North

This Yukon teen bikes to school year round — even in -40 C

This week, despite the temperature hovering around –40 C, Phineas Pearson still hopped on his bike and rode to school in Whitehorse.

Phineas Pearson, 13, was the only one biking to his high school last week

Phineas Pearson has been riding his bike to and from school since he was 7 years old, no matter the conditions. This week he was the only kid to do so, even when the temperature dipped to -40 C. (George Maratos/CBC)

How cold is too cold when it comes to riding your bike in the winter?

It's a question that 13-year-old Phineas Pearson of Whitehorse, a dedicated winter cyclist, doesn't know the answer to. 

"I guess –50 would be too cold. I've never biked in –50."

Biking in -40 isn't as unbelievable as you might think- Phineas Pearson

This week, despite the temperature hovering around –40 C, he still hopped on his bike and rode to school.

He's the only student at F. H. Collins who rides every day, no matter the weather.

"I do this because it's something I enjoy and in the cold temperatures it really wakes you up and gets you ready for school," he said.  

"I had an exam the other morning and when I came to school, I was very awake and normally I would be very, very tired." 

Phineas Pearson says a good jacket is the most essential piece of equipment he wears when he bikes in frigid temperatures. (George Maratos/CBC)

Pearson comes by his enthusiasm for biking honestly. 

Both his parents are avid cyclists and the bicycle has been his go-to mode of transport since he was in kindergarten.

At age five, he would hop on his dad's extra-cycle, an adult bike that has an attachment on the back specially designed for smaller riders.

Just two years later, Pearson was riding alone to school.

"That was really hard for me, but they need their independence," said Phineas' mom, Georgi Pearson.

"We've always biked as a family and I'm proud of the fact that he just does it. It's just kind of how we get around."

Georgi Pearson, Phineas's mom, says its important for parents to lead by example — and biking is something they've always done together as a family. (George Maratos/CBC)

Living in downtown Whitehorse, Georgi says they rarely have to use a car.

"If we go out the door, there's a good chance we're bringing a bike with us."

The bridge of the nose

For the past week, the roads in Whitehorse have been quieter than normal. The city is under a cold snap like it hasn't experienced in years, and many people have elected to park the vehicle and stay inside.

Not Phineas.

On Tuesday, just before noon, he had an exam. And while most high school students would probably have been doing some last-minute cramming, Phineas was more focused on making sure he was geared up properly.

"I have to wear snowpants, a large winter jacket, a sweater, hats, mitts and a buff — not necessarily in that order," he said. "A good jacket is definitely the most important."

'I feel like I'm driving a tank,' Phineas says of his fat bike. (George Maratos/CBC)

Phineas says he doesn't really notice the cold except on the bridge of his nose, which is exposed at times. He says the cold is harder on the bike than him.

"It seizes up about halfway to school and gets really hard to pedal," he said.

"But the experience of biking in –40 isn't as unbelievable as you might think, it's just like going for a walk in the cold."

The bike Phineas rides is not cheap, and it can withstand the elements of a Yukon winter.

It's a fat bike, and comes equipped with special gloves on the handlebars called pogies, that provide warmth. The main feature is the bike's extra-wide tires, designed for comfort and control.

"It feels kind of like driving a tank, and does feel very powerful," he said.

Georgi says on top of giving her son independence the biking also allows Phineas to exercise without even realizing it.

"He's a book reader, and cycling is a good way for us to get him to have some physical activity without him maybe realizing he is," said Georgi.

"He probably does know that that's our ulterior motive."

About the Author

George Maratos

Associate Producer

George Maratos is a reporter and associate producer at CBC Yukon with more than a decade of experience covering the North.

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