The rare breed of winter cyclist

About a month ago I wrote an article in the Manitoban regarding the top trends of fall 2010. Sitting in the number 12 spot on that list was the oh-so-trendy bicycle. It seems that we have been bombarded with Earth conservation messages and it appears that those messages have put more of us on a bicycle.

But as we know, winter has stooped its way upon us here in the Prairie provinces and forced many of us to retire our bikes for the season and start to rely on alternate and ultimately warmer forms of transportation.

Even though most bikes are now safely secured in garages around the city, never to face the snow, there are a handful of people who have decided to ride out the winter on their beloved two-wheelers.

Riding a bicycle in the winter months, especially in Winnipeg and surrounding area, can be very challenging at best. First of all, riders have to compete with the cold. Harsh temperatures are something that we are all used to, but they become all the more real when you are faced with commuting outside, where you have no shelter from the elements.

Another major challenge happens to be other commuters, not other cyclists but cars, trucks and busses.

I had the chance to talk with Marcus Gooch who is an employee at Gooch’s bicycle and hobby store. Marcus is the fourth generation of Gooches working in the shop. Another of Gooch’s features is that he is one of the few that brave the weather and ride their bikes in the winter. Gooch sees no problem with the cold weather. “I wear more layers than usual,” he said with a tone of sheer simplicity.
Gooch has many reasons for riding his bike during the wintertime. “It is good exercise and it is fun to do,” he said. “My personal opinion is that it is safer than a car. If I hit something I will fly off my bike into soft snow. If I hit something in a car I hit my head on my hard steering wheel.” Gooch went on to mention that you can bypass a whole lot of headache with MPI if you get into a crash — you just pick up your bike and keep going.

But you can’t just get on your bike and ride it in the winter, can you? Well apparently you can, but just like a car you are much safer if you put winter tires on you bike, to prevent slipping. Super Knobby Tires are just one brand of tires that offer “superior traction” in the words of Gooch.

During my conversation with Gooch he also mentioned a problem that many cyclists are face while riding their bikes on the roads in Winnipeg: apart from Winnipeg’s poor and otherwise deemed non-existent bike lanes, Winnipeg riders have to put up with Winnipeg drivers. “Other drivers hate cyclists. They want to take up the whole road and do whatever they can to get us off the road. At red lights they say, ‘Get off your bike, your not supposed to be riding in the winter.’ I say, ‘There is no law against riding in the winter!’ Yeah, they hate us.”

As one who drives more than he rides his bike, I have seen first hand the intolerance of drivers toward cyclists. I urge you to remember next time you are on the road to be aware of cyclists. The road is to be shared, and if we all act correctly we may, one day, be able to share the roads and get along.