|A Vancouverite’s Guide to Bike-Commuting in the Cold
Someone commented on one of the old posts from the website recently, and I thought this was the perfect time of year to review the topic of cycling in the fall and winter months in Vancouver.
I realize someone from Calgary or Winnipeg will scoff at the idea of ‘winter’ riding in Vancouver. While temperatures will hover around the freezing point, we rarely need to tackle snow or brave truly cold temperatures on our daily bike commute. That said, there are inherent risks to cycle-commuting, and they are only increased during the winter months. The roads can be icy and it will soon be getting dark by 4:30pm. There are just a few things to keep in mind to make your winter ride more enjoyable. Here are 5 keys to success:
1. Get your bike ready for the weather
If you have a mountain bike, the wider and thicker tread will do you a lot of favors. If you want to stick with your road bike, letting a few PSIs out of the tires will help increase surface area and traction. Yes, this will slow you down and increase the effort, but your traction will be better. You can also look at getting studded tires for snow/ice, but that is likely overkill for our climate.
Tune-ups become even more important in the cold as well. If your last tune-up was in the spring, have a mechanic look your bike over. Make sure your brakes are well maintained and adjusted, and your chain is clean and lubed.
2. Stay seen
It gets dark early, so make sure cars can see you! Wear reflective gear, or at least leg/arm bands. Bright, rear and front lights are essential. Bike shops sell decent, LED flashing lights starting at $15. A headlamp will help you be seen and is also useful if you need to jump off the bike to do some minor repairs or fix a flat.
3. Dress for success
Rain is the biggest foe of Vancouver cyclists, so waterproof gear goes a long way. Waterproof pants, jacket, shoe covers, and helmet cover will keep you dry from head to toe. Once you get wet, you’re in trouble as water conducts heat away from the body 25 times faster than air.
For clothing, the key is to start out cool and allow the body heat from riding get you to warm. Otherwise, you’ll start perspiring, or needing to fiddle with removing layers. With my 45 minute commute I’m fine in a light sweater, wind breaker shell, and my jeans (plus above mentioned rain gear if its raining). That said, the one area that really takes punishment with even a little bit of cold air is the hands. Invest in a good pair of winter gloves. Seasoned rider Anthony Floyd @anthonyfloyd
had a great suggestion of grabbing a pair of waterproof kayaking gloves from MEC.
If it is really cold, avoid cotton. Use a wicking/ technical base layer. Then you can add wool sweater on top. Breathable/ adjustable out-wear will allow you to vent or change quickly if you get too warm. Wool is also great, as it retains heat even if it gets wet.
4. Go slow(er)
If you want to avoid wiping out, going slower is the easiest thing to do. Hitting an unseen patch of ice while turning or braking is going to cause you to wipe out. Leaving earlier will give you the time to get where you’re going at a nice easy pace.
Side note: Anthony also commented on the original post: "I’d add: Brake with the rear brake, not with the front brake when it’s slippery. Most normal braking power happens at the front, and the natural tendency is to apply more force to the front brake, but if the front wheel locks up, you *will* crash. So, brake with the rear only. Stopping distance is increased, but you can control a rear-wheel slide.
Having said this, it is *extremely* hard to get over the instinct to squeeze the front brake."
5. Be a wimp (optional)
Sitting on a warm bus with a book isn't all bad. If you’re new to cycling, its ok to be wimp on the coldest days, or if the weather is terrible. Wait until you have the experience and proper gear before tackling the worst days.
Have your own tip? Leave a comment on the post
Local Outdoors News
1. Unprepared hikers saved from 'heinous' conditions on North Vancouver's Mount Seymour. @Vancouver Sun
2. North Shore Search and Rescue against charging recreation fees on outdoor pastimes. @Vancouver Sun
3. New gondola will be a boon to Squamish. @The Province
4. Vancouver Icons: Stawamus Chief. @Miss 604
5. Super, Neighbors in B.C., Golden Ears Provincial Park. @Vancouver is Awesome
6. Pair of Vancouver Island hikers found safe. @Globe and Mail
7. Squamish bear poacher gets $10,000 fine, hunting ban. @News 1130
8. Ryder Hesjedal tries to roll with punches. @Vancouver Sun
9. Court blames Vancouver cyclist for accident that left him in pain and depressed. @Yahoo!
10. Will statistics vindicate Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver’s bike-lane policies? @Georgia Straight
11. North Van municipalities ramp up cycling efforts. @North Shore Outlook
12. Vancouver fog photos. @Miss 604
13. 1 dead, 1 missing in Nanaimo scuba diving accident. @CBC
14. 6 Reminders on Hiking Etiquette. @Art of Manliness
15. MEC's new branding geared to inspiring outdoor activity in city or backcountry. @Digital Journey
Tales from the Outdoors feat. Adventurer Kevin Vallely
Tales from the Outdoors is easily my favorite segment of the blog, where I interview amazing local athletes. This month I met up with Kevin Vallely of North Vancouver.
On July 5, 2013 Kevin, along with three teammates, set off on the Mainstream Last First Expedition in a bid to become the first ever to self-propel (no motor, no sail) themselves across the Northwest Passage in a single season. The team was tasked with rowing themselves in a 25 foot custom-made boat, 3,000 kms through icy cold waters. The goal of the expedition was to illustrate the dramatic effect climate change is having on the world, and in particular, the Arctic.
In the interview Kevin talks about the intense weather conditions, and some of the crazy things the crew saw and learned along the journey. Not to mention grolar bears (apparently they are a real thing).
Read the interview here.