The Cost of Winter Biking

Winter biking in Minneapolis isn’t for the timid. It’s cold, the roads are both slippery and narrower than usual, and cars aren’t exactly friendly. But Minnesotans are nothing if not hardy, and proud of it. I’ve been biking to work this winter, and here’s what it has cost me:

Winter Tires: $65 each, $130 total. I decided to go with the Continental Winter II tires, because they’re nearly as grippy as studs, fit on the wheels I have, and they were in stock and relatively cheap.

Various bike service odds and ends: $59. I got the winter tires after riding in to work on my normal tires—on 4 inches of snow. When I took my bike in during lunch they also adjusted my brakes, fixed my fender, and replaced an inner tube.

Reflective vest: $5. Spotted a crossing-guard vest at Ikea and got one, thinking I might wear it once or twice. I wear it every day right now.

Helmet with cozy ear flaps: $39.95. Since I was in the market for a new helmet anyway, and this one was on sale, I decided to spring for a helmet with removable fleece ear-flaps.

Goggles: $29.95. Windshield for your face! These have been life-saving. I got a pair of orange-tinted ones so they’d cut glare but still be fine to wear at night.

Total: $263.90*

Taking the bus to and from work every day would cost me $3.50/day or $280 assuming for 16 weeks of winter (which is probably under-estimating).

And really, the insufferable superiority is priceless.

*Note: I didn’t include normal cold-weather gear or normal bike gear—this is only a list of the middle of the Venn diagram.

 

 

Liz Niemer lives in Minneapolis, Minn. She tweets (@lemur_niemer) and blogs here and here. Photo: Stig Nygaard

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12 Comments / Post A Comment

Geordie (#5,517)

As a fellow Minnesotan (warm inside my car), I fear winter bikers. It’s not an issue of friendliness, or dislike of slowing down or sharing the road. It’s that I only have about 80% control over my car when the weather is rough, thanks to the snow and ice, and one patch of black ice could mean the end of your life and the ruination of mine. So I guess I do resent winter bikers (very sorry, it’s not you personally, but it is you collectively), because they add one more white-knuckle to an already white-knuckly winter commute.

But if there’s a bike path, go on with your crazy winter biking self!

@Geordie I think perhaps you might want to focus your anger on people who are in charge of infrastructure as well as service provision than individuals who are also trying to get somewhere, too.

As a winter cyclist, you have no idea how careful I’m being. Let’s advocate for better transit together instead? Bikers and cagers can be friends!

Laurabean (#3,040)

@Carmen Aiken@facebook Seconded! Send a letter expressing your concerns about the lack of adequate bike infrastructure to your mayor/city council/city manager. It’s a fixable problem.

ellabella (#1,480)

@Laurabean Thirded! Also, please remember as a driver to be aware of any limitations you may have on your ability to control your car and respond to sudden changes. If it’s snowy, dark, wet, etc. leave more room between you and other cars/cyclists; drive slowly behind the cyclist for a block if you need to before moving ahead to avoid pushing the cyclist too far into the shoulder, etc. The roads are scary for BOTH drivers and cyclists in winter, but both have an equal right to be there, so both should take the necessary precautions to ensure that transportation stays safe.

AitchBee (#3,001)

@ellabella This was much better/more productive than the comment I was going to post: “Maybe be a better driver?”

MissMushkila (#1,044)

@AitchBee Well, and that is easily said in MN during the winter, but not always easily executed. This week has been really bad with black ice from the extreme cold. I do drive more slowly and leave lots of room, but I get a lot of hell from drivers with cars better able to cope with the weather (bc they have 4-wheel drive or are larger) as a result.

I also share some of Geordie’s annoyance, because I have found myself behind a lot of cyclists while it’s snowing or at dusk who are unlit and otherwise very difficult to discern in advance.

Everyone needs to be more careful out there.

AitchBee (#3,001)

@MissMushkila Hmm…I guess for me, there’s a distinction between “All road-users need to be an especially careful during winter conditions” (cyclists should be using lit/reflective gear in low light and make sure they’re equipped for the weather, and drivers should slow down/leave more room for both bikes and other cars) and “I resent cyclists for being on the road because I have less control over my vehicle.”

loren smith (#2,300)

@AitchBee Ha. Co-signed.

@AitchBee mmmhm. Additionally lots of things about the sunk costs of roads and how much more cars make them worse to drive on thereby contributing to all of our destructions something something NYT awful article about how when cyclists are killed there is often no consequence for it something something car-centric culture is not the best thing in the world but in the short-term, you know, how about everyone tries their best.

@AitchBee Yes! It’s the responsibility of the people driving vehicles that are big enough to kill other people to only use them if they can control them. If road conditions are such that you don’t have enough control over your car to avoid killing people, please behave ethically and take public transportation or stay home.

GO YOU! I haven’t replaced my fender (stolen last winter) so I’ve been avoiding this week due to the incredibly stupid weather. Also if anyone has any tips on finding a solid 24 tire, let me know. I don’t think they do Gatorskins or Armadillos that small :\.

I love this. I live in Brooklyn and bike year round. I think that with bike maintenance and needing some different kinds of clothing for my ride I don’t save too much money over my train commute, but I DO save money (and time) because I don’t really need to fit other forms of exercise in (unless I want to. But regular yoga classes are expensive and I don’t have a schedule that lets me have too many evening commitments). ANYWAY. I had my first black ice wipeout ever this morning (there’s a stretch of really badly maintained bike path on my route, which was a huge mess today..I should have avoided it). Will look into winterizing my tires, seems like a good idea.

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