All Seasons Commuter Diary
Bike / BMX
As you see cyclists grinding up a steep incline, retrieving an item from a bag or bumping music while riding with their crew, have you ever wondered what’s going through their minds? Here’s a glimpse into one cyclist’s thoughts and how they shift during the four seasons we experience here in Salt Lake. My name is Kenna, and I’m a Ph.D. student at The University of Utah and a bike enthusiast. For folks looking to navigate our streets better, I provide some tips and tricks at the end of each section.
Most people don’t start out as a winter commuter—they work themselves up to it. I have to convince myself that the cold I feel is in the moment and will only stay until body heat kicks in during the ride. The cold should not be a deterrent when I walk downstairs and feel the draft coming from underneath the door.
I shed layers at lights and I eventually decide to remove my gloves and rely on my bar mitts for the rest of the ride. I hear someone on the sidewalk waiting to cross at the corner of the new luxury apartments near the Salt Lake Public Library yell, “Hey! Are those hand warmer things any good?” I creek my head over to the left and respond, “Yeah, they are great.” Each winter, inquisitive folks ask me for an impromptu review of the mitts during my commute. I zip-tie them to my handlebars to prevent anyone from nicking them off my bike.
Now that the light is green, I continue thinking about what treats to buy at Sprouts as a reward.
Tips & Tricks
Keep a solid pair of bike lights handy since it gets dark early. I have a rechargeable front light and a battery-powered backlight mounted to my bike. You’ll see a lot of hardcore commuters with dynamo lights—these battery-free bike lights work using the energy you generate by pedaling.
I’m missing the pleasures of winter biking that I took for granted in the winter. There are more cyclists on the road now, and I wish I had the bike lanes all to myself again. I hear the buzzing of an eBike motor approaching and I ride closer to the edge of the street to allow the cyclist to zip by. At least four cyclists of all shapes, bike set-ups and sizes pass me. Cycling year-round hasn’t made me speedy enough to set the pace. I blame my performance on age, an inconsistent exercise routine off the bike and hauling too much stuff in my pannier.
I do get excited about more time on my bike. There won’t be a snowstorm that will have me searching for the bus schedule. It won’t be too cold or dark to have to resort to contorting my bike into someone’s car to hitch a ride home. I’m also not a misanthrope when it comes to friends. With nicer weather, I can convince some of my friends to join me on a leisurely ride, and if they don’t have a bike, no worries—I have a GREENbike membership and a spare helmet.
Tips & Tricks
With cooler temps, spring is the perfect time to be adventurous and try out new bike trails. I always carry something to haul any unexpected purchases or nifty finds along the way. Right now, I use ORTLIEB panniers made specifically for commuters. They have a flat base perfect for carrying precarious items.
Sweat and sunscreen combine into a salty grit on the exposed part of my skin during my rides. The stench of “outside” lingers when I’m inside. I carry a cool mist spray to spritz myself with before I enter an establishment, but perspiration leaves dark, damp patches on my shirt and a glow on my skin that gives away that I haven’t been near an AC in quite a bit of time.
My commutes have lessened, so I haul a far lighter load than other seasons. I become lazy and overconfident and don’t carry a patch kit or tools to fix any mechanical problems that might occur during a ride. Fixing flats is a pain, and I’ve decided I’d rather take public transport or walk home than deal with them while the sun is beating down my back.
I seek out coffee shops along calm streets to work or meet up with a friend. Whenever I organize a group bike ride, I choose Watchtower Coffee and Comics as the gathering spot. It has a great patio, and the iced americano perks me up before the ride.
Tips & Tricks
Having cold water on rides is great but even better is easily accessible water. I’ve gifted friends water bottles when they’ve forgotten theirs at home or have one that’s too large to fit in the bike’s water bottle holder. You can buy a cage at the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective for $1. I use an insulated Polar Bottle which runs around $12.
My commute up to The University of Utah reconvenes in fall. I started skiing last season, and now the signs indicating the difficulty of a route up to campus are helpful. I’ve taken the black diamond a few times, but my heart rate is going through the roof, and feeling like I’m going to die overshadows the thrill of completing the climb. When a friend who worked at Cranky’s Bike Shop’s old location across from Presidents’ Circle told me that mechanics would test out bikes by riding up and down the 200 South hill, I thought that was impressive but not up my alley. The bins and delivery vans lining the narrow bike lane and the cars trudging up the hill every few minutes give me yet another reason to take the green route through Bueno Ave.
Fall sure is a lovely season, though. The leaves! The colors! The cool breeze! The laid-back vibes of summer hold strong for a while and try to steady your uneasiness at winter approaching.
Liberty Park is the ideal location for observing and participating in some sort of recreation. I do a lap around the park, sharing the pathway with rollerbladers, joggers, families on a stroll and my fellow cyclists before heading out on my way.
Tips & Tricks
Often, local bike shops, like Saturday Cycles, will not charge for labor if you buy parts from them. You may want to leave it to professionals when installing tricky items. For example, you’ll be happy to have fenders that fit properly when rain, and shortly snow, appear in the forecast.
Check out more articles about cycling:
Back or Bike? Four Bag Types Commuters Should Consider For Hauling Your Stuff Around SLC
A Hundred Miles Along the Wasatch Front: Riding The Golden Spoke Trail Network