Winter by bike

On the long way home from work

In some ways this is my first winter in Denmark. We had a pretty good snow when I first got here, but since then the winters were more rainy than snowy. We’ve made up for that this winter — there’s been plenty of snow, and it’s been crisp and cold for long stretches at a time.

But maybe it just seems more like a real winter to me because I’m spending so much more time outside. I spent the first two winters commuting by train, as the Microsoft offices are about 22 kilometers north of Copenhagen, so I wasn’t exposed to the elements much. And although I rode my bike last winter, the office was about five minutes from the apartment. now I bike 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) each way.

Before the snow fell, in late December (no, that's not my bike, and no, I didn't put it there)

Much to my surprise I’m really enjoying it. Of course I miss the long, warm days of summer, but I much prefer riding in snow than rain. But it’s great to get some mandatory fresh air and a workout both at the beginning of the day and at the end — especially in the winter, which I normally am completely inactive.

The foot/bike bridge on the way to work

Of course it is cold, and can be miserable, especially when the wind kicks in (as it often does). But the Danes have a saying that translates roughly to, “There is no such thing as bad weather — there’s just not being dressed properly.” (Yes, it is an annoying saying, but there is some truth in it.) It’s also dark, especially after work, but the Danes probably also have a saying like, “There’s no such thing as dark — there’s just not having a flashlight.”

The most ice I've seen in one place since moving here

But as important as dressing properly is, it’s also true that there’s an amazing amount of difference between being outside, and being outside while working out. Every morning I’m surprised by how cold it seems at first, and how warm it seems by the time I get to work.

Almost home after twenty kilometers of snowy bike paths -- where the nature preserve ends and the city begins I thought that when it really got cold that I’d just wimp out and take the train to work, but that hasn’t turned out to be the case. There’s no direct train route, and neither the apartment nor the office is very close to a train station, so taking the train takes about 50 minutes, whereas I can bike in 18 minutes. And biking is free, whereas the train is far from free (and prices are about to be raised again, for the third time since I moved here, but that’s a subject for a future entry.)

The best part is that finally, after twenty years of swearing to myself each fall that I was going to stay in shape through the winter, I’m actually managing it. I’m not riding nearly as much as I did this summer, but I’m far more active this winter than I’ve ever been before.

4 Thoughts on “Winter by bike

  1. Michelle on January 22, 2010 at 11:23 pm said:

    Congrats on biking through the winter. Now I know you have truly acclimated. You will be so glad, come spring, when you have maintained a decent level of fitness and don’t have to start from zero again.

  2. Biking to work in Winter sounds great, but isn’t traction an issue? Kudos to you for staying in shape.

  3. Thanks you two :-)

    Traction — not too bad really. Of course you have to watch out for slick spots, but they salt the roads and cycle paths here. It destroys both cars and bikes faster, but it’s certainly effective.

    (Danes complain about the salt — Neither Sweden nor Norway, both considerably colder and less flat than Denmark, salt their roads, but neither of those countries have as many bikers either.)

    Also, although it’s counter-intuitive, thin tires are better on ice than fat tires (this is true for both cars and bikes). A thin tire exerts more force in a smaller area, resulting in a more stable contact patch. So I leave my mountain bike at home and take my city bike in icy or snowy weather.

  4. wow how disheartening to read how to stay in shape I feel winter blahs through every ounce of cellulite
    keep it up
    I really like the pictures – The ice floating in the open water is sort of scary – What is dressing for the winter like? Gloves, insulated underwear? boots?

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