We Biked the Whole Winter

We set out every morning, out of habit, for the fun of it.


We pretended we were in an old European city on our way to work.


We made snow angels.


We rang our bells to replace the birds that were not around to sing.


We smiled and made polite small-talk with strangers who decided it was a good idea to start conversations with us about how crazy we are to ride in the snow.


We got a new president (pinch me, am I dreaming?)


We wondered what it would be like to slip on frozen stones, crack our helmets open, and fall into Lake Michigan with no one around to notice.


We thanked our studded tires profusely.


We rode to Sears in a foot of snow to buy new boots to ride in the snow in.


We rode crazy Dutch bikes.


We began to pay more attention to trees, as they came to look more and more human during our long, isolated commutes.


We said, come on out, the weather’s fine.


We cursed Mayor Daley for his short-lived, hair-brained scheme not to plow side streets.


We got a bit closer to the edge than advisable, but survived.


We periodically went inside to defrost.


We wondered how waves can possibly freeze and wished we’d paid more attention in oceanography in college instead of reading Gogol tucked inside our notebooks


We went on dates.


We continued on, even when our path was blocked.


We made our own paths.


We sometimes swallowed our pride and walked the darn bike.


We looked but didn’t touch.


We wore balaclavas and looked like those cartoon stick-up guys.


We thanked the Chicago Parks Department for plowing our bike path.


We saw a hundred frozen sunrises.


We watched the ice disappear.


We said, Holy crap, I think it’s spring!


If we did it, anyone can.

Tagged , ,

51 thoughts on “We Biked the Whole Winter

  1. scott says:

    Good post! Was this your first winter on the dutch bike?

  2. dottie says:

    Thanks! Yup – it was my first winter on any bike at all!

  3. Nico says:

    That is amazing! Congratulations :)
    You showed that it’s not as difficult or dangerous as many people think.

  4. anna says:

    Great review and hurrah for you! Yesterday I bought a summer dress because there was some sun for the first time (still only 5°C, but who cares) – I’m ready for spring ;-).

  5. Anne says:

    “If we did it, anyone can.” The frozen waves really put that statement in perspective.

    Way to go!

  6. Sigrid says:

    That was beautiful. Way to go!!!!!!

  7. Trisha says:

    Great great pictures and gorgeous words. Love it! Congrats on making it through.

  8. Lynn says:

    We’ve enjoyed your ride, too! Thanks for sharing it with us!

  9. antbikemike says:

    Great post, thanks for sharing.

  10. grambev says:

    Two Thumbs up! Way-Ta-Go!

  11. Jason Runyan says:

    Great post Dottie, I felt like I was right there with you for the entire winter.

  12. Great photo’s. Great experience. You conquered the urge to take it easy and hibernate for the winter. That’s when the fun begins and you find out that the best way to beat winter is to bike in it. Your blog has demonstrated that well.

    That said, I don’t want to pour cold snow on your flowery parade, but winter might not be over yet. I know Chicago is a bit warmer than Frostbite Falls, MN, but we have a snow storm coming in today, with temps dropping to zero, afterwards. I’m sure some of that cold air will make it to down to Chicagoland.

    I know that hope Springs eternal, but I also know that Spring comes when she wishes. So don’t put those boots, mittens and jackets away yet. ;)

  13. Charlotte says:

    Great post!

    I love the photo for “we went on dates”.

  14. Jon says:

    The first winter of daily riding is like the early days of a relationship. I went through that, last year. This year has been a piece of cake. Of course, we’ve had a very warm and dry winter here in Denver.

    I’ve sorta missed the cold and snow, but then again, I have also been ready for Spring since about October!

  15. I’m so glad you guys made it through the snowy winter. What one person can do another can do as well! I love how most of the photos show the isolation of the winter commuter. That’s one thing I love about winter riding. You get the bike paths to yourself. Keep it up!

  16. Jennie says:

    Great Post Dottie! I too like the Bike Dates picture! Cute!
    Congrats on biking all winter!

  17. Stephan says:

    This is lovely. Thanks.

  18. jj says:

    I love it. Hats off to you! You are of heartier stock than many :) I don’t know that I’d have it in me to bike in all that snow, but you make it look fun. Well done!

  19. scott says:

    This post is a testament to the badass oma bike. I also have one and commuted all winter on it. I was never able to get even close to all-year riding on any other bike. This winter was a cold one, but getting outside on the oma every day made it the easiest in memory.

  20. dadabean says:

    That Oma is a good-looking bike. You must be proud of it. Biking through the winter is not all that hard here in Northern Florida, but over a decade ago I spent a full winter in Denver, CO riding to and from work, 5 miles each way, on a late 60’s Raleigh DL-1. I think the relaxed roadster geometry and large wheels really help on the ice, because I only fell once, and there was plenty of icy days that winter. I found that using a taller gear than normal helps keep traction on ice. Glad to see you made it through and enjoyed your winter. I hope there are many more!

  21. Carolyn says:

    Way to go! You are both such an inspiration, even to me. :)

    Brrrrr, it was much toooo cold here to bike, even though the roads were clear. A brisky -32 F this morning! I wonder if Sarah (Girls and Bicycles) used her bike today?

    Yesterday I ‘attempted’ to ride up to the store to mail a letter, not far. It was close to -32 f including a nasty wind. I really stumbled with the bike and frozen cable lock…so I walked to work today, as it only takes me 20 mins. I was all bundled up though. But I’ve done over 35+kms on new bike since I got it two weeks ago, and it is not spring here yet in Northern Canada.

