Calgary

4 tips for a smooth winter cycling experience

From lights to tires, here's how to get pedalling once snow and ice are on the ground.

From lights to tires, here's how to get pedalling once snow and ice are on the ground

Calgary's set to host the 7th annual Winter Cycling Congress in February. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Calgary's preparing to host an international winter cycling conference in February, where city officials will both share what they've learned about making the city friendly for year-round cyclists.

"We're going to be able to swap tips and tricks and learn from the expertise that others have and that they can bring to Calgary, as well as share the expertise we have," said Katherine Glowacz, active transportation planner for the city.

Glowacz said about 25 to 30 per cent of cyclists that ride in the summer in Calgary also ride in the winter, adding that the city's new downtown cycle track, speedy snow-clearing for paths, new bike-share program and a strong cycling community that hosts winter events have helped contribute to that number.

Winter cycling is much easier if you dress for the weather, says Bike Calgary president Gary Millard. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Bike Calgary president Gary Millard said those looking to start cycling in the winter should know it just takes a little more advance planning than trips during warmer months, but it's easy to get started.

He shared a few tips to get pedalling once snow and ice are on the ground.

Light

Millard said the first thing that differs about winter cycling is that the sun rises much later in the day, and sets much earlier.

"It's important to add some lights to your bike that help keep you visible for traffic … and to allow you to illuminate sections of the path that might not be lit up," he said.

Warmth

Adding a few layers — especially a wind-proof one — will help get you through those below 0 C days.

"The most common things that get cold when you're cycling are the hands and the feet," Millard said.

"You're generating enough body heat that as long as you keep the wind off your body you can stay warm through your whole body, so some warmer mitts and boots are really all you need."

He said in winter, he wears a ski or snowboarding helmet instead of a bike helmet so it covers his ears.

Traction

You'll need to take some sort of precaution to make sure you aren't slipping and sliding out there. Millard recommended either different winter tire compounds that add additional grip, or studded tires.

Studded bike tires make icy winter pathways a breeze, says Gary Millard. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

A backup plan

"When it gets really cold or really stormy or you have mechanical troubles, you want something that can cover unforeseen issues," he said.

Millard said he always carries a small lock in case he has to leave behind his bike and take a cab or bus, so it'll be secure until he can come back for it. And, he preps in advance by knowing the bus routes and schedules in the area where he's travelling, and keeps the number of a cab company on hand.

The Winter Cycling Congress will be held in Calgary's new Central Library from Feb. 6 to 8, and will be attended by experts from around the world.

With files from Monty Kruger

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