Winter Cycling

Winter Cycling

Posted on 13. Jan, 2010 by in Transportation

I must admit I don’t have to deal with extreme winter cycling conditions all too often. There are some advantages to living in the desert, after all. However, I am endlessly impressed by those who do ride all winter through the snow, freezing temperatures, and other runny-nose-inducing weather conditions. Hence, I have decided to write a short winter cycling post from my little haven here in the desert. And this summer, when the mercury rises into the 100′s and the sun nearly wilts even the toughest utility cyclists of the desert, I will do a summer cycling post! Header image source – Torontoist.

Winter Cycling Inspiration

My inspiration for writing this post came from the prolific Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagenize and Copenhagen Cycle Chic. The video below, from Copenhagenize, shows people riding through the snow in freshly plowed and well-trafficked bike lanes. A desert rat such as myself definitely views said people as “hardcore”, but it should be noted that, in Copenhagen, 80% of people who use a bicycle for transportation, continue to bicycle in the winter.

Copenhagen January Cycling – Your Country from Copenhagenize on Vimeo.

I guess “hardcore” is all a matter of context. Riding in the winter can become manageable, commonplace, and even *gasp* enjoyable after one gets over the initial “shock” of doing it and/or resistance to the idea. The same notion could be applied to bicycling for transportation, in general, I suppose.

Winter Cycling Infrastructure

Then again, it should come as no surprise that Copenhageners continue to ride their bicycles throughout the winter, due in part to the simple fact that they are able to ride their bicycles throughout the winter. Copenhagen’s all-weather bike infrastructure certainly provides a much more pleasant winter cycling experience than one can find in many other places; not to mention, a bike-friendly vibe throughout the year. As you might note in the video above, there are bike-lane specific plows to clear the paths, which makes them safer and more usable throughout the winter. A bike path that ends up being a repository for the snow cleared from the street, such as the one below, is certainly not conducive to winter cycling.

bike-lane-buried-snowImage source: Treehugger.

Copenhagen is certainly not the only city in the world to provide winter cycling friendly infrastructure. As this video of riding to the ice rink demonstrates, the Netherlands is also a good place to ride throughout the winter, despite cold temperatures and snow. What about the city where you live? Is winter cycling possible there?

In many ways, the challenge of bicycle commuting in the winter is much the same as the challenge of bicycle commuting any other time of the year. Bicycle infrastructure is hugely important for encouraging and facilitating bicycle use. Weather conditions can be dealt with, runny noses can be blown (I recommend the farmer’s method myself), and cold digits can be kept warm, but little of this is likely to happen when there is no bicycle-friendly environment in which to ride. This applies to summer, winter, and all seasons.

Winter Cycling Tips & Resources

Now that I’ve said my bit about the importance of infrastructure for winter cycling, it should be acknowledged that winter cycling is a bit more of a process than cycling when the weather is not so dreary. Simply getting dressed and undressed for your ride can take up more time than you might imagine! You might have to alter your traditional route(s) slightly, depending on the winter-time conditions of the roads you frequent. And you are certainly going to have to take better care of your bicycle when it gets wet, gritty, and cold. Treehugger recently posted some winter cycling inspired articles that can be of use, including How to Cycling in Winter and 42 Tips To Help You Ride Your Bike All Winter.

There are also plenty of winter bicycle riders who provide great advice and tips for winter cycling on the Interwebs. I’ve listed off a few of my favorites below. If have missed any, please let me know in the comments.

And then, of course, there is this fellow…I just couldn’t resist the urge to post this again, especially in a winter cycling post!

8 Responses to “Winter Cycling”

  1. Lauren

    25. Jan, 2010

    Another website/blog is icebike.org. It borders on the crazy edge of recreational cycling sometimes, but still has useful info on winter biking (including some intense calculations on wind/resistance/traction!). It’s a good resource for those of us that bike through the chaos and joy that is winter in Minnesota, etc.

  2. Melanie Meyers

    29. Jan, 2010

    That’s a great site! Thanks for the tip, Lauren. Good luck braving the cold up in Minnesota!

  3. Brian M

    31. Jan, 2010

    Riding to work earlier in the week in New Jersey, USA. Digital clock at the bank on the corner said 18 degrees F.

    I love reading articles like this as after several years of really riding I’m still finally getting the knack of adjusting to winter conditions, what works and doesn’t in terms of being too cold or warm. What works for a fast Sunday road ride is not going to work for commuting around town or to work. Nevertheless, keep this stuff up guys, it is helpful even to those of us who do ride in winter, as you can always learn something!
    Myself, when riding in falling snow or cold temperatures, my coworkers thought I was daft, but the joke is on them; I have more fun on my commute.

    And no gas.

    And no parking fees,

    Plus, I get to suit up like an astronaut.
    - Brian M

  4. Melanie Meyers

    01. Feb, 2010

    Hi Brian,

    Fantastic! I’m glad to hear you found the post useful, even as a winter cyclist. I have the utmost respect for you – riding to work at 18 degrees sounds cold, but also exhilarating and fun! Keep it up and have fun out there. Thanks for the comment.

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