As the mercury drops and snowflakes fall, many cyclists put their steeds to bed for the winter. Not so for a group of riders part of Madison Bike Winter (at this point over 730 strong). Started by Aaron Crandall a few years back, this group has been showing the Midwest how it’s done in the winter months. Many cyclists are familiar with summer bike to work weeks held around the country but aren’t familiar with the winter version. For Madison Bike Winter, this is the week to introduce and encourage cyclists to ride in the winter and celebrate with those that already get out there and play in the snow (even though we haven’t seen much this year yet).
This all started out as a winter bike to work day which was set aside last year since most of us were down on the capitol protesting. Instead of making a repeat of the first year, Aaron took it upon himself to create an entire week of activities. Several members got together for weekly “meet-ups” to plan one or more daily activities for the week of February 12-18th…and enjoy some good beer. As usual, there was a plethora of great ideas and we actually had to narrow it down.
How did I get involved in all of this? Simply put, misery loves company. I have to admit that I’m not that fond of winter. Growing up in Minneapolis, I found ways to “get through” without going crazy. Skiing, speed skating, dog sledding, winter camping and winter biking all made the cold months a tad more bearable. The one winter I lived in Hawaii was actually heaven. There just weren’t enough bike routes to make me stay on the big island (I do have my limits). So knowing that I’d be in a Northern climate for awhile, I decided to make the most of it and join Madison Bike Winter. It hasn’t let me down! Although there are days that riding feels like pulling teeth, I look at it as an adventure. There is a quote from Sigurd Olson that sums it up best…
“You cannot turn your back on any challenge, physical or mental. If you do, you diminish yourself, and the next time it will be easier to say ‘no, I can not do it’. If you take the hazards as they come and survive, you will be stronger and better and the trip will be a milestone in your life, one you will always know as a turning point.”
Although I was unable to attend every activity, I captured a few of the highlights.
Sunday got it all rolling with a “how to” workshop that Jason Boynton from www.boyntoncoaching.com and I put on at Machinery Row Bicycles. We discussed how to dress to stay comfortable in cold temperatures (layers are key) how to be seen by cars and the physiology of staying comfortable in winter. A studded tire demo was also given by the staff at Machinery Row. Here’s a short WKOW news story shot at the shop
Monday was absolutely packed with a “bike to meditate” at Monona Terrace, an after work party at B-Cycle and a MEAThead no-drop ride around lake Monona.
Tuesday was titled Stray Cat Tuesday since Stray Cat Bicycles www.straycatbicycles.com handed out free coffee for commuters. I also taught a free yoga for athletes class at Harbor Athletic Club to help folks stay flexible with the cold weather riding. Because of slight “mix-up” on the planning end (we thought Valentine’s Day was Wednesday), our Valentine’s events were one day late. Just another excuse to spread the love for bikes another day!
Wednesday was “Love Your Bike Day”! Machinery Row treated us to 50% off tune-ups and a “singles” ride (single speeds were encouraged). Those not-so-brave souls got to do some indoor training at Speed Cycles.
Friday we celebrated an end to a wonderful week by gathering at Brocach Irish Pub on the capitol square. I was so happy to see such a huge turnout and even happier to meet some folks I hadn’t met yet.
To cap off the week, Saturday we rode down to the winter farmer’s market for local goodies and followed it up with an urban spin.
Thanks to all of you who participated in these events and an enormous THANKS to those who put the events on and donated raffle prizes (special “thanks” to Machinery Row who not only handed out coffee two days but gave us discounts all week). Let’s hope that we inspired other communities to celebrate winter vs. dread it. For more information on Madison Bike Winter, please visit it’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/madbikewinter.