I am not a winter cyclist. Unfortunately, according to some people, that means that I’m not a cyclist at all. (Yes, I’ve seen the comment “If you don’t bike through the winter, you’re not a ‘real cyclist,’” in blogs.) Needless to say, I don’t agree with this point of view.
For one, I don’t like the insinuation that I’m not out biking in the cold because I’m weak or lazy. I have Raynauds syndrome, where if my hands or feet are very cold or just wet and chilly, they turn white and then go numb. It occurs because my circulation to those areas drops, cutting off the blood and oxygen to them. It’s actually quite scary, to the point where the first time it happened, I thought I had frostbite. To prevent this, I usually wear two pairs of socks with boots, one thin pair and one thick, when walking somewhere in the winter. If it’s really cold, I use neoprene toe covers, which I highly recommend. I say all this to explain why if it’s even near freezing, there’s no way I can bike. Even with the thickest socks and warmest shoes, the wind from winter riding causes my blood vessels to seize up and my feet to get dangerously cold. It’s not fair to assume that everyone has the physical capacity to bike during the winter and just chooses not to.
Secondly and perhaps more important to the general population, it’s never fair to judge who is and isn’t a “proper” bicyclist. (Or proper geek, or fill-in-the-blank identity here.) I hold the identity of bicyclist because I enjoy bicycling. To me, there shouldn’t be any other requirement. It’s great if you cycle for transportation or put in a 1000 miles a year, but I’m never going to say there’s a minimum number of destinations or miles you have to do before you can claim that label. There are lots of reasons why people might not choose to bike outside in the winter and it’s not up to any one person to say that they are right or wrong. Maybe it’s because they just don’t like being cold, maybe it’s because it’s too dark in the morning, maybe it’s because they’re afraid of ice on the roads. I do believe that we should help people who want to bike in the winter to do so by providing information and resources, just as we help people to bike more any time of the year. But using how “hardcore” you or anyone else is as a weapon against others doesn’t help the person you’re talking to and doesn’t help cycling as a whole.
To me, anything that encourages people to bicycle is good and anything that drives people away is bad. The only thing an exclusionary attitude does is shame people, which is just insulting. For me, it’s awesome if you can bike in the winter. But if you can’t, that’s okay too – I’ll see you in the spring!
Do you bike in the winter or not? If not, have you ever gotten any backlash from other cyclists?