It's so cold the gears need defrosting, roads are like ice rinks and helmets are strapped over full-face balaclavas.
But the mayor of the favourite city for cycling in the United States says if Minneapolis can achieve what it has, there's no reason Melbourne and other Australian cities can't follow.
Almost halfway across a country famed for its car culture and with a climate to test the bravest – think snow ploughs and Fargo – Minneapolis doesn't strike as one where commuters would prefer the saddle over the car heater.
But its ranking as the best biking city in the US by Bicycling Magazine is a source of immense pride for its residents, of which more than 8000 commute to work by bike [the figure drops significantly in winter], and recognition of the way the city has changed its focus in encouraging alternate ways for its inhabitants to move around.
Minneapolis, an urban area with a population size similar to that of Melbourne, has more than 150 kilometres of bike trails, has converted an abandoned railway line into a bicycle highway spanning the midtown area, allows cyclists to load bikes on the front of buses and was one of the first American cities to introduce a bike share scheme.
Cycling advocates believe Melbourne has the infrastructure, layout and culture to make it a great biking city and many say it is getting there, but Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak believes making the jump requires something bold.
“My advice to Australian cities which may think they can never aspire to this, is the public is ahead of government when it comes to the bike culture,” he said.
“Get out there and do some things and you'll be surprised by how much people will come along.”
Mr Rybak said he knew his city had become a serious cycling centre when he heard of bicycle traffic jams along the city's Greenway bike path, although he admitted to having reservations about whether the bike scheme would work.
Two years on, the city has doubled its fleet of lime green bikes to 700 [helmets are not hired out, as under Minnesota law it is legal to ride without one] and has plans for more.
Mr Rybak nominated a share program as the one aspect cities with bike-friendly aspirations had to get right to change behaviour.
“Our bike culture was grown by people who are at their core are wildly into this, with the right gear and willing to put up with really tough things,” he said.
“But it became difficult to cross the line to get to the people who are casual bike riders. Nothing did that very well until we introduced bike share, which is something that somebody who's not as committed can do.
“If I was starting from scratch I would move right to doing a bike share program that a broader group of people would be using.”
Minneapolis is now setting itself on defending its title.
It wants to boost the number of commuters who ride to work [it is currently about 4 per cent, a rate second only to Portland, Oregon, in the US], draw on inspiration from Copenhagen and Amsterdam to create more bike lanes and parking, and encourage more safety and less aggression between drivers and cyclists.
“I was a little brother and it took me a long time to have my brother accept the fact that I belonged in the house too,” Mr Rybak said.
“That's kind of what it's like with bikes and cars. The bikes are here, so get over it.”
Minneapolis' outdoors reputation has helped its cycling focus. But Mr Rybak acknowledged those who rode during the city's frigid winters wore their extreme commutes like a badge of honour.
He said a winter's commute was invigorating, until workers began peeling off their layers.
“I love bikers, I just don't want to smell them all day,” he said.
“So I declared this the year of the shower, where offices put in places for people to clean up. It's the third year I've declared the year of the shower. It's not working yet, but we're getting there.”