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.
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.
Image 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!