This is self-explanatory, right? Photo via Flickr
Listen, cyclists. Don’t let Montreal bully you into buying an STM pass. Winter biking is more accessible than you think. Yes, you’ll have to upgrade your mittens. And yes, asshole taxis will inevitably slush you. But, then again, you kinda love it.
“The options are: take the metro with the same people every morning,” says David Pelletier-Proulx of the Mile End Bike Garage, “or ride your bike. I promise you, on a winter bike commute, you’ll always have something new to see and experience.”
Are you considering hanging on to your spokes this winter? But feel under prepared? We visited Montreal’s friendliest bike co-ops for some expert advice and DIY hacks to make winter cycling warmer, safer and easier — but just as bad-ass.
Alex Woznica, Right to Move/La Voie Libre
Right to Move/La Voie Libre
Downtown Concordia campus; in the alley between Bishop and Mackay
Open Monday to Friday from 6–9 p.m.; Saturday 2–5 p.m.
Technician: Alex Woznica
Favourite thing about winter biking: Defying conventional logic that says winter cycling is impossible or too dangerous, and seeing how accessible, easy and rewarding it can be.
Shittiest thing about winter biking: Montreal’s inevitable forecasts of “snow mixed with rain.” You know you’re going to get wet, then cold, and your day will suck.
Change your rubbers: When I first started, I assumed that fat, knobby mountain bike tires were the way to go. But those big treads quickly fill up with snow, and the tires’ wide width makes it float on the snow rather than cut through it. Try cyclocross tires, which combine the tread of a mountain bike tire with the skinniness of a road tire.
Strip down: You see a lot of people new to winter cycling with super-puffy jackets. Instead, try to to be as minimalist as possible, especially around the core. You’ll be working up quite a sweat. Wear breathable materials like Gore-Tex and wool, but avoid cotton like the plague.
Open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday; 5–7:30 p.m.
Favourite thing about winter biking: The sunny, freezing days when the air and energy of self-propelled motion bring a smile to your face.
Shittiest thing about winter biking: Riding in the road with cars sucks! It makes motorists nervous and pissed off.
Ride dirty: Lower your seat a little so you can put your feet down to stop if you feel you’re going to slide.
Keep it simple, stupid: Have a separate bike that can get beat up by the salt, sand and winter climate. Single speeds are best, as they have fewer gears and parts to maintain.
Get angry: What would happen if you told a motorist, “Sorry, you can’t drive your car for the next five months because we can’t be bothered to clear the snow”? Why should we be expected to find another means of transportation? Call the borough you live in to demand snow removal on major bike routes. Cyclists are taxpayers, too; we should get the same services as other road users.
Mile End Bike Garage
135 Van Horne
Monday to Friday; 6–9 p.m.
Technician: David Pelletier-Proulx
Favourite thing about winter biking: The frost and ice in your moustache or beard after a 45-minute ride.
Shittiest thing about winter biking: Fixing a flat in winter is no fun at all.
Vote for fenders: The easiest modification you can do is add fenders. They will keep you drier and warmer. At Mile End Bike Garage, we collect old election signs so our broke-ass members can make DIY fenders with zip ties. It’s super cheap and really gets the job done.
Claim your lane: Most of the time, you’ll have to ride where the tires of the cars have cleared the snow. If you give too much room, cars will try to slip by you, and cut too close. Don’t be afraid to claim the lane. But don’t be an asshole either. Give the poor guy in his car a chance to pass safely when possible.
Change your attitude: For me, there’s no “winter biking” and “regular biking.” There just biking. You adapt your behaviour, bike and clothes based on the conditions. ■