Monday, February 27, 2006

Winter Riding, Toronto Style

Cycling this winter has been something of an eye-opener for me. I had imagined riding down quiet, snowladen streets, enjoying a more scenic perspective, whilst my trust bike fitted with studded tires helped evade the snowballs of wilful but rosy-cheeked ragamuffins. Well, maybe not quite but something along those romantic lines.

The truth is rather a far cry from those notions. Cold is an event very much amplified on a bicycle and one should question the sanity of creating your own windchill.

The morning ritual now involves turning on the TV to channel 24 for a current weather view including current temperature, likely windchill and chance of rain/snow. This occurs before getting properly dressed as conditions very specifically dictate attire in Toronto's currently sub-zero environment.

2 > -2C = shoe covers, T-shirt fleece winter cycling jersey, fleece track bottoms windstop and fleece hat.
-2 > -5C = add scarf and change regular gloves to proper winter gloves (Altura Pilots serve well at all temperatures so far, change over to thick granny socks.
-5 > -10C = add second layer of fleece, wrap scarf properly around neck and chin, put on facemask.
-10 > -15C = add long johns and possibly another T-shirt.
Lower than -15C = wrap up warm in pedestrian clothing and take public transport, don't forget book.

This is a strict clothing regime, tinkered with at your peril, or more specifically mine. I also never leave the house without the ability to fully waterproof myself from the neck down. Another hard learnt lesson is that when it's raining, always tuck your waterproof gloves inside your coat sleeves as the waterproofing works in both directions. There are few things more disheartening than riding along with hands immersed in icy water through laziness.

Other things that I have learnt about riding in winter conditions are:

- bridges really do ice up before the rest of the road, particularly bridges over water and especially at the edges, where bicycles are more likely to be.
- if you go for studded tires (I have not this year) try it just on the front wheel first, this way you won't lose so much power.
- clean your cables shortly after getting home. Finding your prized bikes is reduced to a single speed with no brakes is not a good way to start the day. Also keep the chain well oiled.
- below -10C, your brakes don't work quite as snappily as you're used to. Travel slower , brake sooner and don't take the usual risks.
- if you do have to dismount to cross a patch of ice, don't let yourself put weight on the bike, it's still going to slip out from underneath you.
- virgin snow offers the best grip but is does mean that you might develop a build up if ice on your rims, right where the brakes should go.

Recently the weather conditions have prevailed to keep me from riding at the weekends. It has either snowed heavily, which would see me consigned to main roads to be splashed repeatedly with thick dirty slush. Or the temperatures have been far to low for any kind of sustaned riding. On another occasion I rode home from work in the middle of a harsh winter storm, the headwind twice grew so strong that I couldn't actually keep moving forwards. Thankfully the weather hasn't been as severe as it has in past years and I've at least been able to commute.

Spring is but around the corner and it will be back to riding every day.


Blogger Ms. Cherry B said...

Hi Andrew!! Sorry you're so cold out there! Thought you'd like to know you're not alone!!

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