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.
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