Seven months ago every bike shop in the Upper Midwest was as busy as a Chicago “slip and fall” attorney the day after an ice storm. Back in the spring the bike trails were full of new cyclists with shiny bikes, gaudy jerseys, and fresh saddle sores. By the middle of summer some of those bikes were abandoned and some the of new cyclists became former cyclists. However, a lot of those newbies persevered, lost weight, gained muscle and were in great shape—until Labor Day. Unfortunately, at the first sign of cool weather most of these folks hung their bikes up till next spring and will gain back all the weight they lost before Christmas. However, on New Year’s Eve they will resolve to “hang in there longer next year.” Folks, it doesn’t have to be this way! There is absolutely no reason you can’t ride your bike outside all year long! As the old saying goes, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.
I live between Chicago and Milwaukee and during an average winter the temperature rarely drops below -10 degrees Fahrenheit (the record is -27F). When people ask how I can possibly enjoy riding in such temperatures I tell them two things: First, the crazy (or dedicated) folks up in Minnesota ride in temperatures below -50 degrees (or worse), so -10 or -20 degrees in Chicago is actually not all that bad. Second, as I tell people all the time, the hardest part of riding in the winter is the first 500 feet after you leave your house.
Riding in the fall and winter does require an extra layer of clothing (or two), and because the days are shorter you will probably need a headlight and taillight as well. However, the advantages of cycling year-round far outweigh the disadvantages. First, you won’t gain back the weight you lost during the summer. Second, spending time outdoors will definitely improve your mood. Third, next spring you won’t have to reintroduce your butt to your bike saddle—they will already be old friends and get along well. Fourth, you will impress all your wimpy friends who spend winter in their basement on their training wheels, I mean, on their trainers. And last, you will never have to worry about overcrowding on the off-road trails.