Riding a bike in a Hamilton winter doesn't require extra equipment or special clothing. An old-fashioned general-purpose bicycle lets me bike all winter long without doing anything special at all.
By Kenneth Moyle
Published February 20, 2011
On a sunny afternoon during last week's False Spring, I took my filthy, salt-streaked bicycle to the car wash. And as I rode home past the melting snow banks on my shining bike I smiled to realize that I'd finally managed to bike through a winter.
I started trying to bike year-round about five years ago. But I never made it even as far as February before this year. It was never the snow that made me give up; it was always a rusted-stiff chain or frozen-stiff wrists and ears.
The Intertubes abound with tips and tricks for the winter cyclist: special lubricants to protect your chain, studded tires, gauntlets and velcro cuffs to keep the wind off your wrists, neoprene balaclavas, goggles, lean-tos and nylon sheds to keep the snow off, winter cleaning regimens involving winter-grade hoses and no-freeze outdoor taps.
These solutions involve more time, money, effort and special clothing than I am willing to devote to biking. Biking for me is not a hobby - it's simply my preferred way to get around town.
This year I was able to bike right through the winter not because of anything special I bought, made or wore - and certainly not because it wasn't cold and snowy - but because of something decidedly not special.
Last spring, I stopped riding a sports bike. Like most people roughly my age, I had ridden racing bikes and mountain bikes from childhood.
For the first time, I bought a general-purpose, no-nonsense bike: a 50-lb. Dutch three speed with sit-up handle-bars, full fenders and a completely enclosed chain.
General-purpose, no-nonsense bike (Image Credit: Flickr)
I bought this bike for its carrying capacity and its ease of use; winter riding was not on my mind. In fact, I had vague plans of using my old hybrid mountain bike as a beater in order to spare my shiny new machine the muck of foul weather. But it ends up that a few simple features of this shiny new bike make it perfect for winter cycling.
The most obvious advantage over my other bikes is that the chain is completely enclosed: I splash carelessly through slush and leave the bike uncovered on my driveway in any weather this side of a blizzard. All without worry of my chain rusting up - something that has happened in a single snowy week to my hybrid.
Similarly, I don’t worry about the cables or frame rusting. The cables are completely covered in plastic insulation and the frame is powdercoated multiple times. Simple and effective.
The upright posture of an old-fashioned city bike offered a pleasant surprise as the weather grew colder: without my arms stretched out to reach a sport-oriented handlebar, my sleeves don't ride up - so no wind on my wrists.
Old-fashioned city bike allows upright posture (Image Credit: Flickr, used with permission)
Since I'm not bent over, I don't have to bend my neck to look up, which means that I can bike in the same furry-ear-flaps hat which I wear when walking - on my hybrid or road bike, the hat would be levered off my head by the back of my collar.
Sitting erect also means that I can bike in any of my normal winter coats: I can wear a long overcoat over a sport jacket without worrying that I'm straining the seams; and if I wear a shorter winter jacket, it will still cover the small of my back and my backside completely.
So that was the secret: no secret at all; nothing fancy; nothing special. Just a general purpose bike built more-or-less the way they were 80 years ago.
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