Wintertime. Quiet. Cold. Dark. Magical.
I love the winter time. I love riding in the silence with the lights reflecting off the snow, the moose sulking around the edges of the trails. It is an amazing time of year.
Though I love winter there are times when, particularly early in the season, I look at the skies and the weather reports and the road reports and just shake my head. “How come I do this to myself?” I ask when I see more snow falling when the previous fall isn’t yet packed for riding, when the wind blows hard and the nights, though long, are woefully short on sleep.
Being a bike commuter in the winter presents some serious challenges and sometimes I just wonder why I keep doing it. Why do I continue to punish myself in this way?
There are mornings when my legs are like wood, my eyes are burning, and I have to get out the door by 4:30am to ensure I make it to the bus on time at 5:10 when I really think to myself that I’d be better off to buy a POS winter beater car and just drive my commute. Then I could sleep in an extra hour and still get to work at the same time. I’d be able to get home earlier in the evening. I’d not have to deal with some of the crap that bike commuting causes me to deal with – cold and frozen eye lashes and dry sinuses and constant creaks and rattles from various points in my body.
Bohemian Waxwings. These little birds huddle together in the bare mountain ash trees, the red berries making the bird’s crests pop. These birds are one reason I commute by bike year round. Going by bike gives me the chance to watch these birds in action, to see them fly and flutter and huddle against the cold. They are beautiful creatures.
Moose. Moose are another reason I bike commute in the winter. There’s something thrilling about having a momma moose breath down your neck as you stand on the trail waiting for her progeny to yield the trail as happened to me a few years back. Scary, but amazing.
Snowshoes and fox and all the other creatures out there just trying to get by. They are all part of the reason that I bike commute even on those days when every fiber of my being says to stay home. I just never know what I might see.
What I like most about riding in the winter is the solitude. All the tourists have gone home and even many Anchorites who flock to the trails in the summer are blissfully absent in the winter, thus allowing those of us who do use the trails year round a bit more room to breathe. And there are plenty of trail users, still, but apart from the occasional runner, skier, or fellow phattie, I can make my morning commute most days and see no one. No. One. It’s brilliant, having this time to ride each day and be able to be a bit less focused on my surroundings. I can zone out and get into my head a bit.
What I love about winter biking is that it gives me the chance to lay fresh tracks and paths even on territory that’s been explored before, it makes the world new again. Many, many times in the course of the season it makes the world new. Each new snowfall refreshes everything and I can be an explorer for even a brief bit of time.
Get out there and check it out!
Read more from Phil B on his blog Multimodal Alaska Adventures.