    Ok, enough with Winter, where the #$@$#@ is Spring? LOL!!

  22. E A says:

    Loved the photo log of winter! How true. Congrats on your first Bike Winter… almost. Spring officially begins March 20. ;-)

  23. meligrosa says:

    what a lovely post!! your photos are great and they all made me smile!
    I envy the exposure of the 4 seasons, though I love my NorthernCalifornia weather and wouldn’t trade it for anything.
    I loooooove that picture of the bike date!
    ♥keep riding my pretties, it is an adorable blog you got rolling

  24. […] My Story, and I’m Sticking To It By dottie I said farewell to spring in We Biked the Whole Winter. I considered waiting until March 20, the official first day of spring, but the sustained […]

  25. julie says:

    Hi dot this is you cousin dropping in just to say great job with this loved the pics and captions.

  26. Scott says:

    Great blog! This was my first winter bike commuting (in Utah) and I had some of the same experiences. A year ago I couldn’t have imagined riding a bike in cold weather. Now, I can’t imagine a good reason not to. Thanks for sharing your great pics and run experiences.

  27. Patrick says:

    Great photojournal entry! I am still working on getting my wife to ride in the winter but I did get to pick her up on our tandem tonight! She was surprised but a trooper. Have a great day! And keep up the fun work.

  28. Reminds of Belgium in winter, only a bit colder perhaps . Congrats!!!
    wergraph a bike commuter from Antwerp, Belgium
    Visit http://antwerp-bike-experiment.blogspot.com/

  29. Bike Bloke says:

    I didn’t know you could get studded tires for bikes. Good to know for the upcoming winter….

  30. Stefan says:

    Absolutely brilliant and utterly amazing, that’s what this is! You girls rock!

  31. […] over time. Dutch bikes are notably tough, made to withstand every kind of weather anomaly there is (even Chicago winters). In Miami, I don’t have snow to worry about, but I do have rain to worry about; lots of […]

  32. Patty Huber says:

    I think you may inspire me to try out bike commuting this winter. I have to know the logistics of this, what did you wear? how far do you ride to work? how do you gear up your bikes?

    I think what is going to sell me on winter bike commuting is that it gets you through the dreariness of the season. I’m hoping being outdoors will help me overcome the winter blues this year.

    • dottie says:

      Hi Patty. Great questions. We’re going to do some how-to posts on winter riding soon. I’ll make sure to address all these questions.

      I agree – Winter commuting made the winter 100% more fun and bearable.

    • clm says:

      Nice photos!

      Patty, check out http://www.bikewinter.org for lots of tips about layering and keeping your bike in shape during the winter… and join the mailing list to stay updated on rides, events, and ask questions to the group! Keep on rollin… :-)

  33. Sox says:

    That is a great post. It just goes to show, history can be interesting! ;D

  34. […] was all about learning the ropes and testing my limits. (See my photo synopsis of winter 2008-09 here.) Now I know what to expect. Me and Trisha, February […]

  35. […] was all about learning the ropes and testing my limits. (See my photo synopsis of winter 2008-09 here.) Now I know what to expect. Me and Trisha, February […]

  36. Sue says:

    Wow — this was inspirational! I am in Toronto which has the same weather challenges as Chicago, so your blog is really helpful. I just started commuting to work by bike – its about an hour and I can’t do it every day yet (still building my stamina) but I have thought about going through the winter… my question is where can I get studded tires and do they make a difference in the snow? I tried cycling in winter a few years back and couldn’t make it through the unplowed “cookie dough” that the snow had turned into…

  37. Justin says:

    This whole site makes me jealous. We recently moved from Chicago to Charlotte. I do try to ride as much as possible, but everything feels so far away. Living in Chicago, each and everything feels within reach. Helps that riding in Chicago is more visually appealing.

    I believe we will return to Chicago in the near future. There are goals that require accomplishment and plans to be completed before it will happen. I believe I will be back in Chicago on those winter commutes once again!

  38. Milo says:


    A late reply..did you read Gogol’s Overcoat at college? I often thought of Gogol’s clerk, old Akakievitch, when walking (and cycling) thru’ Denver’s snows. Years ago I chanced on a magnificent tweed overcoat in a thrift store, but I never tried to cycle in it; too long and too grand. One of my friends assured me I looked like a drug dealer sauntering around in grey tweed coat almost to my feet when the rest of me looked so dishevelled (men aren’t supposed to dress like that, even in winter white-outs). “Overcoats are maternal” I insisted, teeth chattering. They are also biblical: Joseph with his overcoat, the gift of his old father, arousing his brothers to jealousy, who reported him dead but sold him into slavery. Ah winter, thy tooth is so unkind. I digress.


  39. […] studded tire in denver co letsgorideabike.com […]

  40. Steve says:

    Wow. Here I am in Sydney Australia, winter’s upon us and I complained it was too cold to cycle. It is 47F here in the mornings and by afternoon, it’s 63F, You girls put me to shame. Time for me to get out on my bike!!

    • Dottie says:

      Steve, it’s so fun to hear from someone on the other side of the world who is going into winter now as I’m going into summer. Definitely get out there and enjoy the ride! :)

      • Steve says:

        It’s a great site, Dottie. I’ve just gotten into cycling and even though your site is aimed at women, it contains so much good general advice and I love your stories and adventures!
        Take care

  41. […] Looking Back at My First Winter Cycling […]

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