Posted by: Stephanie Davis
Have you ever wondered how to prolong your biking season?
We at the Enviro Crew OOS have been thinking about this a lot, especially now that some of us are back in the office and remembering how much we dislike commuting by car. Bicycle ownership skyrocketed during the pandemic and it seems unfair to stop reaping the benefits of riding just because we live in a city with four distinct seasons.
Winter cycling is commonplace is many Scandinavian cities with similar climates to Ottawa and, while not as ubiquitous, Ottawa does have over 50km of maintained winter cycling infrastructure. This includes cycle lanes, multi-use pathways, and raised cycle tracks which are plowed regularly.
Enviro Crew went to a local bike shop, Tall Tree Cycles, to get a better understanding of what we would need to do to either keep biking later into the fall or bike all through winter. The following is an abbreviated version of what we learned. Think of it as us asking all the intro questions so you don’t have to!
If you are planning on biking throughout the winter, your options are to get a second bike or to convert your regular bike for winter use. Usually, winter bikes are single speed. The less moving parts the better!
If you do get a second bike it makes sense to get something used and inexpensive as the salt will unfortunately degrade it over time. Steel frames are preferable to aluminium, which can corrode and crack. If you choose to convert your regular bike, you can remove the gear cluster, derailleur and replace the back wheel, making it single speed.
With either a second bike or converting your regular bike, you may also want to consider studded tires to maximize your grip. In terms of maintenance, washing your bike at least monthly, focussing on getting the salt off the chain and using a bit of WD40, is enough to get you through the season. Tall Tree Cycles does offer a winter preparation service that uses grease for extreme cold which will offer added protection against the salt and prevent seizing in cold temperatures.
When biking in winter riders should avoid accelerating or stopping too quickly. Pedalling too hard or braking too fast will induce a skid. As with driving in bad winter conditions, slow, smooth and steady is the way to go.
In terms of your own warmth, the number one recommendation is to get some bar mitts. These slide over the handle bars and keep the rider’s hands warm while enabling them to reach the gears and brakes with ease. Both the folks at Tall Tree Cycles and several other winter cyclists we have spoken to said this is a complete game-changer in terms of maintaining warmth.
If you are looking at simply elongating your season into the fall, the top recommendations are to get fenders, studded tires and bar mitts.
If you are interested in learning more about fall/winter cycling, the OOS Enviro Crew will also be holding an in-person informational event on Sunday, October 23, 2022 from 1-3pm at Brewer Park. We have recruited several OOS winter bikers to share their tips and expertise. Please watch the OOS Enviro Crew Facebook page for details and contact us at envirocrewOOS@gmail.com if you would like to participate as a winter biking expert. Happy riding!
Stephanie Davis is a resident of Old Ottawa South and member of the Enviro Crew.
Featured in the October 2022 OSCAR.