I #lovemnwinter! Today, I love working up to showing up for it.
I know this is going to be an odd way to begin a love letter to winter biking, but bear with me:
Sometimes winter biking can be awful.
The brutal Winter of 2013-2014 was my 4th winter living and biking in Minneapolis, my first with a commute into St. Paul, and my first where I had trouble with my winter riding. During the worst of it, I was off the bike at least a day or two a week. I felt defeated. I even used some online app to made a cartoon for it:
Yes, I made a cartoon version of myself simultaneously hacking and crying my way up Marshall Hill. I love that (two years later) I can both laugh at it and respect that ways in which winter biking was just *not working* for me so many days that year.
One thing I love about winter biking is working up to showing up for it.
Which is to say, I love the sometimes-long arc of winter biking that takes us from an impossible moment to a moment of impossible beauty.
I really want to send some love out to every one of you who has ever been off the bike at any time in Winter because it just wasn't working for you. If you've ever read "no bad weather, only bad gear!" and felt like there must be a dark cloud or especially bitter headwind that just had your name on it, I feel you. You’re not failing! That’s just where you are on the arc.
Step back and imagine: next week, month, or year could work out better for you. It could be good weather luck, it could be trial and error, it could be finally stumbling on the gear that solves your “unsolvable” problem. Figuring out the right gear for your body, your level of winter depression (true facts), and your ride length can be a frustrating journey. Setting boundaries in the meantime is a way of respecting yourself. You’re still a winter biker! You’re working up to showing up -- at all, more, longer, more-relaxedly, faster -- however you define your next goal.
And there’s magic in showing up. You may go day after sloppy grey day getting from A to B, but eventually you’ll run into a shocking moment of gratitude and awe at the world:
That night when the cold clear sky and leafless trees deliver the perfect skyline.
That ride home when you find yourself in a snowglobe.
That sunny morning on the trail after a snow when everything is so crisp and gorgeous you can't help wondering-- what if I hadn't been here for this?
Winter biking love is a lot like any other kind of love. To be present for surprise beauty, you have to make a practice of showing up -- and showing up vulnerable. You truly have to leave your bubble behind and go out knowing you could get hurt (even if that hurt is just windchill you didn't dress for). Because when those amazing moments hit, you'll be *in* them -- not behind a window trying to catch a glimpse.
So, wherever you are on your winter biking arc -- don't worry, Winter will keep coming around. Whenever and however you are ready to embrace it, it's cool with that. And, every once in a while, it will make a big deal of reminding you how glad you are that you do.
Michelle C. Funk
Michelle is a year-round bike commuter and coder in Minneapolis.
Read about this collaborative challenge to love one thing about winter everyday in February, and post about it on this blog. Tweet your own loves: #lovemnwinter @greaseragmpls, or check out last year's #lovemnwinter posts.