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snow and a bike

Chris Cummins

fm4 happy end kalender

Happy End Kalender Day 17: Cycling in Winter

Cycling through the cold, bleak months is scientifically proven to make you happy; and more cycling means happier cities in general.

By Chris Cummins

We’ve heard some good Advent tips this December for our FM4 Happy End Kalender; and who am I to argue with the power of sex and chocolate? But today I want to take you out into the cold, fresh air in our search for a dose of happiness. I want to persuade you, if possible, to get on your bike and ride through the cold.

bike in the snow

Chris Cummins

I have some scientific studies to throw around; you are officially less likely to suffer from depression and officially more likely to feel cheerful if you keep riding through winter. I have this lovely link from the Wiener Zeitung, and, beyond all that, I also have the poetic power of my friend and bike-riding mentor; former professional Fritz ‘Magic’ Berein.

Happy Slappy

“It’s a special feeling when you ride in winter,” says the coach and mechanic. “I really like it because there is more space on the bike paths and it is a really unique atmosphere. The slap in the face from the cold wind has its delights.”

Magic and his bikes

chris cummins

There’s a serious point behind my pick for this FM4 Advent Kalender. I would dearly like to see more people on their bikes in winter because I believe, sincerely, that cities and towns and villages that rely more on active modes of transport will be healthier happier places in general.

Cheerful interaction not horn honking

On my daily ride, I share a smile and a nod with fellow cyclists. We’re not trapped in a steel cage we can interact without an angry horn. It can be a social form of transport.

The same is true of public transport but the added advantage of cycling is that the exercise demonstratively makes you feel better.

To help me persuade you of this I have enlisted the help of Vienna’s Radbeaufragter (I am going to translate that as cycling chief) Martin Blum: “The great joy is being outside and moving. Cycling produces happiness because your body produces happiness hormones and that makes you happy.”

Martin at the Danube

Chris Cummins

Martin is referring to a series of studies, including the one from the American College of Sports Medicinethat show cycling leads to a heightened production of chemicals in the brain that help to keep you happy, such as serotonin, dopamine and the scrabble-winning phenylthylamine. So throw away your doubts, put on your gloves and ride that bike!

It also helps wake me up. We have a little baby now and so sleep is not the uninterrupted bliss it used to be. To be honest, in the mornings, after an early session of bouncing Little C on my knee, I can feel fairly comatose.

As soon as I get pedaling, however, the blast of fresh air feels like a jolt of caffeine and by the time I turn up to our Reality Checkeditorial morning meetings, flushed-pink in the face and carrying the first of my morning snacks (yes, cyclists can eat more cookies) I feel fully alert and ready to tackle the fallout of whatever Trump has tweeted.

Lots of layers and keep your ears warm

When the wind is whipping around outside it can be a battle to persuade yourself to pedal through to the winter streets but once you’re on the bike, says Martin, you rarely regret it. “You feel great and you can enjoy the winter city.”

The key is to wear the right clothes; Martin recommends lots of layers. You’ll build up a nice bit of warmth through the cycling itself, so the main areas to cover are won’t warm themselves through exertion, your hands, your feet, your neck and your ears. I wear one of those thin cross-country skiing beanie hats under my helmet.

Der FM4 Happy End Kalender

Wir sind 24 Tage lang dem Glück auf der Spur und testen uns von 1. bis 24. Dezember durch diverse Glücksversprechungen: von der Tageslichtlampe über verschiedene Apps bis hin zu Sex.

Alle Tage, alle Türchen

Bike coach Magic Berein is also keen to remind us that it is important to be easily visible for over road-users in the late dawn and early dusk period. You need good lights; you need to make sure the batteries are loaded and, if possible, you might want to think about bright clothing.

As for your bike, you might want to give your chain an extra drop of oil and a little clean occasionally since the combination of wet roads and corrosive road-salt takes its toll.

That said, Martin Blum is keen that we don’t get too bogged down in the details. To ride your bike in winter you just have to, well, get on and start pedaling. “It is possible to cycle in winter and it is a positive feeling. This is what we want to support: cycling is an everyday mode of transport and not just something for when the days are warm and sunny.”