I had an errand to run requiring me to go to Target, about 4 miles from my house. In the summer, I wouldn’t think twice about hopping on my bicycle and heading over there. But in the winter, I tend to walk all my errands. I simply find it more comfortable to walk than bike in the winter. In addition, I don’t have a ‘beater bike’ that I feel comfortable subjecting to salty, slushy streets.
Most places I need to go are within a mile of where I live. Two miles each way is at the upper limit of convenient walking distance for me. Target, though, is well outside that range. It would be easy to drive over to Target, but I don’t drive a motor vehicle much either, which is why my errand has gone undone for the past few months. If I have to drive somewhere, I usually wait until I have several tasks to accomplish, so that my one driving trip would take care of multiple errands.
Unfortunately, my errand to Target has remained alone on my to-do-but-too-far-to-walk list. And it was starting to become inconvenient to leave this errand undone.
Over the past few days, the thaw we’ve experienced has melted pretty much all of the slush from the streets. The sloppiness I have walked through recently has largely receded. Thoughts of bicycling entered my psyche over the weekend, but inertia kept me hoofing it through my neighborhood.
Today’s temperatures were in the high-twenties, well short of our recent above-freezing weather. So as I stepped out of my house, I took my first few steps in the direction of the transit station downtown so I could take the bus to Target. I enjoy taking the bus, but that line runs only once an hour, so I knew I would have a lengthy wait before I could catch the next one for my return home.
But before I reached the end of my driveway, I realized that the sun was peeking through the clouds and the wind was negligible. It felt pretty comfortable outside. And I asked myself, could I maybe ride my bike for my errand to Target?
I imagined the streets were pretty clear and that any huge puddles resulting from recent warm temps had drained. My route would take me through the UWSP campus area, over to Prais St, then down to the multi-use path along Main St at Iverson Park, which I was pretty certain was plowed all winter. I figured the entire route should be in pretty good shape after our thaw.
Finally I decided, what the heck – let’s give it a try. I turned around and headed back to my garage, where my trusty Breezer bicycle stood. I fetched my floor pump and filled the tires to their recommended pressure, I put a few bungees to be used for securing my purchases around the rear rack, and I hopped on and started riding my bicycle. In February.
As I usually do when I use a bicycle after letting it sit for a while, I confirmed my brakes and shift mechanisms were in working order. With that, I simply relaxed and enjoyed the ride. I could feel that I had muscles that hadn’t been challenged for a while, but I wasn’t riding fast and I knew they would grow accustomed to their pedaling responsibilities eventually.
As I rode down Prais, I felt like my bicycle had opened new frontiers for me, as it was now convenient to move through places beyond my comfortable walking range. It sounds silly, I know, but that’s how I felt.
I was just running an errand to Target. But I was having fun. Simply because I was riding my bicycle.
I took a bit more caution than I normally would, just to be on the safe side. There was a short icy stretch on a sidewalk that I felt comfortable riding through, though it wouldn’t have been a big deal to walk that 50 feet if necessary.
In crossing the gamut of oversized intersections near the interstate, I walked my bike through those crosswalks, just as I do in the nicest days of summer. I’m wary of traffic in that area, regardless of the conditions, so that stretch was no more unpleasant than usual.
And just like that, I was at Target. I did my shopping to complete my errand, bungeed my load onto my rear rack, and started my ride back.
Riding home was just as much fun.
I just wanted to share this experience with Poky Pedalers. Inertia makes it easy to stick to our routines in the harshness of winter. But on occasion, the calendar is betrayed by a stretch of mild weather. Mild enough to consider the possibility of using a bicycle for that next trip.
Each of us must decide for ourselves whether we’re prepared for that bicycle ride. I can’t make that decision for you. But if you do pump up your tires, hop on and start riding, it is a pretty good bet that you’ll be having fun.
Just don’t forget to check that your brakes and shifting still work.
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