Tomorrow is my 49th birthday and, as is common with people nearly 50, I decided that I will spend the next 12 months getting in excellent shape. . . before I’m “old.”
Tom just wrote a three-part blog on winter biking for “avid bike commuters braving frigid temperatures” which gave me the fabulous idea to make this year the year I master winter biking. . . in Minnesota. How hard can it be?
Until now I’ve been an “I bike when I feel like it” kind of person which, to me, is when it’s nice outside. I’m not in any way a competitive biker, or a commuter biker, or an “I bike really fast for exercise” kind of biker. I bike because I think it’s a fun and because it’s a good choice for the environment. I can’t, however, replace all of my car trips with bike trips simply because our family of seven needs a boat-load of groceries and I sometimes need to be two places at once . . . and get there really fast.
But, since I recently quit the “real job” downtown and am focusing on consulting and Rakish Ride, I’ve got some time now in the middle of the day to give winter biking a whirl. I woke up this morning and made the commitment to do that this week.
And then I checked the weather.
I had the choice between 50 degrees and rainy today, or low 20’s the rest of the week with snow and a few blowing wind emojis. So, today is the day! I decided to bike around the three city lakes up to Spyhouse Coffee shop in Uptown.
After getting the kids out the door to school I began figuring out what I was going to wear on my first completely unnecessary bad-weather bike ride. Since I’m a bit of a “reduce/reuse” kind of person when it comes to clothing, this will not be a blog post on recommending various articles of clothing and linking to where you might purchase them online. Sorry, but maybe you can find something similar in your own closet if you are a size 8 female, living in the upper Midwest, who doesn’t put that much time and effort into crafting your wardrobe.
I decided to wear my four year-old Giro slightly stretchy kaki pants, normal long sleeve v-neck cotton shirt, Timberland hiking boots, twenty-two year-old (seriously) Trek fingerless biking gloves, and my stepdaughter’s coat because it appeared to be waterproof and has a lightish fleece lining (and I don’t like to be cold). Since there was a threat of rain, I decided to wear my rain pants and my helmet; both of which I could not find for the life of me after I already had everything else on. I ravaged all of my drawers and various closets for my rain pants. I went down to the basement and searched every shelf and closet for my helmet which is usually in the kitchen but, we recently organized and I asked Tom to put the helmets somewhere else for the winter. At that point, I decided to give up on the rain pants idea and continue to check the garage for the helmet because it must be out there, right? Wrong. Or, right, and I just couldn’t find it. I gave up on the helmet and went back into the house to grab my favorite dog-walking baseball cap and my sunglasses which would have to do.
By this point I was sweating buckets because apparently I DID NOT NEED THIS FLEECE LINING. I took off the first idea for a coat and put on my simple REI Co-Op brand rain shell, which is fabulous because it goes down much lower in the back and would cover my rear-end from wet road spray.
Good thing, because it started drizzling almost immediately and I had to pull over and pull my hood up over my baseball cap because my ears were cold and the back of my neck was getting wet. I had to stop again to cinch up the hood because it kept blowing off while I was riding.
And then I finally felt great.
Halfway around Lake Harriet, I remembered that I lent my 17 year-old daughter my rain pants last month and they were probably in her room. Fresh air clears the mind, I guess. I would almost go so far as to say the weather was perfect. It was not too hot and not too cold, and the little mist of rain even felt kind of good on my face. The air was clean and crisp and I noticed that there was a small bit of ice forming out in the middle of Lake of the Isles. Workmen were putting the finishing touches on the warming house for the ice rink and it made me think of all the nice times I’ve had out and about in Minneapolis throughout all of the seasons over the past two decades.
I saw a total to two bikers the entire time I was out there. A woman who obviously had her shit together enough to find her rain gear, and a man dressed like he should be biking in Miami. Both were “I bike for exercise” bikers.
The ride around the three lakes was super pleasant, even if I did kind of look like the Unibomber compared to the people who do this all the time. I eventually made it to Spyhouse (6 miles), ordered a nice fluffy croissant and a giant mocha in a “for here” mug, took a seat, checked my email, my social media, and my finances, and then wrote this blog post.
As I write this, I feel great, clear-headed and energized. I just decided to add a few pictures, proofread and post this later from home. So, if you’re reading this . . . I made it home alive.
Beth St. John — Winter Biking Novice and partner to Tom Moran, founder of Rakish Ride.