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Nathan's column: Time to put the bike away

Depending on your point of view, last weekend's record snowfall inspired one of a handful of reactions.

If you love winter, you probably thought the daylong blizzard was a wonderful thing, a chance after last year's mostly snowless year to break out your skis and snowmobiles and sleds. Or at the very least to justify sitting by the fire all day with a mug of hot chocolate.

If you long for the warmer months, it was tragic end. A reminder that we have ahead of us months of thick sweaters, heavy boots and people who have lived their entire lives in a northern state complaining about how cold and snowy it is.

If you have an Instagram account it was your first chance in a long time to take a photo of the snow-covered lawn furniture you meant to put away last week and share it with all of your friends who are, of course, preparing to share with you photos of their own snowed-under patio chairs.

Because that is how we communicate now.

I don't mind winter. I actually kind of like it. But Sunday's snowfall was a definite ending point for me. Barring some seriously unseasonable weather in the next few weeks, the more than 10 inches of snow that fell in the Twin Cities spelled the end of the outdoor biking season. Plenty of people ride their bikes year-round in Minnesota, but most of them have thick-tired bikes that can handle the snow and ice. They are the SUVs to my skinny-tired sports car.

This is an early end compared to last year, when I took my last ride on Dec. 31. I had to ride 26 miles to the repair shop to pick up my car, which had gotten a new transmission. At least my bike shifted smoothly.

Back at the beginning of this bike season I wrote in a column that I planned to make at least one round-trip bike commute each week. Judged on strictly objective criteria I failed at that goal. Starting in April I made 14 round trips and one aborted attempt to ride home that ended when my entire back wheel came apart at the seams, perhaps confirming better than any scale reading my need to ride my bike more.

In the bigger picture, though, this was a successful biking year. I rode 4,047 miles altogether, nearly twice what I rode in 2011. I felt good at the end of rides that last year would have left me gasping and heaving like a defensive lineman chasing Adrian Peterson. For much of the year, I was even faster up hills than my father, who has the advantage of hauling 40 or 50 fewer pounds up those hills even now.

My father might argue here that he was hampered by the broken elbow he suffered last fall, or a fractured pelvis this fall. But I figure if he can't cope with a few broken bones here and there he should stop falling off of his bike.

Ultimately, that's what I was after: getting in the habit of riding my bike again. I got to the point where I had to talk myself out of going for a ride rather than talking myself into it. And, after losing 30 or so pounds, to the point where I could once again wear spandex shorts without having to worry about injuring an innocent bystander in a tragic incident involving a burst seam.

Now of course the trick is to not gain back all of that weight over the winter.

Taking photos of the snow burns calories, right?