Commuter of the Month

Confessions of an Ice Biker

Hi, my name is Jill, and Im just one of a growing number of bike-a-holics.

It started so simply. I was a happy-go-lucky kid with a single-speed Huffy, yellow, sporting a brown banana seat and a little white basket. When the state gave me a license to drive, I abandoned it to the dust and rust of the garage. That was the way things worked. All seemed right in the world.

The trouble didnt really start until I was 22, slightly less than four years ago. My boyfriend told me about the time he traveled from New York to Vermont on his mountain bike, hoisting a backpack and camping along the way.

“You can do that?” I asked, struck in amazement. It all seemed so unlikely.

But that put the cogs in motion, so to speak. I discovered that it was possible to ride a bike, well, anywhere and it seemed like a good thing to try.

Relearning to ride a bike wasnt as effortless as its often touted to be. I had to read up on working the shifters. I took a lot of falls. But as my mileage went up, so did my confidence. By September, I was on pedaling toward a 600-mile, 14-day trip through the Utah and Colorado deserts. In October of the following year, I left on a two-month, 3,200-mile tour of America. Addiction had arrived.

Its hard to say exactly where I crossed the line between social cyclist and a person who some might say has a “problem.” My mom thinks it was the time I purchased a second bike. My friends think it may have been all of the centuries I put in during the summer of 2004. I think it was my recent move to Alaska that really pushed me over the edge. They told me I couldnt bike in Alaska in the winter. They were wrong.

I admit it. Ive become an ice biker, grinding up snowy trails, pedaling over ice boulders, collecting frost on my face and loving every minute of it. The riding has probably been harder on my Gary Fisher Sugar mountain bike than it is on me, but I havent yet seen any signs of lasting damage. The truth is, anyone with warm clothing and some fat tires can ride in the winter.

Its as easy as that.

Thats why, as a bicycle addict, I had to kick it up a notch. Im currently logging miles to train for the Susitna 100 , a 100-mile bicycle race along the frozen Iditarod Trail. I like to tell people that its just like any century except for the technical snow riding, the darkness, the endless miles of Alaskan wilderness, and the fact that it can and has hit 40 below during the race. I cant wait!

The entry fee is pretty high, so Im raising money by riding frosty miles near my home in Homer, Alaska.

Should I hit that goal, I hope to continue to raise money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

I am keeping a blog of my progress, complete with photos, online at The photography is an important part of each ride, because scenery is a large part of the reason I keep plugging through mile after mile of arctic wind blasts and downright slippery ice. My camera will be the only nonessential item Im willing to carry down the Iditarod Trail.

Well, thanks for letting me get all this off my chest.

Its nice to know Im not crazy. Im just like you. Oh, it’s OK if you’re not ready to come to terms with that yet. Give it a few years.

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