When we planned Winter Bike Week, Elly and Eleanor, two members of our Events Committee, suggested having a winter biking challenge. But it would be a challenge with a twist, focused not on cranking out as many miles as possible or having to ride every day. This challenge was more about getting out and about, exploring your snowy city by bike on days when otherwise you maybe wouldn't have done so.
Before we announce the winner, show some of our favorite pictures, and tell you how you can get your finisher badge, let's hear from two participants of the challenge, Elly and Kevin:
Most days I’m not conscious of the decision to swing my leg over the frame to get from Point A to Point B. The winter bike challenge - a photo scavenger hunt on bike - made my routines feel less, well, like routines. I didn’t wait for an intersection to look to my left and right, and the possibility of finding something on the list of photo categories was exciting in a simple I’m-a-kid-and-just-found-an-amazing-puddle-to-jump-in sort of way. I slowed down. I stopped more often. And I noticed signs, murals, people, and bridges that I had either completely missed before or didn’t give more than a two-second glance. I started to take different routes in search of artwork and paths found in pictures shared by other Madison bike challenge participants. For me, the true bear of winter isn’t so much the cold temperatures, it’s the danger of how easy it is to get lost in a routine. The winter bike challenge cracked open the predictability of my commute, and lifted intentionality back into my ride. Plus, I get a cool new and elusive finisher badge!
Look, I hate to admit it, but I am … a fair weather biker. I see others out there, taking on the beard-icing temps, curse-worthy wind, and more curse-worthy treacherous surfaces. I have no problem running through the relentless Wisconsin winter, but, until recently, my tenacity whilst in running shoes did not transfer to my pedals. It only took two or three bike trips to realize what my problem was. Logistics. Or, more accurately, perceived logistics. I don’t have the right clothes. I can’t possibly carry all of my stuff. I can’t show up to work looking like a crazy person. I’ve got too many groceries to get. It looks pretty slick out there, I don’t want to get hurt. I don’t think it’s good for my bike. It took the winter bike challenge (and my lovely, yet persistent) wife Elly for me to call BS on myself. I do have the right clothes - it just takes a few moments to layer right. I can carry all my stuff if I take two minutes to figure out what I actually need to take. I teach middle school, so everyone knows I’m already a crazy person. If I only get what’s on my list, I’ve got plenty of room in my panniers and my backpack to fit the week’s groceries. It’s never as bad as it looks outside if you actually get close enough to see the conditions. It’s as good for my bike to be out and about as it is for me. Yes, it took the bike challenge to get my butt in the saddle - but simply being out on the bike in the winter for a week was my gateway activity to bike-commuting my errands and discovering the joy of defying society’s expectations. Oh, it feels so good.
So without further ado, here are some of our favorite pictures:
1. "Friends with Frosty" by Kevin Leigeb
Whatever the weather, it’s always better biking with friends! Kevin was also the overall winner of the challenge, with a whopping 29 submissions! Awesome job, Kevin!
2. "Out of this World" by Healthy Kids Collaborative
Despite the chilly temperatures, Healthy Kids Collaborative made it all the way out to Jupiter on the Southwest Path. Maybe appropriate, given that the average temperature on Jupiter is a frigid -234 degrees Fahrenheit...
3. "Round and round" by Grant Foster
Madison Bikes prez Grant chose a beautiful winter day to head out to the Fitchburg bike path crossing. So many winter paths, so little time.
4. "Queen of the Mountain" by Eleanor Conrad
Making a mountain out of a snow hill.
5. "Forward Wisconsin" by Ben Sandee
Sometimes the snow can disguise the Capitol dome, but Ben found it all the same!
Feel free to link to your personal favorite in the comments, or explore more of the submissions on Instagram.
How to get your finisher badge
If you've participated in the challenge and think you've earned a finisher badge (bike scout honor system!), please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and mailing address. We will mail you the badge once it is ready (please be patient; it'll take a bit to produce them).
And rest assured: The challenge is going to return!