(Bicycle) chain law in effect
February 11, 2004
Only weenies give up their bikes just because it’s snowing outside and the temperature’s dropping into single digits.
That’s the opinion of a few dedicated local riders, anyway. And these guys are easy to spot around town – they’re the ones with ski racks on their bikes, who pedal to Aspen Highlands for a day on the slopes. Or the ones who throw on a poncho and hop on their bike rather than catch a bus to work during a heavy snowfall. Or the ones – maybe just the one who rides to the Maroon Bells in midwinter.
Aspen is an athletic town, so it’s no surprise that its host of local bike racers keep up with their sport during the ski season. But Charlie Tarver, owner of the Hub of Aspen bike shop – and, until an injury sidelined him earlier this year, one of those year-round riders – sees another type of rider pedaling right through the biking “off-season.”
“There are two different groups: some are bike racers in training, and there are some who just can’t get enough riding,” Tarver said.
It’s not unusual to see Tarver pedaling through a snowfall – sometimes wearing shorts and shoes without socks – or a strong wind in the middle of January. A veteran of the Iditabike, a grueling two-wheeled race across the wilds of Alaska, Tarver is known for his all-weather riding – and he doesn’t think there’s any reason his neighbors shouldn’t do the same. “There’s no good reason not to ride all winter,” he said. “In Alaska it was minus-30 when we raced.”
Dress appropriately, and a summer hobby can become a year-round habit, Tarver said. “If you have the right stuff for riding in inclement weather, it’s no big deal,” he said. “We all go ski all winter long, and somehow we know how not to make that a miserable experience.”
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Joe Wheadon, a mechanic at Ajax Bike and Sports, says riders face a number of hazards on the road – he names SUV drivers on cell phones as his biggest pain – but weather isn’t one of them. Winter conditions shouldn’t warrant a RFTA ride, Wheadon said.
“I never took the bus this winter,” he said. “If it’s raining outside or wet, I have high fenders I can take on and off. Otherwise, I put on a raincoat.”
Ajax Bike sees only 15 percent of its summer customers return for winter tuneups, Wheadon said. These few diehards include six of the shop’s eight employees, plus Wheadon, who prefer to bike whenever possible rather than pay for vehicle upkeep.
“It’s just cheaper that way,” Wheadon said. “You don’t have to pay to get it serviced – you don’t have to pay for gas, tires, oil changes … and other than being economical, it’s more environmentally friendly.”
Wheadon sold his car about six months ago to help him stick with his biking plans. About once a month, he might rent a car and head to Moab for race training. If a friend is going to Glenwood for a Wal-Mart run, he might tag along. Otherwise, Wheadon sticks to bike rides that might take him as far as Basalt or Carbondale.
“I pretty much stay in town,” he said. “The money you save not having a car can be spent on the cost of groceries up here.”
Tarver rides his bike in the same manner, using it to get to Carbondale for meetings or just to get to the grocery store. But he says he does it for reasons beyond just the economical.
“Part of it’s fitness, and part of it is my profound desire not to drive a car,” he said. “And it’s the only way you can get in 365 days of biking a year.” When asked about customers who become year-round riders, mechanics at two different bike shops named Lazy Glen resident Chris Trautner for his challenging winter schedule.
“I enjoy riding in the wintertime, and I enjoy, to some extent, that people think I’m crazy if I ride up to the Sundeck in the middle of winter,” laughed Trautner.
A self-described “50-year-old fat guy,” Trautner rides a lot harder than a lot of local bikers – his winter trips include rides up Aspen Mountain or all the way to the Maroon Bells.
“I just enjoy that ride,” he said. “The Bells are so beautiful, and you’re somewhat limited in riding your bike in the winter – you have to go where the snowmobiles have packed it down.”
Trautner rides frequently, usually driving his truck to town every day and using his bike to run small errands. His tougher riding activities only picked up just a few years ago when an injury forced him to give up his daily run.
“A few years ago I hurt my back, and cycling was something I could do. It’s really my best exercise,” he said.
Aspen resident Mike Roskiewicz used his bike to move to town over 20 years ago. Now 52, he still bikes nearly every day.
In the summer, Roskiewicz commutes to work at Aspen Velo each day by, of course, bike. But he uses his bike in the winter, too, when he rides to Buttermilk each snowy day to teach skiing.
“It’s a great way to warm up in the morning, particularly during the ski season,” he said. “When I get to work and put on the skis, I can jump right in.”
It saves a lot of time that is normally spent stuck on Highway 82, Roskiewicz said.
“It’s almost as fast as traffic,” he said. “When I ride my bike, I can ride right up to the door of the [Buttermilk] locker room. When I drive the car, I have to spend time scraping the windshield, and walking from the parking lot to the door.”
Most year-round bikers do so for exercise or training reasons, Roskiewicz said, but there is the small group who does so just for the fun of it.
“I’m a bicycle person. It’s a way of life for me,” he said. “It’s my small way of helping the world, I guess.”