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Kudos to all the winter riders out there!

Meet John Martin, a local year round commuter.

SABR Board Member Annie Poubeau met with SABR volunteer John Martin in the winter of 2021. John recently led neighborhpod rides during the Portsmouth bike rodeo at Dondero Elementary school (September 2023).

SABR: Hi John, tell us about yourself and your commute.

John: I live in Portsmouth in the Elwyn Park neighborhood.  I work at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery.  In the mornings I travel down Route 1 to Middle St, through downtown and over the Memorial Bridge into Kittery.  To come home I travel down Sagamore Ave to the Rye traffic circle, then down Elwyn Rd to Elwyn park.  It’s about a five mile trip each way, so 10 miles total each day.

SABR: What inspired you to ride to work in the winter in the first place?

John: I started riding my bike to work because I was frustrated by the amount of time and gas I was wasting sitting in traffic going on and off the shipyard.  And also the lack of parking on the yard meant long walks to and from the car.  It was frustrating that I lived so close, but still needed to leave the house 45 minutes to an hour before the start of my shift just to get to work on time.  Now on my bike it’s about 25 minutes from the time I leave my driveway until I’m sitting at my desk.  I enjoy the amount of time and gas I save, plus the physical and mental health benefits of riding my bike instead of sitting in traffic.

When I first started I only rode when the weather was good.  I would have thought riding my bike to work in the winter would have been crazy!  But I realized that with the right gear extreme cold or rain isn’t much of a problem.

SABR: Any suggestions/recommendations for people who want to bike year-round but are not quite there yet?  clothing, safety on the roads, lights, bike maintenance?

John: To anyone thinking about riding their bike in the winter I would say having the right gear is important.  Layering is important but also making sure your layers can keep the wind out.  If it’s 10 degrees out and you’re traveling 15 mph on the bike that wind is going to make it feel a lot colder.  There was a lot of trial and error for me as far as learning how to dress in the given conditions.  Your fingers are the most difficult to keep warm I’ve found, because there’s only so much you can do there and still be able to operate your bike properly.  I have these neoprene mitts that go over my handlebars that are great.  Those along with some good cycling gloves, and if it’s extremely cold, some hand warmers inside the mitts will usually do the trick.

Another important thing about cycling in the winter is regular bike maintenance.  Keeping your chain and gears cleaned and oiled is crucial due to the salt and chemicals on the road during the winter months.  I’ve certainly had to change out quite a few parts on my bike over the years.

SABR: Do you participate in the Commute Smart challenges? 

John: I have participated in many Commute Smart challenges in the past.  Conquer the Cold and Dump the Pump especially.  It’s always fun to see what other people are doing as far as commuting by bike or walking.

Thank you John for your time and tips on winter riding!

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