Ink Online wrote about Winter cycling, and who was someone they thought of when they were thinking about bikes in Regina? Me!
“I put on my ski pants and I feel invincible,” said John Klein, an avid cyclist in Regina.
Klein throws on a tuque before buckling on his helmet over top, grabs his coat, puts on his gloves, ties his scarf, pulls on his ski pants, jumps on his bike and starts pedaling – slowly. Cycling in the winter in Regina isn’t easy.
“Go slow and stay slow if you don’t know what the road conditions are,” Klein said.
He sticks to the cleared sidewalks or wherever snow is packed enough to ride over. Sometimes, if the sidewalks haven’t been shoveled in residential areas, he ends up walking his bike.
“If you go through deep snow, even like half a foot, then you end up slogging through it and it feels like skiing,” he said.
While cycling, he slows down at intersections, jumping off his bike to cross when traffic is heavy.
Klein’s commutes tend to be within 15 minutes, so he can handle the cold when he bikes during the winter.
“Usually, I’m cycling out of necessity, because I don’t have a car at home typically, and if the bus won’t get me there on time,” said Klein.
Because cycling in the winter isn’t the easiest, it definitely requires preparation. Before leaving, Klein always prepares his route. In the winter this is even more important, considering the amount of snow that could be covering pathways and lanes.
There are different options available to make cycling easier in the winter. Studded tires have more traction for the ice and snow.
“As soon as you take a turn or you’re in a rough patch, (there’s a) way higher chance of losing control and causing a crash (not having studded tires),” said Dane Stennes, the bicycle department manager at Western Cycle Source for Sports.
Another option gaining popularity are fat bikes, a purpose-built bike with tires that are about 4 to 5 inches wide –about double the size of the average tire for a mountain bike. They can ride in deeper snow than a normal bicycle. The large tires act like snowshoes for the bike.
There are even special gloves made for cyclists called bar mitts. These pocket-like mitts attach to bike handles so cyclists can easily brake and shift, and still wear lighter mittens inside them.
Bikes also take a bigger beating in the winter. A thicker lube for the chain is good, because it won’t wash off as easily from the melting snow. Stennes said it’s especially important to pay more attention to bike maintenance in the winter. Taking the time to clean and dry the bike after riding can be huge in preventing rust.
Stennes said the majority of people biking in the winter are urban commuters, going to work. Other than winterizing their bikes and staying warm, one of their biggest challenges is sharing the road with other drivers, because of the amount of snow.
Clearing that snow often follows a different schedule than commuters. The City of Regina puts the city’s bike lanes into three categories. Category 1 includes McCarthy Boulevard and Wascana Parkway. These roads get cleared within 24 hours of a storm event. Category 2 consists of Assiniboine Avenue that is ploughed within 36 hours. Lorne and Smith Street are Category 3 lanes; they are ploughed within 48 hours of a storm event.
Not all park pathways are cleared in Regina. Multi-use pathways, such as along the storm channels through Harbour Landing, high-use pathways and paths that connect to multi-use pathways are cleared weekdays after a snowfall, though.
But, for Stennes, riding his bike in the winter mornings can be a great start to his day.
“It’s kind of fun. It’s definitely refreshing to get out and leave the car at home and start the day outside with some fresh air,” he said.
And, considering how long people warm up their vehicles in the winter, cycling can save time and is better for the environment, Klein said.
“(People) use the words, ‘You’re crazy’ or, ‘That’s crazy’ to describe winter cycling. And, it really isn’t crazy – actually, much less crazy than pushing a button to run a gasoline engine for 10 minutes when you’re not even in the vehicle going anywhere,” he said. “Winter cycling doesn’t kill the earth.”