It’s the joy she got from bike commuting through the summer and fall that led Jill Boyat to keep riding into the fall and winter. Boyat used to spend 35 minutes driving to work, now she gets there in 60 minutes, if she rides the whole way. “Yes, it takes more time, but I don’t have a gym membership, and I’m getting my endorphin rush,” she said.
Jill started riding her bike in the winter the way you start anything new, one day at a time. “Then, I just kept going,” she said. Riding the Cedar Lake Trail, she has found the Minneapolis Parks & Recreation Board does a great job keeping the trails safe and free of ice. She also has found other riders were willing to help each other out and share information.
The sense of community is one of Jill’s favorite things about riding year-round. She enjoys the casual conversations between bikers that can happen at stoplights and said she feels like the people who ride in the winter are simply there because they love riding their bikes.
Jill has figured out how to keep herself warm and safe using what she already owns. She’s repurposed clothes she had for cross-country skiing and found a clever way to winterproof her helmet, covering it with a bright pink shower cap that covers the air vents keeping warm air in and precipitation out. She wears a high-visibility vest that a neighbor left in her mailbox one day with a note that said, “Wear me.” While she’s considering buying studded tires, she’s gotten through the last two winters riding her 1992 Specialized Crossroads without them.
To keep her commute manageable in the winter, Jill combines biking with public transportation. From her home in the lakes district of Minneapolis, she can easily ride into downtown using trails. Then, it’s just an easy ride on the Blue Line Light-Rail Train to 46th Street stop and from there she can take the Minnehaha Creek Trail almost the whole way to her workplace in Saint Paul. All but five blocks of Jill’s commute is on trail.
She admits that there is some planning and organization involved in biking. She arrives at work a few minutes early so she can change clothes and put on cosmetics. But the way she looks at it, she’d be spending time in the morning doing these things anyway so it’s not a big deal to do part of her morning routine in the locker room at work. Jill has opted for a short, helmet-friendly haircut that’s ready to go after she runs her fingers through it.
For women in particular, Boyat said, winter cycling can be empowering. “It helps you get over a lot of insecurities and fears you may have, because you take on a task that a lot of people think is challenging, and you find that it is actually relatively surmountable, and you start to realize other challenges in life are like this too.”
To others interested in riding in the winter, her advice is simple, “I would just ride one day at time. Just try it because of the joy it gives you, the fitness and cost savings.”