I’m loving the warmer weather but….

……where did the path go?

I seem to be doing a lot of this lately.

  The snow is melting fast in Edmonton and leaving behind creeks and ponds of meltwater to cover the urban landscape. I’ve been riding through it for a few days now and this might be my least favourite part of cycling through the winter.  A soggy commute home is followed by morning icefields after the temperature drops overnight. My powertrain has been freezing up each night and was so bad Saturday morning that I had to bring the bike into the house and thaw the chain with a hairdryer. I guess I’ll have to bring it into the house overnight for the next while. I was chatting with a fellow at the farmer’s market yesterday who was riding a Trek Soho with an internally geared hub and belt drive. That seems like a pretty good idea right about now.

The Ballad of The Winter Cyclist

You cycle spring and summertime
and in the autumn, too
but as these three will not suffice
you ride the winter through.

On city streets and frozen lakes
and snowy singletrack.
Your bike and you can boldly go
and safely travel back.

There’s drifting snow or swamps of slush
or arctic winds outside.
But through it all without concern
the Winter Cyclist rides.

 You seldom see the sun at all.
You pedal in the dark.
With flashing lights, reflective stripes
you always will embark.

When asphalt’s but a memory,
and black ice lies in wait
buy studded tires or make your own
to be a real cheap skate.

If you wear prescription glasses
fogging is a trial.
Though you stop to scrape and wipe them,Toasty Warm!
it doesn’t last a mile.

If when you ride you underdress,
no colder can you get.
But if you overcompensate,
you’ll soon be soaked in sweat.

The mercury is plunging down
and frostbite nips your nose.
Balaclavas, goggles, pogies
will leave no skin exposed.

The weather shifts from hour to hour,
the forecast often lies.
But through it all quite unperturbed
the Winter Cyclist flies.

 When your freeheub freezes solid,
the ratchet sounds no clicks.My old commuting bike recomissioned as my winter bike.
To no avail you spin the cranks,
and wish you’d ridden fixed.

And if you switch to riding fixed,
the snow falls axle deep.
You sweat and strain to creep uphill,
for lost low gears you weep.

Perhaps you’ll try internal gears,
though greater weight you’ll lug.
Gears sealed away from sand and salt,
you’d roll on feeling smug.

Maintain your bike with vigilance,
the Winter months are hard.
Sand and salt are constant foes.
Against them you must guard.

To fix a chain or change a flat,
while crouching by the road,
with fingers numb and in the dark,
good cheer does soon erode.

The Winter months stretch endlessly,
the season takes its toll.
Yet through it all with firm resolve,
the Winter Cyclist rolls.

You see a car stuck in the snow,
to push it out takes three.
But if your bike should become stuck,
one hand can lift it free.

If first it thaws and then comes snow,
to quickly be packed down.
Lurking low, obsidian shoals
of ice will then abound.

You strive to keep your bike upright
and not fall to the street.
The cars that follow close behind
you do not wish to meet.

The ice extends for endless miles,
the hills are daunting slides.
But through it all without dismay
the Winter Cyclist glides

Now Winter fades and Spring returns.
You shed your winter clothes
to sup the Sun through longer days
and thaw your frozen toes.

You put away your Winter bike
though faithful it has been
and rip the roads on faster rides.
‘Round corners you careen.

But roads and paths seem duller trips.
Less challenge now than then.
So when the snows and ice return
the Winter Cyclist rides again.

Yes, when the snows and ice return
the Winter Cyclist rides again.


By Tuckamoredew
Edmonton, Alberta
March 2011

For helping me make it through my first winter of bike commuting I’d like to thank:
Icebike – The first website I found when I was considering winter riding.

The Raving Bike Fiend – for Winter Cycling 101

The folks at the Winter Cycling Forum for their collective winter wisdom.

The good volunteers at The Edmonton Bike Commuters shop for helping me keep a winter bike on the road.

The City of Edmonton for plowing the MUPs in a timely fashion (although next year maybe they could be sanded more promptly when they turn to ice)

Toasty Warm!

After my underdressing yesterday I busted out and field tested my extreme coldweather gear today. It was actually a bit warmer today (-26ºC)  but there was a stiff wind.This was particularly noticable  on the way home when I found myself cycling into a headwind that was resulting in a -34º Celsius windchill plus whatever I was generating by cycling. Today I felt like I was wearing a spacesuit: I was toasty warm.Toasty Warm!

At the beginning of the season I picked up a pair of  vintage ’80s ski pants (they are so VERY 80’s) at Value Village. I thought they would be helpful on the coldest days but I hadn’t used them yet as it turned out that even at -28ºC they were not necessary. After yesterdays brush with frostbite I put them to use today. I also dusted off an oversize set of boots that would fit three pairs of socks. Lastly I wore a 3M  half-mask respirator with all filters removed. I had tried to use this earlier in the winter but couldn’t make it work. This time I figured out an arrangement of scarf, stocking cap and balaclava that seemed like it would work. On the way to work I was a little overheated. On the way home it was perfect.  There was still a little problem with my glasses fogging up inside the ski-goggles but it cleared up part way through each ride.

Overall, a success and I think this photo alone is worth having rode through the winter.

Bad Clothing Choice

Today felt like the coldest ride of the year even though I have already been out at this temperature a couple of times. Perhaps the fact that it is the first of March made -28° Celsius seem colder. In any case, I inadvertently combined my lighter weight base layer with a slightly lighter weight pair of pants and it made a real difference. My legs were so cold that halfway through the ride I stopped to activate a handwarmer and press it against my legs for a while.  At the same time I tried to wipe the fog from my glasses only to find that it was actually a thick layer of ice. While trying to scrape it off I popped the lens out my glasses into the snow. When I decided to try riding through the winter this year I said I would stop if it wasn’t fun anymore. It came close this morning.

On the bright side, I finished repairing my winter bike today during lunch and was able to ride it home today.