Why Ride in all Seasons: Getting Ready for Winter Riding

Today’s weather definitely inspired this blog.  I realized today that this is my first season to prepare for winter riding without living on a total shoestring.  This season I’m in a unique position.  I have a tiny bit of savings (I don’t have to get the cheapest gear on the market), and I know exactly what I need.

But today, it was barely above 45 degrees, and I road my bike back and forth in the rain.  I always have people ask why.  In fact today a dozen kids asked why as I showed up just before the bell for school.  I really like to let children know, especially at the school where I work, that not everyone drives or even has a car.  So I often tell children that my bike is my car–I love the surprised looks.  Once, one of our teachers asked what I did when it rained.  I believe her exact words were, “What do you do in the rain?”  My response was, after a bit of thought, and not trying to be snooty at all, “I feel alive.”  That was the best answer I could provide.  I feel alive when it rains on me on my ride because sometime I get wetter or colder than I was expecting.  Today I left my helmet on my handlebars for some reason, so when I put it back on it dripped onto my hood, and down my head.  It was cold and gross.  You know, like life.  I don’t believe in comfortable life since I’ve seen it wreck too many people.  Getting cold and wet can be a moment that you have…in that moment of discomfort you can figure something out about yourself.  That moment can fix you.

The first year I rode through the winter I did it because our car wasn’t working and I didn’t have the money to fix it. My daughter was still at home.  My friend Karleen, from Vancouver, sent fleece lined tights and wool socks.  In her way she let me know that I needed to get ready.  Every year since I’ve thought of Karleen and her gift as I’ve prepared to ride through the winter.  This will be my sixth winter riding, so I wanted to share what I learned.  Here’s a tip, it isn’t complicated.

You’re going to want to keep your hands, feet and head warm.  The best gloves I ever had came from the lost and found box at my school after the last day of school in the spring.  They were a faux fur pair of northface gloves.  They are literally on their last legs, but I still love them, that bright pink pair of gloves that were free to me.

Nothing beats a great pair of socks.  I remember I used to feel sorry for my brother because he always got socks in the winter from my grandma.  But these days my favorite Christmas present is wool socks.


Wool is an amazing material.  I’m not going to be vegan in this situation.  Nothing will keep you warm and comfortable like wool when it’s cold outside.


You don’t have to pay big bucks to clothe yourself.  I’ve clothed myself just as well from salvation army and goodwill as I have from any other store.  I hardly ever shop new anymore.  It’s sooo nineties to buy brand new things.

I want to mention that I have a friend who I think will ride through the winter this year.  It’s a bit of a stretch for her, but she starts somewhere up near university, parks her car at the train station, takes the train to Charlotte and rides her bike to school.  She’s one of my heros right now.  Especially since the latest climate report came out and let us know we all need to be doing what we can.  For her it’s car, train, bike, for someone else it might be taking the bus once a week.  For someone else it may be walking to the grocery store down the hill.  The point is, Charlotte has a temperate climate with warm winters.  We are in a perfect position to make a difference.

Today I rode in the rain with brand new, (to me fancy) waterproof bags.  But I’ve ridden in the cold rain for six years this year.  Sometimes in water resistant bags (using a Trader Joe’s reusable plastic bag as a liner), sometimes in mainly water proof with bad closures (any spare clothes might get a little bit damp, but not much).  Today I needed a spare pair of pants that I’d packed without a liner, and when I got cold and went to get them, they were completely dry.  On a rainy day, when you’ve experienced the discomfort of getting wet, a pair of nice, dry pants is maybe one of the best feelings you can have.  I think that’s the lesson of riding in any season.  That feeling of being uncomfortable, and the beautiful resolution of comfort restored.

Like showering after being dirty.  Like eating after being really hungry.  Like sleep when tired.

We don’t know it, because we’re always trying our best to convenience ourselves out of real life, but that’s what’s real, our physical, animal, soulful needs being met in the most basic way.

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