Last January, around the second week of the new year, my husband ordered dubbdäck (studded winter tires) for his bike and he asked if I wanted him to order a set for my bicycle as well. Now for those of you who know me, you are probably thinking, “She’s going to ride her bicycle in the cold Swedish winter? Is she crazy?!” Without a doubt, you are correct. Every part of me wanted to reply, “Thanks but no thanks. There is no way I am getting on my bike when there is snow and ice on the ground.” Every part of me except that weird, unrecognizable voice that spoke up meekly and said “Um… okay.” What? Okay?! Yes, this same person, who three years ago bought a winter coat that looks like a sleeping bag with arms, was now contemplating riding a bike in the harsh winter of Sweden.
Let me back up just a bit to defend that kooky, meek-voiced person. Up until this point in time our winter had been quite mild. The temperatures were around or above freezing (in the thirties Fahrenheit) and there was no snow or ice in sight. That still feels cold but when you have minus 10 degrees Celsius to compare it to, anything between zero to five degrees Celsius feels quite “balmy”. Besides the fact that deep down a part of me (one I wasn’t quite in touch with yet) wanted to embrace this godforsaken, cold climate of Sweden, where I’d been living, going on two years already. I wanted to be able to say, “I beat the cold! I rode my bike through ice, sleet and snow and lived to tell about it.”
A week later, just before my winter tires arrived, the temperatures started creeping downward. Then they passed the point of freezing and kept right on going. And it got COLD. The snow began not long after and that continued as well. My lovely, mild, balmy winter was over. Meanwhile, there I was with brand-new, shiny, winter tires… and a promise that I would get on my bike and go.
The tires arrived safely and my husband put them on our bikes. We won’t talk about our trip to the emergency clinic due to the fact that he nearly took the tip off of one of his fingers off in the process of doing so. (Where the doctor glued his finger together with super glue!) We had our winter tires on our bikes and we were (he was) raring to go. After our first trip out, it was discovered (stated rather clearly by me) that there would not be another outing until I got myself a pair of insulated pants. I nearly froze even with my wool long johns. It was bitingly, numbingly cold. But the problem was not the weather, it was my outerwear. That saying in Sweden, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing?” It is completely and literally true.
Once all the proper winter gear was assembled, riding my bicycle out in the snow, ice, and freezing, cold temperatures was actually quite fun. Not to mention what a great accomplishment it was for me personally. I had finally embraced the Swedish winter. It took another year to get up the courage to go ice skating on a frozen lake and buy cross-country skis but those adventures are for another day…