Blustering winds, cold temperatures and icy road conditions can make for a challenging drive to work on winter mornings. You can forego scraping your windshield, shoveling your driveway, and keeping up with all the winter car maintenance. All it takes is a helmet and a bicycle! Winter Bike to Work Day is coming up on Friday, February 12th.
Some might think that winter cycling is only for the daring, adventuresome, or flat out foolish but with the proper preparation, winter cycling is an outright fun and efficient way to get around.
“I love it when it’s minus 25 and I’m all bundled up, riding down the road on my bike — it feels great!” says GreenUP Environmental Educator Glen Caradus.
Winter cycling isn’t an extreme sport, and really there are two main considerations to cycle in winter: preparing your bicycle and preparing yourself.
“There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing,” says Scott Murison, GreenUP board member and co-owner at Wild Rock Outfitters.
Like any outdoor pursuit, it is important to outfit yourself properly to protect yourself from the elements. If you are used to dressing up warmly to shovel your driveway or to walk the dog, you likely already have all the clothing you need to get out on your bike too.
It’s helpful to dress in layers with a warm wool or fleece sweater and a windproof yet breathable jacket that preferably covers you to the mid-thigh. Cover your work attire with windproof pants or light, flexible snow pants which are a must to keep your legs dry. Light and flexible winter boots will keep your feet protected while you pedal; adding gaiters will give you extra proof from wet snow or splashback.
Your hands and face are the trickiest areas to keep warm while cycling.
“In bad weather, get yourself some good mitts and a balaclava — which will make minus 15 seem quite reasonable,” Scott says.
Once you’ve protected yourself from the moisture of winter, you’ll need to consider how to prepare your bike for a journey through the snow and ice. Any well-maintained bike is suitable for a winter ride, but you may want to consider a couple of seasonal add-ons to make your bike more maneuverable and safer in the snow.
Scott recommends studded tires, which make black ice and frozen puddles ridable, and plenty of “wetlube” to prevent rust on your chain.
If you’ll be commuting regularly on your bike, you may want to tuck your favourite fair weather commuter bike in for the winter and consider purchasing a cheaper frame and components to use during the winter months. If you’re cycling often or storing your bike outside, winter conditions can be hard on steel frames, chains, and derailleurs.
Brianna Salmon, Manager of GreenUP Transportation and Urban Designs programs,has built up a winter bike that has a cruiser-style frame, so that she can sit upright and put her feet down quickly if necessary.
“I added studded tires to increase my traction and a chain guard to keep salt and snow away from my drivetrain,” says Brianna, who admits, “biking in the winter can be slushy, and slippery, and cold, but it can also be an exciting and invigorating way to get around.”
If snow banks and icy conditions have you feeling nervous about hitting the streets, Brianna will set your mind at ease.
“I’ve found that, in the winter, cars leave lots of space because bicycles are less common on our streets and drivers want to make sure that they provide a safe distance.”
“A bad day cycling to work is better than any day driving to work,” adds Scott. “It gives you the opportunity to wind up before work and wind down before home.”
“I’m excited to see that winter cycling in our community is increasing, and I’m happy to be one more cyclist on our local streets year-round,” says Brianna proudly.
Join Brianna, Scott, and Glen on the road next Friday, on February 12th for Winter Bike to Work Day. It’s the perfect day to try it for the first time, or to challenge your co-workers to take part.
For more information about commuting to work on your bike, check out www.peterboroughmoves.com/maps-resources.