With a little preparation, you too can enjoy cycling in the winter

Peterborough resident Cara Livingston shares her winter biking experience after joining B!KE's Winter Wheels program

Cara Livingston commuting by bike on a nice sunny winter's day at -20°C. Before joining Winter Wheels, an annual program offered by B!KE: The Peterborough Community Bike Shop for people who have limited experience with winter riding, Cara only cycled in the winter if absolutely necessary. (Photo: Jacob Bozek)
Cara Livingston commuting by bike on a nice sunny winter's day at -20°C. Before joining Winter Wheels, an annual program offered by B!KE: The Peterborough Community Bike Shop for people who have limited experience with winter riding, Cara only cycled in the winter if absolutely necessary. (Photo: Jacob Bozek)

Riding a bicycle in winter is new territory for most people. But through Winter Wheels, an annual program offered by B!KE: The Peterborough Community Bike Shop and funded by the City of Peterborough, interested riders can get support and guidance to try it out. Cara Livingston joined the Winter Wheels program this year and agreed to share her impressions as a new winter rider.

Before being a participant in the Winter Wheels program, I only bicycled in the winter if absolutely necessary. I am not a fan of biking up hills, never mind icy hills. And if there is one thing Peterborough has a lot of in the winter, it’s icy hills. But, as a participant in Winter Wheels, I have learned more about my bicycle, and how to enjoy the little things in life — even tackling icy hills on a wintery commute.

I learned about Winter Wheels because I follow B!KE @communitybikeshop on Instagram (@cyclinghubptbo on Twitter). I understood the program offers a helping hand navigating winter riding for people who have limited experience riding in the snow. B!KE provides information and guidance, as well as a free set of studded tires to ensure new winter riders have a safe and positive experience.

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With the continual changes to fitness centre regulations due to the pandemic, I thought joining Winter Wheels would provide me with some structure to stay active through lockdowns. So I applied and was accepted.

Program coordinator Jean Greig and the other staff at B!KE supported my learning from the beginning, from showing me where to find the wheel size on my tires, to suggesting appropriate winter riding wear, to guiding me through basic maintenance procedures to keep my bike running smoothly through winter conditions.

Since joining Winter Wheels my understanding of bicycles has shifted. I got my bicycle in the fall of 2021 from B!KE. I chose it because it was orange and blue, which was about the depth of my bicycle knowledge at the time. I had ridden bicycles in the warmer seasons before, but I never really understood their mechanics. If my bicycle had a bigger problem than a flat tire, it was more than likely never going to be ridden again.

Cara Livingston performs some winter bike maintenance in the B!KE shop at 293 George Street in downtown Peterborough. B!KE offers a welcoming and professionally equipped workshop space with the tools, parts, and friendly volunteer teachers needed for bike repair and maintenance. (Photo: Cara Livingston)
Cara Livingston performs some winter bike maintenance in the B!KE shop at 293 George Street in downtown Peterborough. B!KE offers a welcoming and professionally equipped workshop space with the tools, parts, and friendly volunteer teachers needed for bike repair and maintenance. (Photo: Cara Livingston)

Through Winter Wheels I have learned more of the intricacies of my bicycle, and how to care for it. I now clean my bicycle at least once a week to remove salt and residue. I oil my chain, remove excess grease, and make sure all the parts that are supposed to be moving are moving and all the parts that are meant to be still are still.

Not only have I brushed up on my bicycle knowledge, but something else has also become clear to me. There are similarities between winter and summer riding, beyond the obvious combination of exercise and sustainability.

Other winter riders in my social circle fail to mention the beauty of the ride. Biking to work along the Rotary Greenway Trail, I am amazed by the beauty I would have missed if I were driving: the untouched snow on the trail ahead of me, the strong twigs holding up piles of flakes, and the friendly strangers who become familiar the more I ride the same route. The sense of awe, so apparent in the winter on your bike, is unachievable when driving in a car.

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I also believe there is a change within myself, which goes beyond my new knowledge of bike maintenance and appreciation of winter scenery.

Do you remember when you were a child, you could not wait to grow up? Getting a car was the goal for ultimate freedom. But now, as an adult, do you wish you had the chance to be a child again? Biking in the winter has provided me with that time machine.

When biking to work, my favourite part of the ride is crossing a sloped wintry field. I like to crush slush balls that roll onto the bicycle lane, or to race cars, wondering if they are impressed by my speed. None of these child-like thoughts would be generated if I was driving to work regularly. I would be too focused on where I would park or too worried about the road conditions to enjoy my drive.

Winter Wheels participant Cara Livingston shows off the studded tires on her bicycle. As part of its Winter Wheels program, B!KE: The Community Bike Shop provides a free set of studded tires to ensure new winter riders have a safe and positive experience. (Photo: Jacob Bozek)
Winter Wheels participant Cara Livingston shows off the studded tires on her bicycle. As part of its Winter Wheels program, B!KE: The Community Bike Shop provides a free set of studded tires to ensure new winter riders have a safe and positive experience. (Photo: Jacob Bozek)

Since joining the Winter Wheels program, my bicycle and I have become closer. I take care of my bicycle to ensure I create the best possible ride for myself. And my bicycle provides me with a chance to enjoy my commute, and notice the little things.

Although I am still working on my relationship with biking up icy hills, I am grateful for the Winter Wheels program, for having strengthened my relationship with my bicycle, and with the winter season.

 

For more information about the Winter Wheels program offered by offered by B!KE: The Peterborough Community Bike Shop, visit communitybikeshop.org/winterwheels/.