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No, Winter Cyclists Are Not Crazy

A lot of people think that cyclists who bike in the winter must be crazy.  But are they?  Are they really?

A BlogTO columnist tried to answer this question earlier this week by posting a story named “Do You Have to Be Crazy to Ride Your Bike In The Winter?” so you’d think they’d actually try winter cycling (like Catherine Porter of the Star did with Yvonne Bambrick of the Bike Union), but instead they just asked a few people at a U of T BikeChain workshop why they bike in the winter.

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Photo by Tom Cardoso for the Varsity

The Varsity reported on the BikeChain workshop, with a great list (expanded on the Varsity site) with what you need to pay attention to if you want to bike when it’s cold and frosty out:

  1. Regular tires are fine.
  2. Some days are too cold.
  3. Ride it out.
  4. Avoid splashing.
  5. Be prepared to hit the ground.
  6. Dress appropriately.
  7. Be good to your bike.

In my opinion, the list shows that you don’t have to be crazy to bike in the winter in Toronto… you just have to be very prepared.

  • leckyf

    Okay, maybe you don’t have to be crazy to ride your bike in the winter but clearly, it sure helps! I put my bike away in early December and have had many a cyclist say to me: “You’re not a real cyclist” which is elitist crap. I think, at the end of the day, most of us ride our bikes not because we have to or want to but because we love/enjoy it. And I don’t enjoy freezing my ass off, risking death, freezing my ass off, getting splashed, freezing my ass off, falling down etc.

    But am I a real cyclist, you bet my freezing ass I am!

  • I agree with you Frank. If a cyclist makes the decision that they don’t want to bike in the winter time, then that’s their choice.

    Any cyclist who thinks another cyclist is somehow “not a real cyclist” because of not biking in winter is clearly misguided and narrow-minded.

    The sooner everyone who loves bikes realizes that we are *all* cyclists – whether we ride all year or not, ride for fun or commuting or racing, or bike in conjunction with another mode of travel, the better. :)

  • misslynx

    Can’t we find some kind of sane middle ground between “winter cyclists are crazy” and “people who don’t ride in winter aren’t real cyclists”

    It’s every individual’s decision under what circumstances they feel comfortable riding, whether we’re talking about winter, rain, downtown traffic, or whatever. Everyone has different levels of skill, experience, confidence, fitness, comfort with various road conditions, etc., so why expect there to be a one-size-fits-all answer?

    For what it’s worth, this is the first winter I’ve tried riding – before, I switched to TTC as soon as it started getting cold. And really, thus far I’ve found it surprisingly easy. Everyone seems to assume that winter cycling must inevitably involve dealing with tons of snow and ice, but really, look around you – the roads in Toronto are usually pretty clear for a lot of the winter, which makes cycling on them not much different than in the fall or spring except that you need to wear another layer or two.

    And you don’t need a ton of special equipment – I did splurge this year on a pair of warm winter cycling tights from MEC, which are nice, but plenty of people I know just wear jeans with a pair of longer underwear under them. On the top half, I usually just wear a windbreaker over a cotton hoodie – and even with that, I sometimes get overheated if it’s anything warmer than -10 or so. I do wrap a scarf around my face if it’s much below zero, but that’s pretty much it for preparations. It doesn’t take long to get ready at all, and it’s perfectly pleasant once you’re out there.

    One thing people often don’t seem to realize is that winter cycling isn’t an all or nothing thing – it’s not like you have to either give up cycling for the winter entirely, or stick out every day all winter long regardless of the weather or the road conditions. I very much doubt I’m going to ride during snowstorms, or any time the roads are really messy, but that still leaves a whole lot of winter days with relatively clean and easily navigable roads. Each to their own comfort level.

    It just seems like a lot of people have an almost irrational fear of riding in the winter, when in reality, if they gave it a try (at a time when the roads aren’t bad) they’d probably find it’s really no big deal. But each to their own – I’m not about to declare anyone “not a real cyclist”. Most of the people who make that kind of judgment wouldn’t consider me a “real cyclist” either because I got my bike at Canadian Tire, but it works for me.

  • I think that for many, *perception* of what winter cycling is stops a lot of people from riding when as we all pointed out, there are days where it’s hardly different at all except for a few extra clothes.

    Winter or summer, I think somehow *perceptions* are what we have to manage. When I first moved here 6 years ago I saw cyclists on the streets and thought they were absolutely insane and vowed that I would never do that. After starting to ride on the street, I vowed that I would never be like those crazy people who rode in the winter. In both cases I found my perceptions were vastly different than the reality.

    The idea that you can’t ride in the winter for the cold, can’t ride in the summer because of the danger, and that no cyclists obey traffic laws – if these perceptions were to changed, I suspect we’d see more ridership and support on the streets…

  • Great points guys.

    Most of the winter *is* very pleasant to bike in and not-too-cold and the roads are almost always clear.

    Getting somewhere when it’s a little colder often gives me a greater sense of accomplishment too. :)


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