Transportation

Crazy Copenhagen Cyclists

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 17, 2009

Wait, this can't be right.

Bikes in Copenhagen
Bikes in Copenhagen

Everybody knows that no one in their right mind would ride a bicycle in the snow. It's one of the many reasons we're always told why Hamilton could never be a truly bicycle-friendly city.

Bikes in Copenhagen
Bikes in Copenhagen

Next, you'll try to tell me some nonsense about how pedestrians prefer walking on two-way streets.

photos courtesy of Peter Ormond, who is in Copenhagen for the COP15 Climate Conference

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.

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By Average Toronto star commenter (anonymous) | Posted December 18, 2009 at 02:34:42

This will never happen in Canada! Denmark is a tropical paradise! I'm too fat, my children are too lazy, cyclists don't pay taxes!!

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By Uhh... (anonymous) | Posted December 18, 2009 at 11:44:21

It is December 18, 2009. Winter is officially only three days away and it hasn't really snowed yet in Hamilton. I'd go for a bike ride but the two-wheeler is stashed in the garage behind my snow tires and a case of windshield washer antifreeze.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted January 03, 2010 at 09:20:43

In all fairness to the nay-sayers, that ain't the kind of snow we're worried about here in Hamilton. The cold is inconvenient and snow as shown in the pictures can leave you damp and feeling chilly - but I still ride my bike to work in that kind of weather. But we have two problems that Copenhagen doesn't.

The first is killer snow ruts. Once you get enough accumulation to form ruts on the roads, a bike without studded tires becomes a death mobile - I've found myself lying on my side on the road too many times to try that again. Granted, after a day or three, the roads are clear enough to take my bike out again. Though I always run the risk of having to walk home if snow falls while I'm out.

The second problem is road salt. In both 2008 and 2009 I put my bike away to wait out a snow fall and went back a week later to find my chain orange with rust - completely orange. In a week. It takes a lot of care to keep a bike rust free when faced with the combination of clinging snow, salt and sunshine.

Anyone have any tips for winter-long biking?

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By LL (registered) - website | Posted January 03, 2010 at 18:13:23

Nylon balaclava under helmet, neoprine (or similar mat'l) face mask, tights under shorts, good windbreaker, good ski gloves.

Good to go.

Will be trying studded tires on my singlespeed snowbike - see how it goes.

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By KennethMoyle (anonymous) | Posted January 06, 2010 at 10:42:04

Ryan ... why the solid-red tail light? I generally set both my front and rear lights flashing since I think that it makes them more visible.

I'll have to look into winter chain grease - my usual white glop is rather hard to smear on in the winter.

I've settled on a knee-length over coat with a deep back vent for cold weather - the vent parts to allow my rear light to be seen and allows the fabric to rest over my thighs in front.

I'm still working on warm head gear - hat doesn't stay on when I'm hunched over the handle bars and a touque doesn't keep my ears warm. My eventual plan is to trade my hunched-down hybrid for a proper grown-up sit-up-and-beg bike, but I'm still saving my pennies for something decent.

I'll be interested to hear how the studs work out, LL. When I get my new bike, I might get a pair of studded tires for my current hybrid - but then again, I might also just walk :)

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By LL (registered) - website | Posted January 06, 2010 at 23:10:30

Kenneth:

I'm telling you: nylon balaclava ("ninjaclava") underneath the helmet (or toque). It doesn't sound like much, but it works pro. You can get them at crappy tire or mountain equipment capitalists. On really cold or windy days, the neoprine mask and ski goggles go on and my whole head/neck area is encased except for breathing vents.

What I'm saying is synthetic fibres are a far better use of petroleum than gasoline. A good windbreaker or a good thick windcutter fleece, ski gloves, tights under shorts or rain pants (jeans pull at my knees). I dont even feel the cold even down to -30 with windchill.

Some bad news: I've just been doing some budgeting and I don't know if the studded tires are going to get a go this winter. Maybe in February or March.

Some general thoughts: I was riding to work the other day. It was a nice, still day. I was having a great time - exercise and transport all in one low cost activity. It takes me 15 min. to ride to work. I was watching people leave for work the whole time. A lot of people spent 15 min. just scraping and shovelling for their drive. A long distance, exurban commuter probably spends almost as much time outside on windy corners pumping gas than I do riding. Sucks to be them.

I love riding in the winter! You can go all out and barely break a sweat. No smog. No allergies. No sunburn.

Oh well. It'll catch on in time. The advantages of bicycle commuting are too obvious to succumb to cultural bias. Plus the economic structure - Fordism - that created that culture is a thing of the past. Plus peak oil is gonna bite.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 06, 2010 at 23:34:01

LL wrote:

You can get them at crappy tire or mountain equipment capitalists.

Or McMaster Sports if you want to support a local independent.

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By RSK (anonymous) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 12:11:21

McMaster Sports sucks crap.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 13:44:07

They're not the greatest, but I got the impression from LL that they might be the lesser of 3 evils.

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 15:26:07

How about those bikes being ridden? They're parked aren't they? I loved riding in the snow. Best way to learn how to control a skid! :)

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