Take a look at any graph showing cycling popularity throughout the year. You’ll see a huge drop-off during the winter season. That’s no big surprise; riding in the rain or snow is just not as comfortable and fun as riding on a nice summer’s day.
But there are some huge benefits to riding through the whole year, including the cold, wet season. This article will go over these benefits, and hopefully will inspire you to keep on riding your bike no matter what the weather is like. So grab your rain jacket, waterproof panniers, warm gloves, and everything else you need be prepared. Here goes.
1. It strengthens your willpower.
Continuing to ride throughout the rainy season is a fantastic exercise in testing your willpower. When you have alternative methods that will keep you warm and dry, cycling is a hard choice to make.
But the ability to make hard choices and prioritize other things over personal comfort is a powerful and important life skill. It’s something that’s valuable not only in sport, but also in business, in community life and civics, in family life, and beyond.
Next time you’re planning to grab your car keys or hop on the bus, consider taking your bike instead. We know it’s a hard decision to make, but as your dad may have told you, “It builds character.”
2. Get your exercise.
Getting exercise is pretty easy in summertime. The sun is shining, the temperatures are warm, and it’s tempting to go for a bike ride, run, hike, a swim, or some other form of outdoor activity.
But in the winter, we begin to resemble bears; we move into a hibernation mode and spend a lot more time on the couch. It makes sense. The sun isn’t around very much, it’s cold outside, and it’s often wet or icy on the streets and trails. But it would do us some good buck the trend and get out there in the wintertime.
Regular exercise can have a phenomenal impact on your health and happiness. Exercise boosts brain function (take note, students), tones muscles, strengthens the cardiovascular system, releases mood-boosting chemicals, improves the health of the skin, lowers your risk of disease and illness…. The list goes on and on.
Exercising in the winter is also a lot of fun. You’ll usually have the streets and trails to yourself — even the popular ones. What could be better than a nice ride on a cold morning in a beautiful area with nobody around for miles? Not much, that’s what. So get out there and enjoy riding this rainy season.
3. Because it’s still fun!
Riding throughout the winter isn’t only good exercise. It’s a fantastic way to have fun. Like a little kid stomping through mud puddles, cycling in inclement weather can be a huge rush.
Slashing through puddles at high speeds, weaving through traffic which you would otherwise have been stuck in, breathing the fresh air after it’s been cleaned out by heavy precipitation, and feeling the bite of cold winter air on your skin: all these things let you know that you’re alive and energize you in a way that few other activities can.
Although some people may say we’re crazy, we say winter cycling and cycling in the rain is a blast. As long as you stay warm and have the right gear to be safe and dry, there’s no reason to not get out there.
4. Skip the traffic.
Every morning and evening in my neighborhood, the streets are backed up for blocks and blocks as hundreds of cars try to squeeze through a narrow, twisting street that is the only passage between two large, forested hills. It’s the same every single day: people backed up and waiting for half an hour or more to get through the two miles to the edge of town where things clear up a little bit.
Every so often, a bicycle comes along, speeding past all the stock cars and covering those two miles in five minutes or less. The cyclists seem to barely move slower than they normally would, even with the traffic backed up all around.
Riding a bike to avoid traffic is a trick that works all year round, and it’s perhaps even more rewarding in the winter when more people are driving. Although the roads aren’t always in the best condition, don’t let that keep you away. With the proper gear and a good dose of optimism, you can ride through the worst and skip the traffic jam along the way.
That feels really good.
5. Vitamin D
For people living in the mid and upper latitudes, getting enough vitamin D is a huge issue. In some tests, more than two thirds of all people living in these locations are deficient in vitamin D. The reasons for this are primarily dietary: most of us aren’t eating the high quality, vitamin D rich foods that our ancestors once ate.
But another big reason has to do with sun exposure. Our bodies use sun exposure as a catalyst for producing vitamin D. The more time you spend in the sun, the more vitamin D you can produce.
In the wintertime, most of us are spending all of our time indoors. But cycling gets you out there with the light — however dim it may be — on your skin (however little of it may be exposed). This is extremely healthy, especially during the winter months. It can make a big boost to your health through increasing vitamin D production and can also help with seasonal affective disorder and depression.
If that isn’t enough convincing to get you out there in riding, I don’t know what will be. Get out there this winter season and enjoy the riding.