Winter bikers are a special breed. The diehards continue to bike, even on the most frigid days. I see them in the Loop as night is falling, mounting their rented Divvy bikes, or pedaling along on bikes that they own. Their teeth are clenched, faces drawn, their eyes have a wild, unseeing look to them, particularly when they first get going. Those first few yards register a special shock, as the arctic air whistles against their tender eyeballs, cold muscles, skin.
But then they move, unlike the rest of us, who stand in agony, waiting for the bus, or board it only to find that it’s no better than an unheated box. The bikers who persevere in the toughest winters assert their resolve, their autonomy. They’re the bold ones willing to take on Mother Nature directly.
Nonetheless, the hazards they face can be damaging. My dentist was one of many hurt back in November, while cycling to work along the bike path at Oak Street Beach. It was before the snow had fallen, but surf from the Lake had left black ice on the path, and dozens of bikers went down on the curve that morning. A broken leg, two months in a cast, a year or two to a full recovery.
On the upside, the winter bikers have little company. They range freely within an extensive gerrymandered demesne: miles of bike lanes, so crowded in mild weather, are now practically unoccupied. The hardiest cyclists are a tiny elite, who in winter roam their region like kings.