Don't Store Your Bike Yet

Winter biking around Bozeman.

Although frostbite and numb feet might lead one to take up another sport, one where the possibility of losing body parts isn’t a factor, these things have actually drawn me to snow biking—the frigid temperatures, muttered obscenities, and the sheer willpower of my body working to survive.

My snow bike, aptly named Snow Devil, is a sleek, beautiful, black frame adorned with hibiscus flowers and forks wide enough to take four-inch tires. Three years ago no one would have caught me lovingly referring to a bike in this manner. Now, it is what keeps me on level ground when everything around me is in constant chaos.

At first I thought, how hard can it really be to bike in the snow? As I donned the appropriate boots, layers of clothing, and camelback, I set out to prove myself right. This was my first mistake; my second was the gear. By mile one I was sweating, my leg muscles were on fire, and I was falling left and right on the trail. After cursing to the wilderness around me, I hopped off the bike and was about to pitch it into the first snowbank I saw when I suddenly observed my surroundings and myself: the quiet calm, the way my breath created a halo of ice crystals around me, and the way the snowflakes gently landed on my face and melted away. I softly ran a hand down the frame, smiled, and hopped back on. All my senses came in tune with one another, and as I pushed through the snow my legs no longer burned, my dexterity improved, and I realized all this was a basic song and dance.

Two years later I am still snow biking, even after surviving a below-zero day last December when part of my right ear and eye got frostbit, which fortunately healed completely. I’m more cautious now. Still, when I go out a sense of exploration takes over and my mind whisks me and Snow Devil to far-off places: Alaska, Greenland, Antarctica. The only reminders of the start of my journey are fading tire tracks in the drifting snow and a sense of calm that surrounds me as I set out on an adventure all my own.