Winter Biking Tips – Facing the Cold

This is my fourth year riding a bike in the winter.

It’s particularly challenging because I live in Canada, where it happens to be cold for a significant part of the year. And it snows. A lot!

According to Weather Spark, the cold season in my area starts on December 3 and lasts for nearly 14 weeks. That’s just over three months where the average daily high temperature is below 2°C.

I used to think that people who cycled in the winter had fallen off their bike one too many times. Imagine my surprise at discovering  how a couple of practical tips made winter cycling practical, fun and nearly pleasant.

The most important tip came from my cat.

Although covered by warm fur, my cat hates the cold. She’s magnetically attracted to any heat source, sticking her face as close as possible to maximize the pleasure. I’m told that part of the reason for this behaviour is due to the large number of heat receptors on a cat’s face.

Similarly, I found that by keeping my face warm, I could fool my entire body into thinking I was still indoors!

2008_Zan_Headgear_Nylon_Balaclava_BlackMy single best investment in winter biking was a simple balaclava.  It’s thin, breathable, and fits nicely under a helmet.  For about $20, It’s by far the best motivator for a cold weather transition from sofa to bicycle.  At the same time, it adds a little ninja fashion to the biking wardrobe while creating a little more hesitation in the mind of an aggressive car driver who may be thinking of burying you in the next snowbank.

I’ll share some more insights about my winter biking experiences in the weeks to come.. but now it’s time to don my balaclava and enjoy the snow while looking over my handlebars.  I’m hoping these tips will encourage you to join me in being bold in the cold!

5 thoughts on “Winter Biking Tips – Facing the Cold

  1. Good tips Howard! I use a balaclava too. I also love riding with ski goggles. They do a great job of keeping the wind out of my eyes.

  2. I do as much biking in the summer as I can. Your article was informative and humorous. I admire your commitment for winter biking. I am hesitant due to the cold and also the lack of traction within the snow. When there is a lot of snow on the road, do you find it difficult to keep your balance?

    1. Thanks for your note Brian. Biking with snow or slush on the ground does prove to be challenging. Whether you’re riding a bike or driving a car in these conditions, you should adjust your writing style to compensate for the conditions. Riding in winter does not mean you need to be out in the most horrific conditions, surprisingly there are quite a few “dry road days” between snowfall periods.

  3. Cycle on. I’ve been off and on my bike this winter since I don’t have tire studs yet. My partner does. But rather than bash myself, I just celebrate the days that I do cycle out…as shown in my latest blog post. :)

    Happy new year of the horse 2014: how appropriate for cyclists!

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