Coldest Day of the Year Ride Countdown
On a bracingly cold but sunny Thursday afternoon, we spotted Timna in between a busy day of meetings at CSI Spadina. Having grown up in Winnipeg, winters in Toronto are no big deal for this 365-day cyclist. Here are her top tips on choosing snow-free routes, dressing for comfort, and what to pack in your bag to warm up after riding.
Why do you ride in the winter?
It's the best way to get around! I go a bit more slowly in the winter, but it's still much faster than any other way to get around. Since the TTC is even more packed in the winter months, that's further incentive to keep biking. Using my own power to warm myself up, while getting somewhere at a good clip, is so much better than waiting in the cold for a streetcar that seems to never show up (or is completely full once it does show up)!
Do you adjust your usual routes in the winter?
Only on the more slippery days. Most days in the winter, the roads are actually totally fine to ride on. There are only a handful of days when there is fresh snow or after a thaw-and-freeze, when it's too slippery to take my regular routes (which usually involve side roads). On those few days, I will try to take main roads, as the higher volume of traffic on those roads means that they are less slippery. Slush is your friend as a cyclist, as long as you don't mind getting a little dirty!.
The Bloor Bike Lanes have been a godsend in that regard, as they are so well-maintained, ploughed and salted on those snowier/icier days and also beautifully separated from traffic; I usually try to make my way to Bloor on those days, and I thank my lucky stars we get to keep those bike lanes, while I'm riding safe and happy on them, avoiding the snow, the ice, and cars!
How does your riding change when the road conditions are less than ideal?
More traffic and lack of cycling infrastructure on those busy, main roads can mean other hazards, so I take them slowly and carefully, keeping my eyes on the cars around me, who may not be expecting me on the road with them.
What’s one tip you’d share with someone new to winter biking?
Bundle up! I wear long-johns over top of my pants (for easy removal upon arrival at my destination), and I wear ski goggles, with my scarf tucked into them; I don't feel a thing! So, essentially: you need to have NO SHAME in the name of comfort and warmth while you ride. It will make you a happier person. Also, putting some bike lube into your bike lock and, of course, on your chain, helps to avoid annoying freezing during winter-riding. If your bike lock does freeze, you can pour boiling water over it, but do not let it get into your lock (as that can freeze and make it worse); putting the bike lube into the lock is a good way to keep that loose during the winter*. If you need a winter bike tune-up, I would recommend visiting my friends at Curbside Cycle! (That's not a plug, I really do have friends there. And they're great).
*Cycle Toronto note: members get free de-icing and lock-cutting for those times when you just can’t free your bike.
Best spot to warm up after a chilly ride?
Anywhere! Thanks to the slippers I keep in my bag, I can warm up pretty quickly once I arrive at my destination. Biking itself is also a great way to warm up; I usually end up taking off a layer or two near the end of my trip any way! If you find your current winter commute (TTC, walking, driving, etc.) to be too slow and too cold, biking may be the perfect solution for you.