The Interior of Alaskan Life 1: Chores on a Winter Bike

This is how we do it in Fairbanks, well, not me, but some folks….

I chuckled yesterday when I saw this guy riding his bicycle down the road in Fairbanks, Alaska.  I saw my camera and decided to turn around and get the shot so I could show YOU just how different our worlds can be.

I jumped out of my truck and took the shot without asking consent.  The biker turned and laughed heartily in my direction.

I asked, “Do you have a little plumbing project?”
“Yup, a new vent!”  He shouted back.  I asked if he wanted a ride but he said he was fine.

The air temperature was 13 below zero Fahrenheit at the time of the shot, the day length was 5 hours 42 minutes.

Biking in winter is fairly common in Fairbanks but it’s no joke.  Local temperatures are usually below freezing all winter and can get into the 50 below zero range for weeks at a time.  Yet this does not stop many of this hardy group.

It’s not as hard or bad as it seems.  I can tell you firsthand that, when dressed properly, it’s fairly comfortable getting around by bike in winter. I rode my bike to the University for several years while I was an undergraduate.  One of those winters, it was often 55 below when I left in the morning .  Yeah, 55 below zero.

So what did I wear.  On my feet I wore Sorels. On the legs I had one long underwear, one fleece pant, wind pants. I covered my torso with a t-shirt (mostly cotton-no good reason), fleece jacket, windbreaker. On my head (most important of all) I had neck gator, balaclava, hat over balaclava, and hood over all.

Getting ready to ride at 40 below is easy, it’s arriving at your destination that’s tricky.  First of all, the vapor from your breath freezes to your eye lids, eyelashes, and all around your head. Second, it’s a bit sweaty so bringing extra clothes is a must (though many don’t bother). Even tougher considerations are how you get groceries home from the store when cycling at these temperatures.

The riding is a bit slippery but in recent years many great modifications have come along.  I had standard tires on my bike when I was doing it so I fell down a couple times.  Now there are studded tires and fat bikes.  These really give you added control and that’s great. Now the only concern is running into moose on the trails.  One time I had to wait about 45 minutes for a cow and calf to get off the trail in front me.  I was very late for Spanish class that day but my professor laughed at my excuse. Alaskans have a whole additional bag of reasons for being late.

I hope you liked the small window into life in the Interior of Alaska. If you like what you see here please Like or Follow us on WordPress.  Of course, if you are on Facebook please “Like” us there too.  You can also Tweet with me or Join My Circles on Google+

See more about Alaska travel and the Interior of Alaska Life here.

52 thoughts on “The Interior of Alaskan Life 1: Chores on a Winter Bike

    • You are very welcome, bert. I am going to have “The Interior of Alaskan Life” as a kind of subblog because of the unexpected (to me) interest in all things Alaskan that has arisen here. Thanks for coming by.

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  1. That’s hilarious. The picture reminds me of home – I tip my hat to the crazies who cycle in the winter. This year we’ve opted to cycle around NZ in order to escape the Canadian winter.

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    • Yeah, it’s nice to live in a place where people do what ever they want, how they want, and when they want. NZ by bike sounds nice. I am looking to do a bike tour in Turkey this coming May. Safe travels, always!

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  2. I hit Fairbanks in August , 2010, when the temperatures were hovering around 90F and the smoke from the perpetual coal fires was getting yellow-nasty. Still enjoyed the place and the people I met (notably Art Cross, sketch artist for the Iditarod), but I think it sounds better in winter ….

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    • I’ve only heard of coal fires in the coal seams on the north and west area but never in the interior, however we do have some hellish forest fires in the interior and it seems like they are intensifying as of late.

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  3. Thats it. This post has decided it for me. I’m bringing the family to Fairbanks for XMAS so we can all bike to Anchorage!! Don’t worry, we’ll wear mittens. It’ll be such a great surprise for everyone! Don’t yah think they’ll love it!!! 🙂

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  4. Pingback: The Interior of Alaskan Life 3: 40 degrees below zero « ExploreDreamDiscover Talks

      • Skagaway, July 2009. There was a crazy heat wave that summer, so I was doing all that pseudo-exercising in 100 degree heat. Can’t *imagine* 40 below zero.

        I take that back. I grew up in a place with four distinct seasons, with winter and summer bringing extreme temperatures. I ‘ve experienced temperatures of 30 below zero, so *imagining* 40 below is not too big a stretch. Perhaps I should say: I can’t imagine riding a bike (or even pushing one up hills) in 40 below weather.

        Yikes!

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      • So were you living in Skagway? I am a bug fan of Haines myself. Looking back on my days of biking in the winter I am a bit in awe of the energy it took to do it. It was a great way to catch a lot of northern lights. Happy new year!

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  5. Great pics and laughs!
    I rode my bike last night down the coast for a few miles. I had on sweat pants, shorts underneath, a t-shirt, a long sleeve shirt, another t shirt, a jacket, a buff over my head and around my face and my helmet. There were a couple of times that I thought to myself “this is about my limit temperature wise”.
    It was 56 degrees F.
    I would absolutely die in Alaska!

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  6. What can I say! I admire people in Alaska! There is more than a bravery needed to ride a bike in such weather conditions. I’d probably spend the year inside the house … But, they say human beings have unbelievable set of adjusting to certain extreme life conditions, I guess if i have no other choice I’ll get used to it too!

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  7. Pingback: Canoeing and rafting the Gulkana River, Alaska (Part 1) | ExploreDreamDiscover Talks

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