Photos by Sarah Greene
What do you use when you bike in the winter?
First, tires. I started using studs several years ago. When studded tires get old, some of the studs drop out when braking hard. Studs may work their way through the tire casing and cause punctures.
A few years ago, after being forced to retire my previous winter bike, a 30-year-old Raleigh, I tried a bike specially made for winter, a Garneau Sub-Zero. This is what I still use in foul weather. It has ‘cam and roller’ brakes which work in wet weather, and a 7-speed internal-gear hub. It can be had with studded tires. It is also a heavy bike. With the gear and rear brake cables attached to the rear hub, it is a major chore to change the rear tire. I get around this problem by using tires with high puncture resistance. The chain and gears can get severely worn after a couple of years, increasing the chances of the chain coming off. This may damage part of the gearshift mechanism called the ‘cassette joint’, which in my experience seems to be quite fragile. I continue to use the Garneau Sub-Zero because in spite of these drawbacks, it is still worthy of the name ‘bicycle’.
For clothing, I wear layers. Last winter I bought a Gore Bike Wear jacket, which is convenient because it reduces the number of layers I have to wear, and reduces the time spent getting dressed. It is warm but not waterproof. I wear double gloves. When using Neoprene boots over my cycling shoes, I use toe clips and straps instead of clipless pedals because I do not like to cut holes in soles of the Neoprene boots. This can lead to snow getting into the boots and collecting around the toes of the shoes.
I also wear nylon gaiters which keep the slush off the bottoms of my pants. These are useful for other winter activities. I also use a pair of Exustar winter cycling shoes. I bought them one size larger so I can use really thick socks.
I wear a fleece helmet liner when temperatures go below -5 Celsius. Being a male, I grow a full beard starting in November. This avoids the need for a balaclava. I have survived cycling in temperatures as low as -20 Celsius. Arriving at work with my beard encrusted with ice gives me a macho feeling. And I never have to scrape my windshield.
Why is biking still the best way to go in wintertime?
Cycling is the best way to go in winter for the same reason it is the best way at any other time of year. It’s fun, economical, self-sufficient, and environmentally friendly.
Douglas Yardley is a 61-year old factory worker, and volunteer for various causes. He graduated from U of T in 1975 and has been biking through the winter for about 14 years.
A maintenance tip from Yardley: “When using clipless pedals, it is a very good idea to check the cleat screws every week to prevent them from seizing. Once the screws seize you will be stuck with either worn cleats that cannot be replaced, or worn shoes from which the cleats cannot be salvaged.”
View all of our self-submitted Winter Bike Spotting profiles here.
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