In the wintertime, she abandons her bike shoes, which clip onto the pedals, and screws on a pair of platform pedals so she can wear warm “street boots.”
“I wear either a wool cap and a buff around my neck, or I wear a balaclava, like I did today,” she said on a morning when the temperature was in the mid-30s. “I have thick fleece gloves.”
Branyan has more bike-specific gear, in part because after getting into cycling as a commuter, he’s now morphed into a bike racer as well.
“If it's a light rain, I can wear the proper shoe covers and waterproof vest,” he said. “In the winter, if it’s a cold rain, you have to be pretty sure you’re sealed against the elements. You want to cover your feet with a waterproof shoe cover, and then if you have rain pants that come over the shoe covers, you’re pretty sealed up.
“I can stay warm in terms of my body core. One of the most versatile items is a wind vest, so I have that on and tights over my biking shorts. The problem is fingertips, toes and face. When you get below 30, that’s just not comfortable, even if you spend a lot on really good gloves.”
Although they don’t know one another, Branyan and MacGregor have several things in common. It takes each of them less than an hour to bike to work and a little longer to get home, because the evening ride is more uphill.
Both say it takes just about as long to commute on the Metro. They both have secure places in office parking garages to store their bikes.
They also agree that investing in a very good bike lights is a must.
What’s more, they each started commuting by bike for the same reason.
Branyan said it began one day when he looked up his weight on a body-mass-index chart and realized he was a pound or two from being “overweight.”
“I said, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa!’ I’ve never been overweight in my life,” he said. “I had two kids by this time. I was not getting up early to go run, which is something I’d been doing most of my life. . . . Biking has been just fabulous for me.”
MacGregor said she embraced the bike commute after “a couple of bad days on the Red Line.”
“My son was young, and I wasn’t getting a lot of chance to exercise. So I thought if I combine the commute with the exercise, that will be a way for me stay in shape,” she said.
Although Branyan collided in June with a driver who turned left in his path, neither he nor MacGregor are fearful of negotiating urban streets.
“People want to talk a lot about the whole war between cyclists and drivers, but honestly I don’t see that,” Branyan said. “I see the vast majority of drivers drive around me safely. On principle, I try to obey all traffic laws. I want drivers to see cycling as a legitimate mode of transportation, and I think the freestyle, scofflaw kind of cycling creates a bad situation for everybody, so I try to do my part to take the rules of the road seriously.”
In the winter, when daylight is short, MacGregor slackens her pace on dark trails where the deer are plentiful and there are moments of solitude to enjoy.
“Even on a day like Monday, when it was really warm, there really wasn’t anybody out there,” she said, referring to the week after Election Day.
“So I really had the place to myself, and it was really peaceful and very relaxing.”