Cycling: not just a summer activity
How to stay warm and safe while biking this winter
Just because there’s ice and snow on the ground, doesn’t mean cycling has to stop. Many people choose to bike year-round, but this icy activity comes with precautions from Garry Millard, president of Bike Calgary. Millard advises preparing for any problems that winter cyclists might face, before hitting the road.
With winter comes less hours of sunlight, making lighting an essential part of cycling. Lighting technology for bikes has become affordable and good quality. One option is USB rechargeable lighting, which is affordable and fairly common in stores, and use batteries with long-lasting power.
Being active generates a fair amount of body heat, even in the cold, so the main focus should be protecting the hands and feet. Most year-round cyclists enjoy other winter sports and activities such as skiing, and staying warm is more important than having “specialized” gear for each sport. So, use a ski helmet and goggles, and warm gloves – whatever warm gear you already own. Of course, bar mitts and cold-weather cycling shoes, or shoe covers, are good options, but these items are fairly pricey.
When biking on the snow and ice, it’s important to take the necessary precautions to stay upright, and get from point A to point B safely. There are two main ways to accomplish this: studded tires and fat bikes. Studded tires are fairly affordable and accessible. Fat bikes are used year round, and work well in snowy conditions around town. Or there’s always the option to add studded tires to a fat bike.
4 Backup plan
Like any sport, you need to plan for complications: mechanical issues, flat tires, and extreme weather. In case biking isn’t a good option, plan an alternative transit route, have a friend to call, or add a phone number for a taxi service to your contacts – taxis often provide bike racks. Sometimes it’s better to get to your destination first, instead of attempting to fix a bike on a tight schedule or in freezing weather. Carrying a light bike lock is also a good option, in case you need to leave your bike somewhere for a day. There are many solutions if cycling becomes a bad choice, and breaking down is a less daunting fate if you’re always prepared.