Winter cycling as an everyday option

As an avid cyclist in the spring, summer and fall, I never seriously thought about winter cycling. 

However, after seeing what I would consider hardcore cyclists battling snow and sleet, and facing the same weather-related traffic snarls as their car counterparts, I sat down with a handful of Edmonton cyclists who use this form of transportation all year long.

This is part two in a two-part series, featuring two more Edmonton cyclists, Marianne Shalewa and Adam Bentley.  Read part one in the series.

Marianne Shalewa winter cycling

Marianne Shalewa. Photo provided.

Marianne Shalewa, YEG Road Girls founder
You can follow Marianne on her bike trip from Tofino, B.C., to St. John’s, N.L., by following her on Twitter at @MnMExploreCAN. Her journey to ride 8,233 km starts on June 1, 2016. 

Are you from Edmonton? If not, where are you from?  I am from Edmonton, but have lived across Canada coast to coast.

When did you first start winter cycling? I started winter cycling when I started working after university, to commute to work.

What prompted you to try winter cycling? I didn’t want to drive in the winter or take the bus.

What do you like or dislike about winter cycling? I love having an excuse to be outside every day. I don’t like the in between seasons when it isn’t really winter yet or any more, just slush season. Not so fun to ride in.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about winter cycling? That it’s cold. You warm up riding quickly.

What are some funny encounters you have had as a winter cyclist? People [are] shocked to hear a bell in the winter on multi-use trails.

What are some scary encounters you have had as a winter cyclist? I have wiped out on the road and was afraid I would get smoked by a car.

For someone who has never done any winter cycling before, what would you advise? Go slow. Use a big gear for more traction. Dress for the wind. Keep your hands, feet and face warm.

What would you say are the key differences between summer and winter cycling? Layers. You wear a lot more layers and go slower.

Why do you choose to winter cycle? It gets me outside every day and keeps me fit during the winter to prepare for summer riding.

How would you describe the winter cycling community in Edmonton? Pretty chill and supportive of each other.

Can you talk a bit about the equipment that’s required for winter cycling? Studded winter tires. Layers like you would wear for any winter activity. Good lighting to be seen and be able to see during the darker months.

How often do you winter cycle? Every day.

What are the distances you typically ride? Between six to 20 kilometres.

YEG Road Girls on Facebook.  Photo provided.

YEG Road Girls on Facebook. Photo provided.

What are the benefits you see to winter cycling? Keeps you moving during the sluggish winter months, gets you outside [and] you see more every day from your bicycle.

What are your favourite routes for winter cycling? Anything [along the] river valley.

What motivated you to start the YEG Road Girls group on Facebook? I was motivated to bring female road cyclists together into one group to be able to ride together, as I felt we were all spread out throughout the city between many clubs. YEG Road Girls was a chance to have female cyclists come together to ride and train together, and to show how big our community has grown in Edmonton.

If you could spread one message about winter cycling, what would it be? Get out there and ride. Snow is fun to ride in. If you want to get outside more in the winter, just ride your bike!

 

Adam Bentley, the Everyday Cyclist

Are you from Edmonton? If not, where are you from? I have lived in Edmonton for four years. I am originally from Ottawa.

When did you first start winter cycling? November 2012.

What prompted you to try winter cycling? Winter cycling was still faster and cheaper than busing to work, and I want to stay fit in winter.

What do you like or dislike about winter cycling? I like the fact that it keeps me fit, and saves me money and time. I dislike that bike routes aren’t groomed for cyclists, and drivers don’t expect to see cyclists in winter [so] therefore are less likely to notice us [until] the last minute.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about winter cycling? That it’s dangerous, that it’s only for hardcore cyclists, that it’s only for young able-bodied men, that it’s just done by already-smug people looking to make others look bad.

What are some funny encounters you have had as a winter cyclist? I wear snow pants to protect my jeans when I bike to work. One time just after arriving, I pulled down my snow pants and a co-worker thought I was taking off my pants at my desk.

What are some scary encounters you have had as a winter cyclist? On one occasion at 106 Street and 84 Avenue, as I approached the intersection from 106 Street, a driver on 84 Avenue drove right in my path without stopping at the stop sign. Had I not slowed down, I would have hit her minivan. In another instance, a driver in the lane to my left almost ran me off the road as they changed lanes into my lane.

For someone who has never done any winter cycling before, what would you advise? Most important piece of advice is to install winter tires or fat tires. I would also recommend you install bike lights. My next important piece of advice is to bike cautiously on groomed trails before taking to the streets.

What would you say are the key differences between summer and winter cycling? Summer biking is usually dry and on paths with good ground conditions. Winter cycling means wearing more layers and expecting ever-changing trail or road conditions depending on the temperature, visibility and frequency of trail usage.

How would you describe the winter cycling community in Edmonton? I’m sure they are an active and supportive bunch. However I only personally know a few people who do it, including Chris Gusen and Sandra Gaherty. I’m not very active in winter cycling events or advocacy. However I’d like to be more active in the future.

Can you talk a bit about the equipment that’s required for winter cycling? The equipment I use to bike in winter, as opposed to summer, includes a winter jacket, a hat that fits under a helmet, snow pants, thick gloves, a scarf if the temperature is below -12°C, an inside layer of thin winter gloves if the temperature is below -10°C, winter tires, front and back lights, a second layer of thick socks if the temperature is below -15°C, and boots.

How often do you winter cycle? Four to five round trips per week.

What are the distances you typically ride? Three kilometres per trip, six kilometres per day, 25 to 30 kilometres per week.

What are your favourite routes for winter cycling? My favourite winter cycling routes are the groomed trails along the streetcar route and in Mill Creek Ravine.

If you could spread one message about winter cycling, what would it be? That any city with winter must clear streets with a comfortable standard for bikes as well as cars.