NOVOSIBIRSK: "Why not bike in the winter? When you bike, you don't freeze, so there is no real difference from riding in warmer winter," Stanislav, 31, 2nd from right, said as he rode around Novosibirsk with friends late on a snowy Friday night. Stanislav says he rides up to -15c, but if he has to urgently get around town, he will bike even in -25c to avoid sitting in traffic. He hopes that Novosibirsk city administration will create bicycle lanes. The issue has been discussed, he said. "It would signify that we bikers exist as a segment of society...that we exist." Stanislav says he bikes for about 90 minutes in the evening a few days a week. The longest city ride was to the airport and back, covering about 56 kilometers, he said. The number of bicyclists in Novosibirsk has jumped over the past few years, said Stanislav, though the numbers aren't high in the winter. He put the number of winter bicycle riders at around 50-80.
KAZAN: Rinat, 56, was dressed like a stereotypical motorcyclist - from head to toe in black leather. However, he was getting around town and to work on a bicycle. I asked what his job was. Driving instructor. He said he had a car but didn't use it much. "Why do I need a car? I don't have young children. Stores are nearby. I find it comfortable on a bike. I get a thrill out of it." His wife, though, doesn't like to bike. Rinat also likes to dance. He said if you see a bicycle in front of a night club, it is likely his.
ARKHANGELSK: The number of people exercising along Arkhangelsk's seaside caught my attention. I don't remember many people jogging or biking when I was here for years ago. Maybe it's because the boardwalk has been repaired or maybe its just part of the outdoor fitness trend visible in many cities around Russia. I asked Eva, 16, if she bikes often along Arkhangelsk's seaside. She said her parents recently gave her the bike for her birthday. However, Eva said she has been playing sports since a young age and would like to study sports medicine. "My grandparents have doctorates in science - my grandmother in pharmaceuticals and my grandfather in dentisty. They advise me to pursue medicine and it interests me. A sport medicine because I have been ice skating since childhood and I simply want to combine these two interests."
MOSCOW: Stas, 69, was slowly riding his bike along the Moscow River at sunset. Born in Baku and living 35 years in Moscow, Stas said he exercises along the river twice a day: in the morning and evening. Stas, who has four grandchildren, said it was impossible to bike here 10 years ago. Bottles, cigarettes and condoms were tossed here. Not only has the riverside become nicer, but people are exercising and smiling more, there are more children and men are smoking less, said the retired Muscovite. Girls seem to be smoking more. More people are leading a healthy lifestyle today because 10 years ago, sporting goods "were expensive and you couldn't find them in stores." Plus people realize they need to exercise now to live well in retirement.
MOSCOW: Tanya, 27, was riding across Red Square on a yellow-turquoise bicycle right before sunset on a weekday evening. A manager for strategic planning at a ad agency, Tanya says she doesn't often get a chance to bike. She often returns home late from work, so only gets to bike at best once a week. However, on this particular sunny day, her employer held an outdoor corporate event. She left early, went home and got her bike. "I try to ride at any opportunity as summer doesn't last long." Born in Saratov region on the Volga, she moved to Moscow to study and stayed upon finishing. She earned two degrees, studying at two faculties at the same time.
St. Petersburg: When the 10-minute rainstorm was followed by a burst of sunlight, I ventured back onto Nevsky Prospect. There I saw Serafima trying to manuever between the crowds and cars on her bright, yellow old-fashion bike. Her outfit was as colorful as her bike - a green dress, pinkish sweater & blue New Balance to match her blue eyes.
Sergei, 60, a career secret service employee, moved his family from Kazakhstan to Moscow to give his son a better education. Years later, his son is giving Sergei a chance to stay active in retirement. Sergei helps his son Dmitry produce titanium bicycle frames in a machine-filled room in a Soviet-era factory in Moscow. Five people, including Sergei, work on producing the frames. It took him time to adjust to the blue-collar job. ''I never worked with machines before and, at first, I feared I would make mistakes. With practice, I became confident.'' Sergei says he sometimes comes to work on the weekends and is motivated by ''customers smiling when they pick up their bikes.''
Dmitry’s parents sent him to Europe to study with the probable expectation that he would return to Moscow as a banker or consultant, pulling in a six-figure dollar salary. Eight years later, he is running a small, 7-man business producing titanium frames in a dark-green, Soviet-era factory and dreaming of expanding production.
”This was a hobby; it wasn’t meant to be a business,” said Dmitry, who began biking as a child in Kazakhstan.
ROSTOV: Stepan was repairing bicycles in the basement of a shop in Rostov on a Saturday afternoon. He said he lives in an old mining town about 80km from Rostov, so he sleeps at the shop so as not to make the long commute every day. Stepan said he learned about the shop when he took part in a Rostov city bike ride. He started to hang out there, met the other guys and landed a job. He said that bicycling is becoming more popular in Rostov and hoped the city would improve the infrasructure.
SAMARA: Victor, 48, was riding his mountain bike in the center of Samara on a weekend afternoon as temperatures around -10c. Music was playing from a radio he had tied to his bike. The freelance electronics engineer said he rides about 50 kilometers when not repairing TVs, radio and other items. Victor said he will sometimes bike long distances, recalling a 180km trip to Ulyanovsk region. He said he did the trip by himself, taking camp equipment that he attaches to his bike. He said he likes to listen to Chinese music when riding as he likes the melody. He spoke a few words of Chinese to me.