Here’s what I like most about cycling in New York City during the winter: It’s simpler. The city feels like a small town, almost rural. Fewer cyclists, combined with fewer tourists on the streets, make the place almost quiet. From a bicycle, you get the views all to yourself.

It only took me a few rides in the frigid air to realize that it was way more pleasant than I had imagined (and believe me, I imagined all sorts of nasty things). There can be patches of ice, certainly. The sub-forty-degree rain is definitely not my friend. But riding warms me up fast. And the benefits of braving the weather are fabulous.

One of my favorites? Double-wide parking spaces at empty bike racks. I like having the luxury of locking up as if my bike were an SUV in a strip-mall.

Another winter riding prize is the gear. On early mid-summer mornings I have to prepare two outfits: one for the ride and one to replace it after a sometimes wilting 4- to 7-mile journey over the Manhattan Bridge. It’s a challenge of economy––how little can I get by with? And how light can I keep my change of outfit? By contrast, in winter it’s nice boots, long wool socks, helmet-lining fleece beanie and full-fingered gloves. Prêt-à-se-promener, as they say. (And no disrespect to summer riding, by the way!)

When I set out on my bike in the morning, the clear winter air is never as cold as I expect and is enormously refreshing. The light is gentle. As I peel away from cold weather lethargy, brought on by a clucking radiator and a continuously aggravated sky, I remember that my legs do actually like to move and that the resistance workout of cold air on cold legs will quickly melt into a smooth ride.

Clearly, others on the road feel similarly pleased; maybe, like me, they are a little surprised by their own fortitude. True camaraderie is forged among cyclists in a nearly deserted winter bike lane. Little nods are exchanged between the under-forty-degree-club members: “Thanks for being hard-core.” I’m a sucker for clubs, even without T-shirts.

Photo: Ellis Scharfenaker

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7 Responses to savoring the joys of winter cycling in nyc

  1. A New Bike says:

    I think one of the greatest parts about winter cycling is that only people that really love it are out. When we’re riding around looking for cyclists to talk to in the Winter, it’s slower and colder and sometimes miserable. But, at least we know that each cyclists we see is a real cyclist, who loves pedaling and does it all year.
    Maybe winter cyclists can make a spoke card to show off in August?

    af

  2. [...] of the city that never sleeps. Get to know the streets of New York during the winter time! Read the whole article here! [...]

  3. kate says:

    spoke card is a clever idea (AF your website is wonderful!)

  4. Kim Burgas says:

    Andrew: great idea! I love it. I think we all feel that beautiful solidarity with other winter bikers. The spoke card is a great idea to not only tie winter cyclists together but also to nudge fair-weather friends: “hey, you can do it too!”

  5. Shmuli says:

    The below 20 gives more nods and is more talkative! Bring on the spoke card, would love one

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