Who Says You Can’t Ride Your Bike in the Winter?

Get a Workout and Commute on the Cheap With Winter Biking

  • Photo Brandon Johnston

In winters as cold and snow-heavy as Montreal, popular opinion would have you believe biking is a rather dangerous activity this time of year.

Allégo Concordia says not so fast.

The Concordia-based working group, whose mission is to promote cycling and public transit over driving, organized a free workshop with artist and cyclist Cam Novak on Jan. 9 to help students learn everything there is to know about winter biking—primarily, that it’s more accessible than you think.

According to Novak, the most important thing when biking in the winter is to know your limits.

With proper equipment and attire, the cold weather is only an extra challenge to the workout.

“I know more people who’ve gotten hurt by falling on their ass than by biking in the winter,” said Novak.

Novak added that aside from being a good workout and means of transportation, cycling in any season is a way to be in control.

If you want to take a break, you take a break. If you want to go fast, you pedal faster. As Novak explains, cycling is a way for him to be in control over his body and mind.

“I took the metro not too long ago and as I looked around, all I could see was advertisements covering the walls and TV screens,” said Novak. “On my bike, I feel complete freedom.”

In the summer like in the winter, cycling is a custom experience. It all depends on the setting, the equipment and the weather.

“Do your research, and you will find what is best for you,” says Novak.

Raphael Pellerin, a cyclist and employee at Montreal delivery company Courrier Rapide, explained that there are so many bicycle delivery services in the city because it’s the quickest way to get around the island.

Pellerin also explained that cycling in the winter is not more dangerous than in the summer, the risks are simply different.

In the winter there are more people on the sidewalks and jaywalking, in addition to more cars on the streets.

In the summer people are also generally less concentrated on the roads.

“I’ve had two accidents, and both happened during the summer,” said Pellerin who’s been cycling on a daily basis for over four years.

Ultimately, biking in the winter may not be for everyone—but don’t knock it before you try it. You just might ditch that Opus card.

Useful tips for winter cycling:
• Use a bike you don’t mind beating up
• Add knobs on your tires (especially in the front)
• Do regular maintenance on your bike
• Stick to bike-friendly neighbourhoods (Westmount, the Plateau, N.D.G., Verdun, etc.)
• Stick to the main streets because there are fewer cars in the winter
• Don’t get too close to parked cars
• Use your back brake more than your front brake
• Make turns more slowly and more upright
• Be confident on the road—you have as much right to be there as motorists
• Avoid the urge to overdress
• Wear thermal underwear
• Waterproof pants and jacket are a must
• Wear goggles and/or sun glasses
• Wear insulated and waterproof boots
• Most importantly, WEAR A HELMET!

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