I ride in the winter. Now, to be fair, what Portlanders call "winter" would make Midwesterners laugh derisively, and that's fair; I admire Kansas City residents who install studded tires and ride their bikes in half a foot of snow. That said, Portland winters are known for being cold and wet, with highs averaging in the 40s and an average annual rainfall of 40-45 inches a year. (Before you complain, Seattle gets a little more than that, and Vancouver, BC gets upwards of 50 inches a year.) Most of our rain falls between November and Ma, a nice, steady stream of rainy days that would make a depressive want to leave and anyone else slightly stir-crazy. But not me, and not most Portland bicyclists. We ride all year round because if we didn't we'd spend an awful lout of the year indoors. And the one thing you cannot be if you're an Portland is reclusive. Portlanders are an outdoorsy bunch. So when you visit Portland, you'll see lots of us outside, walking, biking and generally, well, Being Outside -- and loving it -- even when it's raining.
The challenge comes when you sing for part of your living, as I now do.
Riding in cold, damp Portland can wreak havoc on a voice. I have had to make decisions about how often, how far and when to ride, and what to wear, so that I don't totally fry my voice. Cold-weather riding is hard on a singer. So I choose my rides more carefully now than when I was a bicycle mechanic. And my mileage is down from previous years, when I normally racked up 2,700 miles a year just riding around town and doing an occasional mountain bike race. This year, I will be lucky to break 1,900 miles by the end of the day. That's okay. I have other goals now and if I need to opt for the bus more often to pursue those goals then that's what I need to do.
Would I go back to owning a car? Not anytime soon. It's a lot of money and I still live in a town where car ownership isn't absolutely necessary to live, or even to live well. But none of us is getting any younger, and I am willing to concede that there may come a time when living without a car of my own is no longer practical. Relax -- car ownership is a looooong way off for me.. For now, I'll throw some love and lube at my bike and run some last-minute errands before Sweetie and I head out for New Year's Eve festivities tonight. And tomorrow, I'll join some friends to participate in Portland's First Ride -- rolling into another calendar year of bicycling, singing and teaching and finding ways to balance all three.