Is it too Early to Think about Winter Biking?

I hope not, because I am thinking about it a lot right now.

In some ways, I am very late to winter cycling. have been thinking about it since the miserable 51 day bus strike in the dead of winter (December 2008-January 2009). That was the first time I ever saw cyclists in the snow, and I envied them as I trudged to work, a 45 minute walk in good weather, on cleared sidewalks.

I dismissed the idea even as I reluctantly returned to public transit, instead riding my bike to work for up to 9 months of the year. Then I met a couple of colleagues at a new workplace who rode year-round for environmental reasons, and I was intrigued again. Two years ago, I actually stopped a random guy at a street light in late winter, and quizzed him about his experience and gear.

Last winter, my friend Florence introduced me to the concept of studded tires. She cycles year-round, even to swim practice (brrr). And last week she came to the Fancy Women Bike Ride in a Cleverhood rain cape like this:

Model wearing a bright yellow rain Cape poses on a red commuter bicycle.

I was starting to see ways I could feel safe and warm as a winter cyclist.

My next step was to acquire a bike I wouldn’t mind getting rusty. That came thanks to my local community mail list, where someone had an old Trek with seized gears that they wanted to give away.

Advice for how to fit it up came from the Ottawa cycling community on Twitter (which includes a lot of moms, every day commuters, and cycling infrastructure advocates, so I felt confident their advice would work for my cycling interests). One thing they said was to get the studded tires now, to avoid shortages later in the fall.

I picked up my bike from the shop on Friday. It has studded tires, fenders, new gears and brakes, a rack to hold my pannier, rechargeable lights and a bell. My new red hood is hanging by the back door, along with a pair of splash pants and my reflective vest. I have a bottle of chain oil that I will use daily, and a rag to wipe down my bike after each ride.

Red and white Trek bicycle with studded tires.

It is definitely too early for winter riding, but I am ready (and ridiculously excited).

Diane Harper is a public servant in Ottawa. She doesn’t love commuting, except by bicycle.

5 thoughts on “Is it too Early to Think about Winter Biking?

  1. Never too early! Love the rain cape. Wishing you all the best on your winter commutes. I find if I stop, say in January, it’s hard to get started again. My best years I’ve ridden straight through.

    1. Agreed! Never too early! I have multiple posts re: winter biking, in case you’re interested (search “winter biking” on my blog). The right clothes and the right equipment come in handy. Your list of changes are great! In the long run, I recommend belt drive and internal gears (like the old-fashioned 3-speed) to avoid a lot of parts replacements due to salt and wet – but I commuted by bike for many years without those. Studs are great for ice but decrease your traction on clear pavement, so turn carefully. For what my friend calls “brown sugar” (that mix of thawed and refrozen snow mixed with sand), he recommends a fat bike, as studs are no help there (nor in deep snow). I haven’t tried that. Wind-resistant clothing (like Gore Windstopper) is very helpful. There is (almost) no wrong weather for riding – just the wrong clothes and equipment.

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