Now that the snow is starting to melt, many are rushing to get back on their bicycles. Some of us (including me – yay!) have just finished our first ever winter season cycling, which means that with the thaw comes a bit of celebration for accomplishing this feat! A Thompson resident, Bruce Krentz took this to another level, making a commitment to commute by bike 365 days. Below are his thoughts coming out of this year long adventure…and a challenge for more of us to jump in!

Barrel Shopping – By: Bruce Krentz

Brothers and Sisters I am sure you are wondering why I called you all here today. You are wondering what sort of demon I need to exorcise, wondering why in particular you were called to assist with the procedure. Wondering why now… why here…what did I do to deserve this? Let me make it all as clear as a chocolate shake.

I thought it was crazy too. I knew I wasn’t the first. I knew I wasn’t the only; but that still didn’t make it a good idea. Even if ten other people had gone over the falls and lived, was it really wise for me to go barrel shopping… I think not. But, never once having been accused of being smart, I headed out with my credit card in hand and visions of being number eleven.

My barrel was a two wheeler, with only one speed, disc brakes, a mountain bike frame and pedals to get me there. My “peddly”, like me, is perched happily in the middle of the quality bell curve. It is so far from the top of the line you couldn’t even see it from there but also a step up on Walmart’s deal of the week.

In this case, Niagara fall’s was four whole seasons of riding. Partly on a dare, partly wanting to walk the talk as a Health Promo guy and partly because I just didn’t know any better, I committed to a year of cycling to work. I need not remind you this little daily jaunt happens to be in the same pin hole on the map as the Ford Extreme Cold Weather Test Facility and the Global Aerospace Center for Icing and Environmental Research (GLACIER).

I started in September…how pleasant, cool fall mornings the leaves turning color. With some light gloves and a jacket that could break the wind (not a jacket that could break wind…now that would be something) life was grand. To make an extremely long story pretty short I am safely over the precipice out of the fast water and bobbing along in the run out of the falls, and life is still grand. Now it is August and almost time to bust that jacket back out with no reservations about another date with father winter.

Back to my little sermon and the reason we are gathered here today. I won’t even begin to pretend that cycling 365 days a year is for everyone, but it could certainly be for more people. Committing to riding absolutely every day is for only a “special” few, and I almost made it. Four times I used a vehicle to get to work and none because of the weather. Sometimes, as they should, family commitments came before my personal madness.

Consider being the next one over the edge. From my experience, of the five work days each week finding three to comfortably saddle up would be easier than deciding what to have for lunch. As you map your decent, don’t feel like you have to throw away your car keys and shred your bus pass. Make no apologies for taking the worst days or months off but push beyond the sunniest summer day. The whole winter is not -40 and in fact much of it isn’t even -20.

Like doing anything on this spinning little ball of rock, if you want excuses they are never far away, hair, clothes, sweating, cold…they are all out there. None are insurmountable challenges but they don’t come quite as easy as hitting the command start. I will concede that my serious lack of hair is generally not something I parade out on the front page but it did give me a bit of a leg up in this venture.

Someone once said you can’t be mad while riding a bicycle. The stress relief, fresh air, exercise and the happy feeling of helping the environment, all make it worth-while. I know that sounds like some sort of hippy mantra but I didn’t start out looking for that stuff, it found me, so please pass me my tie-dyed t-shirt. For me, that bundle of joy outweighs the hassle of dressing for the seasons and looking like a geek in the eyes of the SUV’ers.

My other pleasant discoveries included:

  •  Studded tires, yes you heard me right studded bicycle tires. They make riding on the packed snow and ice feel like a day-off.
  • It is a commute not a race, you don’t run everywhere you go in a day, and you don’t have to pedal as hard as you can. This is big help with all the sweating concerns.
  • You don’t need as many warm or expensive specialized clothes as you think, a jacket and pants that break wind (I had to use that one once more) have served me just fine. Once you are moving even -40 is pleasant. O.K. maybe that is a little over the top but it makes for some good bragging to the in-law’s down south.
  • Snowboard helmet and goggles.

I saw it with my own eyes Brothers and Sisters, the falls look pretty big from the top but once you are down at the bottom they aren’t so bad. Give it a try, buy a good helmet, find the right tie dyed duds and keep riding after the leaves are off of the trees.