Friday, December 17, 2010


Winter has arrived in full force in Washington (though I suppose technically it’s still “fall”) and again I’m reminded of how much fun cold weather riding can be. The sharp air on my face and in my lungs is invigorating; it’s impossible to overheat from the effort of cycling – and there is something strangely satisfying about being one of very few people who are out and actually experiencing the weather.

Remarkably (he remarked), cold isn’t much of a problem on a bike – that is, once you’re a mile or so into the ride. (I think that first five or six minutes – which can be, well, a bit bracing – is what puts most people off winter riding.). Two or three woolen layers under a medium weight windbreaking jacket, winter bike tights, good gloves and a balaclava (for the worst days) are good for temperatures all the way into single digits.

Of course right now it’s dry, and the snowfall has been modest. It’s harder to remain quite so enthusiastic during those slippery, slushy February days when salty road crud splashes up from cars, soaks your legs and collects as puddles in your shoes. In fact the best part of those days is peeling off the cold, wet bike clothes and changing right into something warm and dry.

Which, come to think of it, is itself an advantage that cycle commuters enjoy over those poor sad souls who have to slog, in their all-day clothes, through the same crud to their offices from the Metro or parking garage. Ah, good – something to look forward to even then!


  1. Hi! Thanks for your blog. I'm a novice bicycle commuter living in Seattle currently, considering a move to DC. Can you tell me how bicycle friendly DC is? I'm interestd in both commuting and riding for pleasure. Thanks!

  2. I'd say that DC is a pretty bike-friendly city, as U.S. cities go, though nowhere near the level of a Seattle or Portland. DC is an older, denser city - unlike, say, Dallas or Los Angeles - and so many of the distances are quite suitable for bikes; also the roads were laid out before autos became the predominant mode of transportation and so they are scaled well to cycling. Things become more complicated, the further out into the suburbs you go (and it doesn't take far before cycling is problematic) but close-in, if you're willing to suffer the occasional episode of driver hostility, it's not bad. And, it's getting better. New bike lanes are being constructed, and there's a higher level of driver consciousness about bikes.

    Don't misunderstand - it's not heaven. But bike commuting, particularly for closer-in residents, is quite viable.

    The situation is even better for pleasure riding. Rock Creek Park, in the middle of the city, is great for weekend rides. And while the suburbs can be problematic for the cyclist who must get from a particular point A to another particular point B, if you are indifferent to origin or destination, there is some great local weekend riding. *Especially* if you have a car and don't mind taking your bike out to a more remote starting off point.