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On Biking: Bravo, winter cyclists

Posted by Laura Gomez  February 26, 2013 10:54 AM

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Bravo, winter cyclists! There seems to be a bumper crop of you this year, and it's great to see you pedaling through all this rain, sleet, and snow.

Commuters, your grit is inspiring. Those of you churning through the slush to stay fit or for pure enjoyment, hats off to you, too. It looks like fun.


Winter riding isn't everyone's kind of party. It's not mine.

I began to wonder, after the recent blizzard, about other people whose riding habits change when it snows. Six local and very dedicated bike lovers agreed to talk with me about parking their bikes, either full-time or part-time, this winter.

Here are the first three:

David Watson, Executive Director of MassBike, rides a lot less in the winter. Instead of his usual two-wheeled commute to work, he hops the T.

He'd rather ride. He misses it, and because he is off his bike, he feels "out-of-shape and more stressed," he writes in an email. But the mess on the roads, the many layers of warm clothing, and his 45-minute commute in sub-freezing temperatures discourage him, particularly in January and February.

In short, the ride is no fun.

Massbike is all about promoting bicycling, but Watson believes that suffering through foul weather on a bike is unnecessary.

"I tell people it's fine to take time off the bike, or use it for shorter trips, or only for weekend rides when you've got more time to deal with the mess and the gear," Watson writes. "Ride when you are comfortable riding--your bike will be waiting for you."

Edward Skipka, who works at Landry's Bicycles on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, has stopped biking this winter, too.

"It's cold," Skipka says. "You can do it with the right gear--the windproof clothing, the layers--but I don't own that stuff."

Skipka used to live in the Back Bay, but he recently moved to Everett. Which is another reason he is on a bike vacation.

"Everett is not a great place to ride," Skipka says.

It's a more industrial area. "There are big rigs flying around," he notes, "and there's an unsafe bridge near Revere Beach. It has grating, and I can see down to the water. A bike could slip on that pretty easily."

Particularly if it's icy. So Skipka isn't biking right now.

He really misses it. "Not riding, I don't feel awesome," he says. "Not riding, it takes a part of my being out of me."

In the meantime, he is using an indoor trainer and watching movies like "Caddyshack" to make the time pass.

It's way more interesting, he says, to be outside.

"When the weather warms up, I will bike more."

Jothy Rosenberg doesn't bike outdoors in the freezing cold, either. Rosenberg, author and host of the television show "Who Says I Can't," has Reynaud's Syndrome, a circulation disorder of the hands, feet, or both. It results in numbness and pain, and it makes cold weather biking miserable.

"I've seen my fingers turn chalk-white," Rosenberg says.

He could wear gloves with chemical packs, he says, and he does for skiing and snowshoeing. But biking is different because it calls for steering and shifting gears. Manual dexterity matters. "You don't want to wear mittens," Rosenberg says. "So it's really hard to keep your hands warm."

Which means that when the temperature drops, he takes his workout indoors. He spins, where it's warm.

Rosenberg has one more challenge when it comes to winter biking: he has one leg. Cold weather is a problem for all amputees. "We don't have normal circulation or musculature in the stump," Rosenberg explains.

Which makes it a body part that's extra difficult to keep warm. When it gets really cold, Rosenberg sometimes wears a hat on his stump.

But he's not biking outdoors right now. This winter, Rosenberg has parked his bike. He's spinning, and he's swimming. He's philosophical, and maybe a little bit wise, when he talks about the seasonal shift.

"We were meant to have seasons," Rosenberg says. "It's really good for us. The end of the season is a blessing in disguise. I have to take a break from cycling. That's the plus side of the seasons: switching gears. And then I get all excited when it gets warm again."

Because, of course, he can bike again.

Next Week: Three more cyclists on winter riding

Susan Meyers is a Brookline writer. Her new book, "The Hamster Ride &25 Other Short Biking Stories" was published this month by Climbing Ivy Press.

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