Earlier this year, I took the plunge and started cycling to work, and it completely changed my daily commute. It was faster and cheaper than driving or taking transit, and fit in a solid 45 minutes of physical activity into my day.
Since the temperatures have dropped, I’ve put away my bike, but have recently come to learn that just because there’s snow on the ground that doesn’t mean that you need to pack up for the season.
After chatting with Becky Katz, Manager of Cycling & Pedestrian Projects for the City of Toronto, I’m reconsidering my cycling break and feeling brave enough to tough out the winter cold. Ahead, find her top tips and tricks for extending your cycling season throughout the fall and winter, and how to stay safe while doing it.
There’s no doubt that snow and ice can make it trickier for everyone to get moving in the winter, whether they’re in a car or a train, on a bike or even simply walking. To stay safe, remaining visible is key for everyone sharing the roads, particularly while it’s dark out.
“Safety is the responsibility of all people travelling. We recommend that people cycling stay visible and ensure they have a good pair of front and back lights especially since there's less daylight this time of year,” said Katz. “Go slow, especially when turning, and take the lane if there isn't a bike lane or cycle track. Stay lit, go slow and make yourself present.”
On route planning
It's important to consider your route carefully before heading out in order to plan out the safest way to get where you need to go. Katz recommends using bike maps or other online mapping tools to help chart out a route, and when it snows, to also check local plowing web apps to see which routes have been plowed. Many bike routes on major roads are salted and plowed at the same time as the road, meaning you’ll be able to ride safely.
On maintaining your bike through the season
The salt and snow can be hard on bicycles, so if you can, keep your bicycle inside, Katz recommends. “If you can't keep your bicycle inside, wiping your bike down with a rag regularly during the winter helps. We also suggest bringing it in to a local bike shop or DIY/co-op bike repair shop for tune ups.”
On cycle modifications
There are several bicycle modifications that can make winter riding easier. Katz suggests investing in snow tires, which are pricey but worth it if you plan to cycle every day. Snow or studded tires grip the road better, and reduce slipping and sliding for a safer commute.
“If you don't have fenders, winter would be a good time to upgrade to keep you drier, and again, a great pair of front and back lights are essential for the longer nights,” she shared.
On staying warm
“You don't need fancy gear to cycle through the winter, but you do need lots of layers!” says Katz. Things like warm socks, gloves that still allow you to ring your bell when needed, a warm hat and face cover, wool long sleeve shirts and pants to wear under other heavier clothing can all make your winter cycling more comfortable in the cold. If it's very slushy, rain pants, which are not too expensive, are a real life-saver.
On a final note, Katz suggests checking out your local organizations and businesses that host various cycling events and workshops in your area. Cycle Toronto, HUB Cycling, and Ça roule Montréal are all great examples of active organizations that welcome all cyclists.
Read to gear up for winter? Shop a selection of winter cycling must-haves below to stay warm on your next ride.
SHOP IT: Lululemon, $24
SHOP IT: The North Face, $110
SHOP IT: Amazon, $19
SHOP IT: Hudson’s Bay, $14 (originally $20)
SHOP IT: Outdoor Voices, $86 (US$65)
SHOP IT: Sport Chek, $60 (originally $90)
SHOP IT: Amazon, $11