The Winter struggle is real.

I started riding my bike to work in 2004. For reasons that don’t really matter here, I found myself carless in Northern Virginia and needing to get to work. Metro was a drag, so I started riding from Reston to Falls Church each day. It took some getting used to. All the noob stuff one deals with. Schedule adjustments, gear, weather, logistics. But in a short time I got it dialed and it became routine. After a few months, my situation changed and a car was available, but surprise, surprise, I had no interest in going back. Most of you reading this can already understand why.I had no desire to get back in a car. Those of you privvy to NOVA/DC traffic can probably relate all too well.

For the past 11 years I’ve been riding to work – averaging close to 80-90% of the time, even in full blown winter. On days I can’t ride the whole way due to either schedule or weather, I put the bike in the truck and drive part way, then hop out and ride the rest. Some is better than none at all. It’s a bit of a junkie mentality once you’re hooked. It changes you.

I haven’t ridden in since October 27, (I believe my longest dry spell in those 11 years) and it looks like I probably won’t the rest of the school year – but that’s ok – I’ve come to terms with that. The gods of timekeeping, economics and things outside of my control have united forces to shackle me in the car.

In some ways, commuting on the bike is a somewhat selfish venture for me. For a long time I have been afforded the luxury of other folks/family members making adjustments to allow for my riding to work and the challenges that come with it. In light of our current situation I’m trying to use my predicament as an exercise in being less selfish in general, and focusing on the needs of others. An effort to make a positive from a perceived negative. Adapt, adjust, pull your share. To get full on zen, it simply ‘is what is’.

Not gonna lie, it’s hard having always been ‘that guy who rides his bike in all manner of winter’ to now be sidelined, and ironically not even due to winter itself. Where I live, winters are long and challenging. Riding the bike (and all kinds of other outdoor winter activities) has always a way to embrace and power through them.

I’ve been feeling the lack of exercise and fresh air. I’ve been trying to adapt, trying to include runs or rides at lunch from work as part of the daily routine, but more often than not – especially this time of year – lunches have become filled up with car-dependent errands and appointments. Recently though, I have started meditating and one thing is for sure – whether you think it’s voodoo or not – it’s working for me and is helping with focus and acceptance of the current status quo, while providing energy towards changing it.

It’s finally come down to the fringes of the day. I’m left with the option to get up in the morning in the pitch black before everyone else or head out in the evening darkness after folks have settled down or gone to bed to get a run in. That, or the bike on the trainer in the basement. I keep telling myself to set the alarm early and do it, but damn if there isn’t anything darker than 4am. When it’s winter cold, at least if there’s sun or daylight, there’s a psychological boost. Running in the cold and the dark, alone is leveling up for sure. The bike on the trainer in the basement? Well that is what it is. That’s when you’re left no choice at all. That’s gas station coffee because there’s no other option. Maybe even leftover reheated gas station coffee.

The days are going to get longer from here on out though, and the sun will glisten on the snow. And each day is a new chance to fit the fresh air into the schedule somewhere – o-dark-thirty, lunchtime or whenever. These days I don’t much feel like I’m flying the flag of the ‘bike commuter’, but 11 years has taught me that there will be dry spots and lulls but that you can get back on the bike at some point if you retain that focus. Looking back now, I think for me riding to work hasn’t been as much about transportation, sustainability or responsibility. It’s always been at it’s core about getting outside. Riding to work is just a great way to facilitate that.

I need to get back to the Outside.

About Kent Fackenthall

Dad. Biker. Designer. Minister of Propaganda for the Bike Commuter Cabal. Find me on Google+ and Instagram.


  1. dave bell says:

    good post. i go through the dry spells of not bike commuting on a regular basis and they are usually of my own making. i ride to get outside and always feel better when i make the effort.