Winter Biking in Saskatchewan is Hard… Core!

For the last few winters, I have suffered as a winter cyclist. However, after purchasing my car 2 winters ago, I have drove more than biked during the winter and relieved my suffering. This winter I want to reverse that and bike more than I drive for my commute. This will be my 8th winter cycling in this city and I have decided that I’m going to do it “for real” this year… with proper gear!

What I have noticed as I get older is that my tolernace for freezing toes and fingers has gone down siginificantly than when I was an early 20-something gal. Last winter I bought myself a heavy-duty pair of mitts that helped with my fingers and I’ve always managed to keep my core temperature up while biking in -40 degree Celsius weather. However, there are two exremeties that I have not figured how to fully insulate: my thighs and my toes.

Usually by the time I get to work, my thighs are bright red and tingle when I touch them. The way I have been dealing with that is to stand in the bathroom for about five minutes without any pants holding my warm hands against them to warm them up. Long underwear, jogging pants, and wind pants do help, but there are days when the biting prairie wind goes through the layers like a hot knife through vegan maragarine.

Now my poor toes are a completely different topic. I have never fully figured out how to prevent cold toes. When I was a newspaper carrier only a few years ago, I would come home at 6:30am, after being in the freezing cold since 4:30, with tears streaming down my face from my toes being so frozen. I would start making oatmeal and sit on the ground in semi-lotus position, holding onto my toes in my hands and rock back and forth. I would breathe on them hoping that the feeling would come back into them. Sure enough, after a few minutes, they would start to tingle. The pain was brutal. It has been ever since then that I have been completely afraid of freezing my toes off and doesn’t make my commute seem manageable during the winter. This is the part of winter biking that I must figure out because my commute is even longer now than it was last winter, with it being about 8.5 kilometres. It is also why I am completely understanding of those who think that winter biking is crazy and don’t want to try being a winter bike commuter.

My solution to all of this was met in one click to the Mountain Equipment Co-op website. I visited a store a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t have my act together enough to make a list of equipment that I needed. So I resorted to online shopping, which I really enjoyed.

I purchased some super duper long underwear, a neck warmer with a place to breathe out of my mouth, and a toque that goes under a helmet (I hope it fits my tiny head!). For my feet, I bought some shoe covers that they say are the warmest ones they have. I’m going to give them a shot. If they don’t work, I’m going to try another pair. I’m also going to try Smart Wool socks. I am determined to not lose my toes and still commute to work by bicycle! I’m just really thankful that my co-workers don’t mind that I come into the office with frosted eyebrows and look like the Michilan man with all of my bulky layers. At least I’m warm!

The last part of my preparation for winter is getting my bike ready. I need to re-pack my hugs and probably change my drive-train, which my bike guy will recommend against, but it needs to be done. I’m also going to try out studded tires for the first time. My first winter of bicycle commuting, I used road slicks… oh, how I have mellowed! Actually, I’ve just fallen too many times. My chiropractor recommends that I try not to do that as much, so studded tires it is.

Let the snow fall and the temperature drop – I’ll be ready!


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