclists in Chicago conqueror winter!" said one man while grabbing his bike.

Whenever more than two inches of snow fall in the city, these cycling enthusiasts gather at the appropriately named Handlebar tavern. They swap stories from recent rides, some down a bit of liquid courage and then they don their winter wear and hit the streets.

"It's 50-percent guts and zest and just sheer will and the other 50 percent is gear, knowledge and knowing what you're doing out here," said Kevin Monahan, winter biker.

They pass drivers scraping their windshield, try to avoid plows like the plague, and- for the most part- try to stick to the side streets for their three-plus mile winter rides.

"It would be easy to live in a warm climate and bike all winter long," said one rider.

"One of the great things about biking in the winter is it gets you out of the house and you can avoid cabin fever," said Dave Glowacz, winter biker.

Some of the winter riders are the same folks you'll find filling downtown streets during monthly bike rallies called Critical Mass. Their numbers fall with the temperature- but so does the disdain from those who prefer four wheels to two.

"We don't get heckled as much in the winter. We get more respect. I think they appreciate us for our guts!" said Monahan.

The driving force behind snow cycling is a simple belief: If kids can play in the snow, so should adults.

Winter Bike Resources:

  • Winter Bicycling Tips
  • What to wear
  • Be visible on your bike
  • Events on The Chainlink, social networking site for Chicago cyclists:

  • Bike Winter Art Show
  • Snow Biking Meet-Ups