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Ice Biking – How To Do Winter Cycling In Ice And Snow

Why do we ride in the winter? I’m frequently asked as I walk into a pub or movie theater, “aren’t you cold?”. I just smile warmly and say “nope”. Nearly every day coworkers used to ask if I had taken my bike, thinking “its worse weather than yesterday, there’s no way he rode his bike” and every day they would be amazed.
The amazement has worn off now. Everyone has gotten used to the fact that I’m not going to die any time soon from commuting by bike in the winter time.

I was approached by a co-worker today and asked WHY I did it. I couldn’t answer him. I didn’t know. All I could say was “it’s a welcome challenge” but that just barely scratches the surface of the WHY question. So that started me thinking. Why? Why do I put up with -30C temperatures and -40C wind chill? Why do I put up with the lack of good traction?

That same day we got about a eight inches of fluffy snow, the light kind with huge flakes that obscure your entire eye when you get hit by one. As I was dragging my bike out of the lunch room (where the vice president graciously sticks up for me when people complain about the puddle my bike leaves) someone said in amusement “boy, you’ll sure have fun riding home today”. I just said “thanks I will!”. I just got a strange look like I was insane.

I decided to take the snowed in sidewalk to the side of the high speed highway this time until I came to the turn off to a slower road as a courtesy to the other drivers, seeing as the traffic reports were scaring people.

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I left work, jumped on the bike, rode for a block with this white stuff flying up around me completely obscuring my view of my hubs. I hit something solid, made me loose what little control I had and plummeted into a snow drift soft as a pillow. it was like falling on a cloud. It was so much fun I just laid there and laughed for a bit.

I wasn’t commuting any more, I was playing.
I ended up riding 11 km that day in that stuff, and I was completely exhausted, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The little voice in side my head kept screaming “YES! This is so much fun!”. I was riding through stuff that was too hard to walk through. I even got off for a spot and walked, but immediately jumped back on the bike because it was easier than pushing the bike!

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Sometimes winter riding sucks. Sometimes it’s soggy and you get soaked right through, and the freewheel is frozen, and nothing shifts, and the brakes just skid on the rims, and the driver behind you is leaning on the horn, but it’s the good days like the above that make up for it.From what I’ve seen, the traffic is better in the winter than in good weather. Everyone pulls together. Everyone realizes no one can stop fast.Even on the bad days, when I arrive at my destination intact and possibly exhausted, I accomplished something. I did something most people are scared of. I rode in weather that people have frozen to death in, beat the traffic, got home safe, and got healthier because of it.

I love riding bikes, for all reasons, including reasons that have nothing to do with biking. Every time I’m driving a car, I hate how visibility is reduced by all that steel surrounding you. I feel far safer on my bike, because if I don’t see a car coming, there is no car coming.

The bus is no better either. I’m much warmer on a bike because I tend to prepare myself better for an hour out in the cold than if I was expecting to jump on a bus after ten minutes of waiting. I’d much rather be warm on a bike, than cold standing still at a bus stop.

And then there’s the time thing. It takes me almost 20 minutes longer to take the bus to work than bike. I don’t see any benefit to taking the bus over a bike whatsoever.
I think the reason I take a bike changes day to day:

  • Fun!
  • Warm!
  • Don’t have to drive!
  • Don’t have to take a bus!
  • Faster than taking a bus!
  • Fun!
  • Fun!
  • Did I mention fun?
  • Partly its my defiance to the weather. No one, not even old man winter is going to tell me I cant have fun in the snow on a bike. How is it any different than skiing? People enjoy being out in the cold skiing right? Partly its defying those people that tell me I shouldn’t be out on a bike in that weather. But mostly, ITS JUST WAAAAYY TOO MUCH FUN! C’mon, you know you WAAANAA.

Bikes on Ice? You’re Kidding, Right?

Maybe you just found this web site while looking for something else. If so about now you are wondering just how crazy these folks are. Plenty!

Contrary to popular opinion, the bicycle makes a fairly good winter vehicle. This is not to suggest that care can be thrown to the winds. But with proper skill and technique, the bike provides safe and reliable transportation. It always starts, regardless of how cold it is. There are studded tires that make the most wicked slick ice manageable. It is easy to find a parking space, and it never gets stuck in the snow. Well, almost never.

Much of winter cycling is done on roads that are bare, no ice anywhere. In these conditions, the only concern is the weather. If you would go skiing or play hockey in cold weather, then icebiking is not very different. All it takes is the will, a reliable bike, dressing for the weather, getting out in the snow, and learning a few new bike handling skills.

The hardest part is the first 100 yards. Mother Nature is not your Enemy!

Whether commuting to work, or just out for a romp in the woods, you arrive feeling very alive, refreshed, and surrounded with the aura of a cycling god. You will be looked upon with the smile of respect by friends and co-workers. – – – Or was that the sneer of derision… no matter, icebiking is a blast!
So come on in and explore this guide to icebiking, and see if maybe you will be tempted to dig that trusty steed out of the basement, pump up the tires, and pump up your life.

Why bike in the winter?

First off, let me assure you that you have no hope of explaining this to Susan…Another avid cyclist might understand. Cross country skiers might understand. Once you get beyond people who are active out of doors it can be really hard to explain this without losing your audience.
Lets face it: they think we are crazy. You might as well just enjoy yourself and not bother explaining it. After they see you biking through an entire winter or two they will stop asking why. They will just look at you in that special way reserved for harmless eccentrics. Deal with it!

You can wax mushy, singing the praises of of crisp morning with every twig and branch fat and fuzzy with a fresh coat of gleaming white snow, and huge snowflakes silently wafting down, and the squeak the snow makes under your tires as you silently glide forward down a road or trail that has nary a track…. – oops, I went off the deep end again.

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Or you can climb up on your soap box and rail at the mindless dependency on motor vehicles and the untold destruction they do to society, the impairment of health, the wars for resources, the pollution. The only moral solution being to use clean non-polluting vehicles designed on the human scale, and point out that society better get used to it because our resources aren’t going to last forever…

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