Dashing through the snow, on a bike!

Do you hibernate in the winter?  Sitting on the couch with a hot drink and watching Netflix can be more appealing than going for a run or hitting the gym.  Cold days and less daylight can trigger a drop in our mood, overindulgence in comfort food and a decrease in exercise. Cycling through the winter months to work, school or for errands can be an easy way to fit the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity into your daily routine.  Follow these winter cycling tips for a happy and healthy winter!

Older can be better

  • Salt can wreak havoc on moving parts. Choose an older bike for winter riding and consider one with fewer gears.
  • Lubricate your chain frequently.
  • Fenders will keep you dry on those wet, slushy days and they will cut down on salt damage to your bike
  • Tires made for winter riding are a good idea. Fat bikes are great for lots of snow and avoiding icy ruts.

Layer up

There is a fine line between warm and dry, versus sweaty and clammy. Cycle-specific clothing can be expensive and it’s likely you have what you need already. Here are some suggestions:

  • Lightweight and waterproof layers. Depending on the length of your commute, some suggested layers might include:
    • Sweat wicking base layer.
    • Fleece or wool sweater.
    • Windproof jacket.
    • Wool socks – they retain heat better than synthetics even when wet.
  • Waterproof gloves or mittens. If you wear gloves, consider getting a pair of liners for really cold days. It is crucial to keep your fingers from freezing up as they are needed for braking, changing gears and ringing your bell.
  • Windproof boots and winter boots for the really cold days.  Neoprene overboots can help keep your feet dry. If you’re looking for an inexpensive solution to keeping your toes warm, wrap them in tinfoil before putting your shoes or boots on.
  • Cover your head and ears to prevent heat-loss. Balaclavas are great but if you find your glasses or goggles are fogging up, you may want to try a thin windproof fleece hat with a face mask. A helmet will provide extra warmth, as well as protection.
  • Protect your eyes with sunglasses or clear glasses. Ski goggles are great for temperatures below -15 to prevent wind from coming in around the edges.

Stay safe and be visible!

  • Ride at a steady pace, avoid sudden turns and brake slowly to avoid slippery spills.
  • Choosing the safest route is important even though it may not be the shortest.
  • Don’t be afraid to take the lane to ensure that motorists see you. Avoid hugging the sidewalks or snowbanks. Always make eye contact with drivers to ensure they see you.
  • If you ride 30 minutes before sunrise and/or sunset, it is required by law to have a white light on the front of your bike along with a red rear reflector or light. This is especially important when the days are shorter. Be sure to check that they are in good working order as battery life is reduced in cold temperatures.
  • Wear bright and reflective clothing.

Keep your bike cold

  • Drying off your bike and storing it in a cold, dry place can reduce condensation and rust.
  • Be sure to lubricate moving parts regularly.

If the weather outside is frightening, don’t ride that day, but remember most municipalities ensure that roads and trails are well-lit and cleared year-round. In addition, all buses have bike racks in York Region, so you have a backup plan if the weather gets crazy.