Earlier, Elaina shared with us why she chose to bike to work and everywhere else she goes. Keep reading to find out how she overcomes the challenges that ride her way on daily commutes as well as some of the benefits.
Challenges, Gear and Being a Ninja
For the cold, I wear a balaclava over my head under my helmet (covers those cowardly areas like neck and ears and can be pulled down as a scarf or up over your mouth and nose during blizzards), microfleece lined stockings and boots, which wipe easily. I wear only dresses, which are more comfortable when biking every day and transition well to the office. If dresses aren’t your bag, be sure to always have a pant cuff, or your chain will delightfully gobble at that right leg. Also for pants, you will need good socks to keep you warm – a wool blend is easy to find and they will last forever if air dried after a wash. A good backpack is important, with lots of pockets. Good gloves and liners are important and worth spending a little more on – same for the balaclava, which may make you unrecognizable and very ninja-esque but will also make you impervious to every type of cold weather imaginable. Another invaluable piece of gear is a seriously obnoxious light that has the ability to be seen from more than one angle and has a flashing mode. This will make you visible to cars who are not expecting to encounter a bike and will make things a bit more relaxing if you are returning home from an evening downtown (where parking is always free and ridiculously convenient for bikes). These lights are waterproof and can be charged with a USB cable.
I do not spend more than a few hundred dollars on my bikes and I do not spend much each year to maintain them. As a bike commuter, the ubiquitous wear and tear pales in comparison to that spent on maintaining a motor vehicle and amounts to a new seat for my single speed cruiser and new tires after ten years of heavy use. I have invested in thorn resistant liners with slime beneath my tires that allow me to purposefully roll through a patch of thorns without a single worry. Prior to discovering the liners I would get several flat tires per year, which is very costly in both time and money to repair.
Flexibility and Happiness
I have enormous flexibility as a bike commuter. I can run several errands on my lunch break. I can even shop for groceries and often carry loads of up to 50 pounds back to the office. I have a cruiser with large wire baskets, a trailer for larger loads, and several trunks which have expandable panniers.
I am much happier than I have ever been. There is also the fabulous side effect of not having to maintain a gym membership. Biking year round gives me an advantage in maintaining a healthy weight and as a result, I avoid spending unnecessary money on healthcare. I have more energy than ever and enjoy the proximity of our office to the greenbelt for tiny breaks which are spent exercising in more fresh air. I also interact more with members of the community more easily; I enjoy smiling and saying hello to everyone on the bike path, whereas in the past I was a bit shy. I know many people by name and I have the ability to stop and chat with individuals of all ages if I want to, even for just a few moments of conversation. The sense of community that this allows for me is satisfying and a wonderful example to give to my children.
The best part about embracing a bike commuting lifestyle are the memories I am making with my children of what is possible. We get to talk to one another as I escort them to school, without worrying about traffic hazards. We share the experience of the local wildlife and the changing of the seasons without the barrier of a windshield or the roar of a motor. We get snow and rain on our faces. I get to see them master a very practical skill that will bring them joy for life. We notice the elusive herons, bald eagles, and have great reverence for the geese and ducks that, like us, are out living their lives, rain or shine.
There’s nothing like witnessing the beauty of our planet from a bicycle. It is a pastime that will constantly give back at least as much effort as you put in. And, yes, it is possible to ride on ice!