Q&A: Lovely Bicycle’s Constance Winters
Constance has cycled in Vienna, Ireland, and Maine, but Boston is her favorite cycling town.
Constance Winters of the popular biking blog, Lovely Bicycle!, owns 10 bikes and has cycled in several different cities around the world. Currently, she’s navigating her way through Somerville’s quiet backroads and recently took some time to tell us her favorite parts about her cycling life and how best to enjoy Boston on a bike.
What inspired you to start riding your bike regularly?
I started riding a bike because it felt like the least stressful way to get around Boston. I hated being stuck in a car in traffic, the T seemed to be always breaking down, the bus made me motion-sick, and walking took too long. Riding a bike seemed like the perfect solution. I felt like Goldielocks who found her perfect means of transportation: “This one’s just right!”
What inspired you to start blogging about your cycling experiences?
Five years ago, before Hubway, there were very few local options for transportation of the type that, say, a professional woman could ride in her office clothing and still look presentable upon arrival. So I started a blog to document my search for such a bike and to share the information with others.
Tell us a little bit about the bikes you own. Which ones are your favorites?
I confess that I own way too many bicycles! This is partly because I spend so much time writing about them and photographing them so its helpful to have a point of reference but its mostly because I love bikes and I love different forms of cycling. I currently have somewhere between 7 and 10 bikes because they’re all in different stages of assembly. My favorites are the ones I use the most. For getting around Boston I mainly ride my Brompton which is a small wheel folding bike made in England. Its fast, tackles hills easily, handles great in tight traffic, and includes all my necessary accessories for year round commuting. I can ride it in a dress and heels and take it grocery shopping. I can even fold it up and take it on a train or a bus. But the bike I have the most miles on is my Seven Axiom roadbike. This bike has taken me to Western Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and back again. I also rode it in Ireland.
Even though you’ve cycled all over the world, what’s your favorite part about riding through Boston?
Boston has less in the way of infrastructure than many other cities I’ve cycled in, but it makes up for that with an extensive hidden network of very quiet side streets. Even after cycling here for years, I’m still discovering new traffic-light routes. Routes that take me through charming pocket neighborhoods I’ve never seen before. I always feel like I’m exploring and getting to know this city better. I also like the fact that Boston has such excellent local manufacturers. I’m proud to say that I own bikes from ANT and Royal H, and Honey Bikes, which are all local makers. Seven Cycles is another local company that makes bikes in Watertown. I love that I know the people who made my bike—in fact many of them are my neighbors—it makes my bicycles very personal and dear to me.
Do you have any favorite routes or shortcuts that you like to take?
I love the Charles River Trail and the Minuteman Trail, which takes you from Somerville out through the suburbs all the way to Bedford and Concord. As far as shortcuts, I tend to do the opposite. I deliberately choose longer, but more scenic and traffic-free routes along quiet back roads.
Have you ever had anything strange happen to you while cycling around Boston? Have you ever had a car door opened into you?
Well, there was the time I stopped at a red light and another cyclist pulled up beside me with a pigeon on his head! I did a double-take and followed him for a few blocks, it made my day. Turns out, he has a whole website about his pigeon. And then there’s the family that rides around on a huge handmade cargo bike that’s made to look like the hungry caterpillar. That’s fantastic. In general, if you ever ride around the Somerville/Cambridge border during peak commuting times, you will encounter every type of cyclist imaginable. It’s a spectacular cyclist parade.
What is the best advice you can give for cycling safely, especially now that we are getting into the winter months?
Choose a bike that you feel comfortable riding and are in full control of. Not everyone who is starting out realizes this, but there are many different categories of bikes, and they don’t all handle the same way. Take the time to find out what works for you before taking to the streets. And I cannot stress enough the importance of good lighting. A cyclist in the dark is invisible to traffic unless their bike is illuminated. Especially in the winter, it gets dark early and chances are you will be cycling home from work in pitch black. Invest in a decent set of bright LED lights, not just blinkies.