Hardy Northern Cycling: What to Wear

This is the second of four blog posts about winter cycling in Thunder Bay. A previous post introduced winter cycling. Future posts will discuss Equipment and Maintenance and Techniques. To download all four posts as a booklet, go here.

Cold and Wet Weather

Dressing appropriately in cooler weather is crucial for an enjoyable ride. The main problem, contrary to popular belief, is not keeping warm, but keeping cool. Cycling is an aerobic activity, which means that your body produces heat much more than when walking. Most first-time, all-weather cyclists overdress.

If you are slightly cool when you step outside, you’re probably dressed properly. You don’t need cycling-specific clothes; just wear thin layers to reduce bulk.

In cold weather, the most important areas to consider are head, hands and feet. These areas are more susceptible to the cold and are vulnerable to frostbite. Be careful with glasses, watches, and zippers. Metal objects touching your skin can cause frostbite.

The most critical aspect of appropriate dress is clothing that maintains your visibility. Visibility on roads is reduced in rainy conditions and winter days are short. To maintain visibility:

  • Wear reflective clothing
  • Wear bright yellow, orange, or white
  • Install bicycle reflectors and lights

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Essential Clothing: Head

If your feet are cold, put on a hat.

Between 50% and 65% of your body heat is lost through the head, so it is essential to keep it covered. To conserve body heat:

  • Wear thin, lightweight, wind-resistant toques, headbands, or balaclavas under your helmet
  • Avoid hoods: they restrict peripheral vision
  • Buy a winter-specific cycling helmet
  • Use sunglasses, ski goggles, safety goggles to protect your eyes
  • Tape over the vents on your helmet: or buy a helmet cover
  • Wear a scarf to cover your neck and face
  • Cover your ears

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Hands

Because hands are stationary, they are very susceptible to cold weather. Warm hands have the dexterity to control the bicycle. To keep your hands warm, remember:

  • Mitts are warmer than gloves – Ski mitts are perfect
  • Use layers of thin mitts rather than one pair of heavy mitts
  • Try two layers – an outer layer of wind resistant mitts and an inner layer of gloves that allow for dexterity
  • ‘Lobster Mitts’ offer the dexterity of gloves and the warmth of mitts.

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Feet

Warm, dry feet are essential, so wear water resistant, warm footwear to ensure comfort. Some examples include:

  • Warm hiking boots, winter boots, or neoprene booties
  • Wool or fleece socks (not cotton)
  • Avoid pedals with clips, cages, or straps
  • Plastic bags over socks and inside shoes to keep your feet dry
  • Waterproof shoe-covers protect your feet in all conditions.

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Torso

Keeping your upper body warm is relatively easy. In fact, to keep cool, you’ll want several layers, so choose a jacket that is both waterproof and breathable. Avoid materials made with cotton, as they hold moisture against your skin. Your outer jacket or a shell should be long so it won’t ride up and expose your torso to drafts. It should also be large enough to allow for layers underneath.

Here are some general tips:

  • Have a wicking material next to your skin (base layer)
  • Dress according to the weather: temperature, precipitation, and winds
  • Your shell should be a bright colour and should have reflective piping
  • Underarm zippers allow for better temperature regulation
  • Articulated elbows and shoulders provide a comfortable reach


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Legs

Your legs are easy to keep warm – they’re doing all the work, but be sure to protect your knees! Knees are vulnerable to cold, and have little padding.

Working cold joints can cause damage. Keep your legs dry and protected from the wind. As an outer layer, materials like denim should be avoided because they retain moisture and don’t insulate. Keep in mind:

  • Waterproof and breathable outer shell pants are best
  • A thermal mid-layer (fleece or wool)
  • Moisture wicking base layer
  • Loose-fitting pants with a warm base layer works for most weather
  • Keep your pant legs tucked in and wear a reflective ankle strap

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Engaging Students through Environmental Education

Schools Pics (3) for website

EcoSuperior’s school programming has taken off! During the 2013-2014 school year we delivered 162 presentations to more than 3500 students! This fall is shaping up to be even busier. We have expanded our programming and now offer 7 different environmentally themed presentations that meet the needs of students from grades 2-12.

