Two-wheeling weather is year round

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Two-wheeling weather is year round

Don't like the weather up here — wait five minutes!

That's the all-around anecdote that "old timers" use to explain the fast-paced changes of temperature, precipitation and wind on the Northern Plains.

But some folks take that to a whole other level.

"I ride my bicycle all year around," said Theodore "Ted" Bibby, a Ph.D. student in the University of North Dakota School of Geology & Geological Engineering who lives downtown and commutes on his bike to campus. "I like the challenge, it's something different to do, and I've always enjoyed commuting on my bicycle."

Bibby, one of several UND people who ride year-around, has a bicycle he uses for winter riding and another for the rest of the year.

"There's a physical benefit, absolutely, but in addition, my mood always better when I'm riding," says Bibby, who knows a thing or two about winter — as part of his Ph.D. program, he's made a couple of expeditions to Antarctica with his advisor, Jaakko Putkonen.

"It's all about endorphins, and that's good because I otherwise don't get much additional exercise other than ride to school and back," Bibby said. "Riding my bicycle to and from work gives me an opportunity to mellow out a little bit, reflect on the day — it slows you down on your way in to work and on your way out."

For Bibby and the others committed to all-season riding, the big challenge is convincing yourself that you can do it.

"It's easy to convince yourself to get in your car," said Joe Vacek, an attorney who teaches at UND Aerospace and is another committed all-season rider and cycling competitor. Vacek, who in winter rides a bicycle with ultra-fat tires, says it really doesn't take a whole lot of specialized equipment. "I just dress normally, with snow pants over the top in winter."

The commitment to all-weather cycling cuts across demographics and gender.

"I've been riding regularly since I was in elementary school," said Jane Croeker, director of UND Health and Wellness Promotion. Her Memorial Union office is part of the UND Health & Wellness. "It's very much a part of my physical and mental health."

Croeker -- who switches from cycling to other forms of exercise such as Nordic skiing and snow shoeing in winter -- noted that there's a lot of research that shows physical activity helps with mood, depression symptoms and it reduces stress.

"For me, physical activity is one of the main ways that I use to relax because I find it enjoyable," said Croeker, a member of the Greenway & Trail Users Advisory Committee.

"As for cycling, no matter what season, one challenge is being in an automotive society," Croeker said. "We are fortunate to a beautiful system of recreational trails that I also use regularly, but our commuter trail system needs to be improved to enhance safety for bicyclists. To cope with the challenge, I wear a helmet and drive defensively and make eye contact, even when I have a green light."

As for all-season cycling, she said, a lot of people are getting the message.

"For sure, spring, summer and fall the bike racks on campus are jammed," she said. "Winter riding is for the extra hardy. Clearly, though, more people are doing it. I encourage people to look for ways to have fun outdoors in the wintertime. It's mentally and physically challenging, but if you really embrace it and enjoy it, and keep a positive attitude, you will gain many benefits."

For Dave Yearwood, professor and chair of technology in the College of Business & Public Administration, cycling embodies the best of low-impact physical activity.

"I think it gets you closer to nature, too," said Yearwood, a native of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean, well known in the area cycling community for his long-distance rides and his fabulous bicycle creations as well as the motorcycles and ATVs that he modifies. "I feel most alive when I'm riding."

Juan Miguel Pedraza University & Public Affairs writer

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