Winter Bicycling with Edina resident, Kirk Johnson
Eight years ago, Kirk Johnson sold his car-a MINI Cooper-and bought parts to make a fixed-gear bicycle. He now bikes to work from Edina to downtown Minneapolis year round. Recently, Kirk shared some thoughts about how to ease into winter bicycling, including planning your layers, using the bus as a back-up, and swapping in a studded tire for snowy or icy days. He also shared a few initial observations after checking out the new bike routes in Edina installed this fall.
As a year-round cyclist, how do you adjust as seasons change?
KJ: I adjust my clothes. "There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes!"
Does your route change depending on the season?
KJ: No, it changes depending on how much of a hurry I'm in.
What do you most enjoy about winter bicycling? And what's the biggest challenge?
KJ: Sound of tires on snow. There is nothing like rolling on fresh snow. Super cold weather makes fresh snow sound squeaky. Mildly cold weather makes it sound pleasantly fluffy. Biggest challenge is staying organized for all the extra layers of protection.
Is winter-biking "lite" possible, for days that are warmer or less icy or snow-covered? Any tips for the "sometimes" winter bicyclist or someone new to winter cycling?
KJ: For sure! I think everyone has limits. Best thing to do is experiment with comfort levels. Anyone not feeling safe or comfortable can always use a bus partway, as one option. Or perhaps bus one way with your bike on the rack and bike the other way. For me, I swap my front tire to one with studs on snowy or icy days. Find a friend that can be your travel buddy. Contact me if you are looking for people that bike in your area because I might know someone in my network that can help you.
- Lower body: Long-johns, jeans.
- Feet: Lake winter biking boots.
- Hands: Lobster gloves or any mitt made for super cold winters.
- Head: Balaclava (2 if below zero) and ski goggles, plus helmet cover.
- Favorite bike: Single speed or fixed gear-less things to freeze and easy to maintain and clean!
- Be sure to be well-lit. As in any season, ride predictably and safely, obeying traffic rules just like any motor vehicle.
Do you think winter recreational rides might be a way to get used to winter biking all the time?
KJ: I think biking on recreational rides is a great way to try out winter biking. My kids and I biked to the hockey rink and practiced slow turns (stay upright!), stopping, and starting. If you can ride safely on a frozen ice rink then chances are you will be more confident encountering the occasional ice patch on the real road.
Have you tried the new bicycle routes on Valley View or Wooddale in Edina?
KJ: Yes, I live near Wooddale and bike on it nearly every day. I also drive a car about twice a week. Also I walk on it about once a week. Observations: Slower (meaning less unlawful speeding), more cautious driving. I've seen fewer kids riding bicycles the wrong way on the sidewalk (which can be very risky, and sidewalk riding is against the City code in Edina anyway).
Just like with roundabouts, residents need time to get accustomed. The idea of providing bicycling facilities on the road is important, especially around schools, parks, and commerce . . . all of which is true for the recent improvements in Edina. On-street bicycle facilities such as those on Wooddale are cost-effective compared to making the road wider.
Good job to Edina's City leadership for thinking about our community health and also future generations. . . We need to build for both. My perception is a better neighborhood feeling instead of just a road to get from point A to B. It's better for property values and a higher quality of life for active living.
All photos courtesy of Kirk Johnson.