When I saw this in my Twitter feed, I smiled: “Anyone else interested in the #31daysofwinterbiking challenge, starting 1/1/2020? It’s a judgment-free, no-shame way to be active in January, inside or out.”
As a cyclist and non-driver, I have developed a winter strategy. I keep an ongoing list of errands and grocery needs. I check weather and road conditions regularly. As soon as a day comes up that’s clear with dry roads, I cycle around doing all the things I can squeeze in. That includes stocking up on groceries and household stuff even if I don’t expect to run out imminently, because I don’t want to be stuck without toilet paper when a week-long snowstorm hits. In summer, errands can be run daily. In winter, it’s more like binge/bust. I also vary my transportation more generally between cycling, public transit and cabs depending on the weather.
I’m not hardcore. I’m very aware of how fragile the human body is and I have nothing to prove. No heroic ice-biking for me. I don’t want to break my neck. I stick to safe road conditions and I plan my routes to avoid heavy traffic, high speeds, major hazards and so on.
I’ve figured out over time that I can breathe comfortably down to about -5°C, though I hope to test out a face mask and see if that opens up colder days. I have mild asthma and carry an inhaler, but rarely use it. I wear layers, but nothing high-tech. I wear multiple bright lights at night, carry a bungee cord for loads (I have a rear basket), use my bell lots and have absolutely no problem yelling at drivers who put my life in danger, which they often do—but I don’t play chicken. I’m the only loser if it’s me against a car. I think a lot of accidents can be avoided by selectively breaking rules when they go against safety, going slowly when the roads are snarled, and expecting that nobody can see you and acting accordingly. Right of way is less important than survival.
These basics have served me well.
I’m saying all this because I think a lot of people put their bikes away at this time of year—and legit, I did too until a year ago. But at least here in Toronto, you don’t have to. You can still get all the benefits of cycling if you switch up your strategy for the season. The freedom of movement, the exercise, the connection to the urban landscape, the convenience, the low environmental footprint—so much good stuff. Cycling may be weather-dependent to a point, but it’s not season-dependent. You just have to adapt a bit.
I’m thinking more and more these days about sustainability, about our impact on the world around us—and cycling is a key part of that for me. So I figure a little mythbusting, a little reassurance, a little encouragement might help get more of you to two-wheel it year-round.
And I also have to say: there’s joy in it. It’s not just a “you should.” It feels amazing to get your blood moving on the chilly days. Makes the body less sluggish and stiff. Warms you up from the inside and makes you glow. At least that’s my experience!
Anyway, there’s my little winter cycling manifesto. Maybe you’re already there (high five!). Maybe, like me until a year ago, you’re not—but you could be, you’ve just got to decide to give it a shot. Hope this helps a bit!
Andrea Zanin has written for the Globe and Mail, The Tyee, Bitch, Ms., Xtra, IN Magazine, Outlooks Magazine and the Montreal Mirror. Her scholarly work, fiction and essays appear in a variety of collections. She blogs at http://sexgeek.wordpress.com and tweets at @sexgeekAZ.
Maybe it’s the Aikido influence but I think beginnings and endings really matter. This post focuses on beginnings. I am a fan of start as you mean to continue. I enjoy my mornings. I do some of my best writing in the morning. I love it when I have time to exercise in the morning. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I love my bike ride to work. But as we move into darker days getting going can be a challenge.
I love the gradual lightning of the room. I like the bright light at 6 am. If I’m well rested the light alone is enough to wake me. I wasn’t sure how it would work if I was not getting enough sleep. Answer: it didn’t really. Instead, I was woken up by the back up sound alarm. That was much less enjoyable but I’m glad it’s there.
When I first started riding a bike as an adult, I commuted in the winter but recreational riding came to an end with the snow and the cold. Fun riding was summer riding on my road bike with skinny tires in the sunshine. I trained indoors all winter but I did it for the sake of summer riding.
Over the years I’ve changed, as a cyclist, and I’ve come to appreciate the change of seasons for the different kinds of riding it brings.