Our presentations entertain and engage students and are a hit with teachers. They are directly linked to the Ontario curriculum and are an excellent way for schools to make connections with their community.

“From a teacher’s point of view, we are so busy planning all the subjects, if a guest comes in with a hands on activity and takes away the mess – wow! The kids loved it.” -Grade 4 teacher

We can also develop programs by request. Most programs are free, but some unfunded presentations require a small fee to cover staff time and mileage.

Current topics includeIMG_2262

  • Water Watchers* (gr 2)
  • Lake-to-Lake* (gr 8)
  • Wild about Worms (gr 2-4)
  • Shower Power^ (gr 5-6)
  • Natural Habits^ (gr 10-12)
  • Keep It Superior*^ (gr 4)
  • Back to the Tap*^ (gr 5, 7, 9, and 11)

Continue reading

Hardy Northern Winter Cycling: An Introduction

This is the first of four blog posts about winter cycling in Thunder Bay. Future posts will discuss What to Wear, Equipment and Maintenance, and Techniques. To download all four posts as a booklet, go here.

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“Are You Crazy?!?”

This thought crosses most people’s minds when thinking about cycling as a year-round mode of transportation. People get all bundled up to go skiing in freezing temperatures; winter cycling is much the same.

Some of the most beautiful days for biking are in late fall and early spring when the air is fresh and the sun is still warm. In fact, experienced cyclists may want to consider cycling through the winter on days when the roads are clear. In Thunder Bay, the roads can remain clear of snow and ice into November and sometimes December.

A longer cycling season will lead to many benefits for your health, your wallet, and the environment. This guide is not intended to be exhaustive but it does provide ‘best practices’ for safe cycling in all weather.

Benefits of Cycling All Year

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• Physical activity – Physically fit people are less likely to develop heart and lung disease, hypertension, certain types of cancer, or type II diabetes.

• Pollution prevention – If each person, living five kilometers from their workplace or school, biked an average of three times per week, each person would prevent 360 kg of GHG emissions annually.

• Transportation savings – It costs the average Canadian $.70 per kilometer to operate a car. Cycling is free! The Bike to Work blog suggests that cycling through the winter will save enough money that you can afford to travel somewhere warmer. Sounds great to us!

• Enjoyment – During the colder months, cycling provides time outdoors in the fresh air and sunlight.

How Hard is Winter Riding?

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Many cold weather cycling commutes are very pleasant and safe. Winter days are often bright and sunny, with clean, clear roads. However, travel time tends to increase by approximately 30%, so plan ahead!

In the winter, choose your routes with extra care. Choose shorter routes with lower traffic volumes, and minimal hills and corners. This helps to prevent accidents. Have alternate routes planned; a snowfall can make your normal route unsafe. When Thunder Bay’s multiuse trails are cleared, they provide a great alternative to riding on the road.

Keep in mind that Thunder Bay’s bike lanes are not maintained from Nov. 15 to May 14. Snow and road debris that accumulates in the bike lanes will not be cleared until May 15.

Use your best judgment when confronted with challenging weather. For example, during a snow storm, choose another mode of transportation. After a heavy snow fall, don’t ride until the roads have been cleared.

Remember, winter cycling is not a day-in, day-out commitment. Pick your cycling days according to the weather and your mood. Don’t push yourself, but when you ride, enjoy the unique beauty of winter weather.

Activities lined Algoma during Thunder Bay’s first Open Streets event. We snapped videos of the action!

 

Aven practiced his tricks at CirqueWorks. Here he is with Eric the Juggler.

Sheena Hoops shows us what she’s got 

Bike Polo gives the best high fives

Sarah grooves with the 91.5 CKPR Pig 

World Dance Centre busts a move

Open Streets videos