Get ready for the Coldest Day of the Year Ride

We're counting down to our Annual Coldest Day of the Year Ride on Saturday, February 2, 2019!

What better way to build momentum than to feature Toronto riders who commute by bike year-round - regardless of the weather?

Derek Rayside, Stephanie Xie, and their two children might be a familiar sight: and we're sure we're not the only ones envious of their unique and practical family bike! Read on to find out how they navigate the city on two wheels throughout the year - including to the hockey rink, kung fu classes, and even Costco runs.

Photo: Yvonne Bambrick

Tell us about your typical commute.

We use our family tandem for family activities: taking the kids to skating/hockey, kung fu, groceries, movies, museums, parties, Chinatown, Canadian Tire, etc. We mostly ride in the separated bike lanes on Queens Quay (Martin Goodman Trail), Richmond, Adelaide, Simcoe, and Sherbourne. We also sometimes ride the Martin Goodman Trail farther east to Leslieville or The Beaches, or farther west to Costco in Etobicoke [read this article to find out how they transport a Costco haul].

Why do you ride in the winter?

Because family activity goes all year. Children don’t hibernate.

Photo: Yvonne Bambrick

Do the routes you take change in the winter?

Our weekly routines are the same. Some of the less frequent trips might be modified. For example, this winter there is only so far east or west that we can go on the Martin Goodman Trail. When we rode 10km through the snow to a holiday party in The Beaches, we had to divert north to Queen St around Woodbine: the trail wasn’t fully cleared east of Woodbine. Also, this winter we are not riding to Costco in Etobicoke because of construction on the Martin Goodman Trail west of the Humber River. That construction requires pedestrians and cyclists to detour on a little mud path in the rocks. We rode that detour in summer and fall, but won’t attempt it in winter. The bike lanes are properly maintained downtown, which is where our regular routine activities are, so those don’t change.

Photo: Derek Rayside

What’s one tip you’d share with someone new to winter biking?

The corner of a hockey arena, in between your kid’s shifts on the ice, is a good time and place to clean the crud off your bike.

Top winter riding accessory?

Balaclava. Goggles below -10C.

Best spot to warm up after a chilly ride?

Hockey rink.

What’s one myth you’d like to dispel about winter biking?

Inclement weather is not as much of a problem as you might think. In each of our first two winters riding, there was one day when I chickened out and borrowed a car. In both cases I learned that we would have been better off riding.

The first time it was a cold and rainy day in January. What I learned on that day is that you will get just as wet walking from the car parking spot to your destination as you will on the bike for the entire ride. And I spent $25 on parking. And driving in the rain sucks. Get your gear on and ride.

The next year there was a particularly snowy February day when I chickened out. Turned out that the bike lanes were totally clear, whereas the road was covered in snow. We would have gotten to the rink faster on the bike.

This winter I have learned from these experiences, and we just get on the bike. One day this winter I forgot my goggles when it was -20C, and that was cold. My son had his goggles, and he didn’t have any trouble. Remember your goggles.

Photo: Yvonne Bambrick

Have you visited a true winter cycling city? How did it feel to ride there? What can Toronto learn from it?

I haven’t had the good fortune to cycle in another city during winter. But I did learn a lot from a great article in Torontoist about what Toronto can learn from Oulu, Finland, where 27% of residents ride year round. The most important thing is for the city to have proper infrastructure and maintain it. Our lives reflect that: we happen to live in a neighbourhood with separated bike lanes that are plowed and salted in winter, so we can keep riding without worry. If the city built and maintained this infrastructure elsewhere in the city, then other families could ride. For example, even in Don Mills the distances for family life are bikeable. What North York is missing is separated and maintained bike lanes.

Photo: Derek Rayside

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Inspired by this family's approach to biking in all weathers? Join us for our annual Coldest Day of the Year Ride on Saturday, February 2 - it's the perfect opportunity to build confidence riding in colder weather and pick up a few tips from fellow riders - maybe even find out how to build or source a custom bike that suits your lifestyle.

 

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