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Winter Biking

No point having a soap box if you don't use if occasionally.  And no fun always talking about the same thing, so let's take a diversion:  winter biking.

Some of you may know that I cycle to work.  Some of you know that I do that all year round – regardless of the weather.  I love hearing you say “that's quite impressive of you” while your face is saying “really?  no.  really?  You can't be serious.  Are you off your rocker?”.  Some of you hide it better than others.

Your knee-jerk reaction to the idea is both correct and wrong.

For starters, it's not as bad as it sounds.  You don't just suddenly start biking at -20C.  You adjust to it all fall.  

You don't wear as much warm clothing as you might think.  I wear rain gear on top of my work clothes.  Not a winter coat!  If you wear anything more you will get too hot.  This way, you can bike and never sweat.  Sweet!  Then cover the extremeties. I wear good gloves and boots.  I tape over the front vents on my helmet for the winter, wear a headband, sun or clear glasses.  On a really cold day, I wear a face mask (though the beard does a pretty good job).  I do carry a fleece in case I need to be outside and I am not biking.

You don't bike as quickly.  This reduces the amount of self-induced wind-chill, and if you drive to the road condition, you just can't go bombing along.  

On ice, don't touch the brakes and don't try to turn until you cross it.  Unless you buy studded tires.  Technically illegal in Ontario for cars, they are available for bikes.  And then you have some grip.  They won't stop you from being stupid.

Avoid main roads unless they are well cleared.  It's not fair to the cars, and you won't be comfortable if they are not fully cleared.  Take a back route and everyone is happier.  You aren't biking because it is the fastest way around (except for during a blizzard, then the cars get snarled with accidents and you just bike around them.  I have some good stories along this line).  And if you don't feel comfortable, the sidewalk is always there for you.

A fresh snow fall can be really nice to bike on.  And really slow.  Your bike is compacting the snow as you go along.  You are basically “climbing” the snow.  This is the only place where I think you can honestly say you are going uphill both ways.  And if a car has already compacted the snow, you may find it shearing out from under you and you are, somehow, automatically adjusting.  I figure I will be driving a 3-wheel bike in the winter by the time I retire.  I don't see how the balance lasts forever.

And the most surprising thing.  I don't do this alone.  At least two others here a PeaceWorks bike all year round too.  And I meet a number of others in my travels – not just students with no money.  We must be some alternate version of “there's a sucker born every minute”.  Come and join us.

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