For me fall means the return of my adventure road bike and fun riding on gravel. It’s my go-to commuting bike but it’s also good for weekend country rides. We dial back the distance and go out for an hour or two on bike trails. It’s relaxing to ride with no cars in sight. This past weekend Sarah and I did some riding in Turkey Point. See the gallery below.
But it’s not just the fall and cyclocross/gravel riding. I’m also looking forward now to the winter and to riding in the snow on my fat bike. It’s a fun and joyful way to play in the snow on bikes. Check out my smile!
I think I’ve honestly come to love all the seasons of cycling. They’re different things, each with their own kind of pleasure.
Some road riding friends don’t get it. They question the fitness benefits of fat bike riding. They ask about my heart rate and training zones. I say that’s not the point. I don’t fess up that I am not even wearing a heart rate monitor. I’m doing it for fun and for mental health benefits. I need to be outside in the winter. I love riding through the woods. Fat bike riding makes me feel like a kid again as I ride over all sorts of obstacles in my path.
I still ride inside all winter. I put a road bike on a trainer and ride virtually in Zwift. That’s fun too and that I do do for fitness reasons.
Fat biking? That’s for fun and the love of riding a bike.
I’m now the kind of cyclist who loves all the seasons of cycling. See you out there in autumn, winter, spring, and summer!
How about you? Do you ride year round? How many seasons of cycling do you like?
So Saturday of our winter weekend getaway I thought I’d try a beginner’s ski lesson. But that wasn’t to be. It was cold, really cold, -25 and windy cold. It was also icy. Instead of light puffy snow there was hard, cold ice.
See this sign? Marginal conditions, skiing not recommended. Great. Even the ski instructors weren’t that enthusiastic. Try another time, they suggested.
Instead, I went for a long walk up the hill and wandered around the shops at the base of the mountain. I stopped for lunch solo while braver, much more experienced, souls were off skiing. I’m better about eating alone at restaurants these days. I positively enjoyed it. And don’t panic. There was rice underneath. I haven’t abandoned carbs.
I’m just joking (sort of). In my mind spas aren’t meant for me. Like pedicures, I think of spas as a THING RICH PEOPLE DO.
It’s not that I don’t spend money on luxurious things, like expensive bicycles, I do. And it’s not like I don’t spend $60 (the price of spa admission) on meals or concerts pretty regularly. I do.
But for reasons of family background in the first part of my life and resisting normative feminity, in the second, spas have never been on my radar. I’m the kind of person who didn’t have nail polish or make up for my own wedding. I did my own hair and it was touch and go whether I’d shave my legs.
I resisted getting a hot tub at our old house for years but then loved it and used it lots. I love sitting outside, in the heat, surrounded by snow and ice. I loved soaking after long rides and tough Aikido classes. My highlight of my holiday in Iceland a few years ago was soaking in a hot river after a long hike.
We went to the Scandinavian Spa on the Sunday of our weekend at Mount Tremblant when it was too cold and icy to ski or fat bike. I loved how much of it was outdoors. I really liked the steam rooms and the sauna and the hot tub but probably my favorite thing was relaxing in front of a fire outside wearing a bathrobe while covered in a giant warm fuzzy blanket. I loved basking in the sun, surrounded by trees and snow.
Some quick observations:
I loved wandering around outside in a bathrobe and bathing suit in the middle of winter. I love the outdoors and I’m almost always happier in the sun.
I’m so glad it was a silent place. I realize that I’m quiet anyway but I was so glad I didn’t have to listen to other people’s conversations. I found that really relaxing. I didn’t mind the other people there with everything quiet.
There are a lot of beautiful bodies out there. But it’s mostly the women who are on display. That’s no surprise but I forget that sometimes. I saw a lot of women in thong bathing suits with men in baggy board shorts. What’s with that?
I loved the idea of swimming in the river in the freezing cold water between hot things but I couldn’t make myself do it. Instead I settled for the cold bucket of water over the head a couple of times. That actually felt pretty refreshing.