Be the change you want to see in Ottawa, and ride your bike all winter long
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I didn’t always ride my bike all year.
I would put my bike away when the snow began to fly and dig it back out when the snowbanks receded. But then came the 2008-09 bus strike, and I got angry and got on my bike. The next fall, I simply didn’t buy a bus pass in November. And then I didn’t buy one in December. And then it was January, and buying a pass felt like giving in. And besides, it was only a few months to spring.
I tell people that winter biking is just like boiling a frog. Let’s be clear: I haven’t boiled any frogs. But the story goes that if you put a frog in cold water and slowly raise the heat, the frog won’t notice.
It’s the same with biking. When I think about winter riding in the summer, I can’t quite picture it. But every January, there I am again, bundled up, dodging chunks of ice and lines of snow left by the plow, all my lights on, my bike covered in grit and road salt.
First, you come home one night and your hands are cold, so you get gloves. You start having to pack waterproof clothing, because when it rains, it’s cold.
You switch, at some point, to a warmer jacket. Then you start wearing a hat under your helmet. Then comes the first time it snows while you’re out and you have to ride home along the thin track of clean pavement left by the cars.
If you’re like me, it helps that at each of these stages, someone will ask, “When are you putting the bike away?” and every time you answer “I’m not,” you will get a little ego boost in reaction to their surprise.
And then it’s done. You’re wearing waterproof pants, you’ve gotten used to narrower roads and you’ve learned how to check over your shoulder despite your jacket and scarf. If you’re like me, it becomes part of your identity and there’s no putting the bike in storage after that.
I feel great when I get home. I enjoy the tingling in my skin from the cold air and the way my lungs feel cleaner and a little worked out after a ride.
I also really do feel that being out there riding in the winter is helping cycling in general. Not to steal a phrase, but it really is “being the change you want to see.” I go out in the winter and ride, showing people that it’s not just possible but fun. Maybe more people will consider it — or at least get used to sharing the road with me. And I feel like the number of bikes on the road in all weather is a really good indicator of how nice a city is to live in.
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Kathryn Hunt @k8thek8 is a writer, editor of Centretown BUZZ, storyteller, poet, cycling blogger, rock climber, mysterious techno vixen (confirmed) and geek. Not necessarily in that order. You can read her cycling blog at