Bike Winter was conceived in Chicago circa 1999, as a grass-roots means to build a network for winter bicyclists. The initiative was built on ideas and events that might help Windy City cyclists develop an esprit de corps. It has since spread to Milwaukee and now to Madison, explains Aaron Crandall, one of the driving forces behind the nascent colony here.
Bike Winter's aims are modest enough. They include encouraging winter biking via sharing tips on staying safe and warm; organizing events like snow-day group rides for all ages and abilities (as well as more epic undertakings like the Frozen Snot Century ride); and creating camaraderie with social gatherings for winter cyclists, be they beginners or veterans. Chicago membership is said to number in the hundreds, with some volunteering as marketing, bike-industry, suburban and sister-city liaisons.
Crandall fills the latter role for the Madison group, now in its formative stages and tied into the regional matrix online by way of the Chicago-based organization its Chainlink group. As temperatures fall, the Madison contingent has started meeting for brainstorming sessions at the Mason Lounge on South Park. Their next gathering will be held Wednesday, November 17.
Madison has a robust population of year-round cyclists. You may marvel at their audacity, fortitude and skill or, depending on your perspective, find yourself incredulous at such reckless disregard for self-preservation.
Crandall says their first meeting, a couple weeks ago, lured a dozen or so winter-cycling veterans and prospects -- new faces in addition to many of the usual suspects. A winter ride from the downtown Great Dane to the one in Fitchburg was among the ideas proposed, Crandall adds, along with full-moon rides and a winter biking fashion show.
Demonstrations of best winter-biking practices and making your own studded tires were also floated, continues Crandall, who expresses enthusiasm for importing at least one idea from the Chicago group. "Any time it snows a certain number of inches," he notes, "they meet and go on a bike ride." At the recent meeting, he adds, one participant suggested using City of Madison snow-emergency declarations for a group ride.
Crandall sees the Madison Bike Winter group as a collection of institutional knowledge from which newcomers to winter cycling can draw. "It's something that's fairly easy to do," he says of biking in cold and snow. "I hear from a lot of people who tell me they would love to bike through the winter." but harbor concerns from ice and wind chill to which clothing and gear to use.
To help them overcome their fears of ice and wind chill -- and to spread the word -- Crandall has established a Facebook page