There is a common misconception that once the snow and rain hits our city you can’t cycle. That misconception has been refuted around the world and many Calgarians cycle during winter season. Winter in Calgary includes many mild days and cycling is a great way to stay active during the winter months.
The route you take in the summer, fall and spring, may not be the same route you take in the winter. Less traveled residential roads may have more comfortable cycling routes but might not be cleared of snow. In some cases, snow clearing may push snow and slush into the space you are used to cycling in during warmer months. Try your route on the weekend after the first snow fall, so that you can practice cycling in the snow and determine if your summer route will work as your winter route too.
Planning your winter bike trip
The cycle track network (protected bike lanes in the downtown area) and some pathways are on Priority One roads and are cleared of snow within 24 hours of the end of a snowfall. Other roadways with marked on-street bike lanes are Priority Two routes and will be cleared within 48 hours of the end of a snowfall event. Snow clearing information is available online for pathways and roadways.
Give yourself an extra 10-15 minutes to get to work in the winter; you might need even more time if it has recently snowed.
Get yourself ready
Layering up: There are a variety of clothing options for winter cycling, depending on your level of comfort. We have cold dark mornings, warm afternoons, and cool evenings. Dressing in layers allows you to adjust your clothing depending on the temperature and the length of your ride.
First layer: Should be against your skin. Consider a thin, moisture wicking layer to soak up any sweat and keep your body dry on your ride. Shirts and leggings made of merino wool are a good option.
Second layer: Something breathable and warm. Fleece, a light down jacket or a wool sweater or vest will keep your upper body warm, and a pair of leggings or comfortable pants will work for your lower body.
Third layer: It is windy in Calgary, so you will want to wear a jacket to block the wind. A pair of shell pants will keep dress pants or tights dry, while repelling snow and slush from the road.
Hands: Any mitten or glove combination can work. Try different combinations at different temperatures to see what works best for you.
Feet: There are many options for footwear. What type of footwear you select will depend on what you prefer to wear. Keep your feet warm and dry by wearing wool or a similar material sock. On cold days you might need to wear two pairs. Bring an extra pair or two of socks to keep in your desk or bag. You never know when you might need them! A winter boot or hiking boot will work as an outside layer, as will a fleece lined rain boot or neoprene cycling bootie. You will want footwear that will dry quickly or will repel snow, as it is not comfortable putting on wet shoes at the end of the day.Keep a few pairs of shoes at work, this way you will always have shoes to change into that meet the needs of your job.
Head: If you wear a helmet, be sure to have one that adjusts to fit a thin toque or headband under it. Often this will be enough. Consider your neck and face as well. A neck warmer or scarf will do the trick for the cold mornings. You may want to pull the scarf up over your nose and mouth to make breathing in the cold air easier on your lungs.
Eyes: Cold weather can also be hard on your eyes. You will notice your lashes may freeze and your eyes may water, a pair of sunglasses or glasses with clear lenses for the winter should help prevent this. Some people cycling will wear ski goggles, which provide extra warmth to the face.
Winter riding tips from others
- Do an ABC quick check
- Five tips for riding through your first winter
- Bike Calgary’s winter riding tips
- Cold weather biking tips
For more information: City of Calgary Winter Cycling
Cycling in the Rain
Dress to stay dry: Keep your core warm. A waterproof vest or jacket with a dropped skirt in the back and a hood is critical for heavy conditions. Wear a wicking underliner made from wool or polypropylene and wool socks. Cover your shoes with neoprene booties to insulate them when they are soaked, and use full fingered water- and wind-resistant gloves. Remember, your body sweats rain or shine, so your jacket and garments must breathe (chose Gore-Tex-type fabrics or ventilated outer garments) or you’ll arrive wet from the inside, instead of the outside.
Clear Lenses: In low light, clear or yellow lenses for eye protection are critical. When riding in the rain, normal sunglasses cut out too much light and can make road obstacles hard to see.
Rainbow Patches and Puddles: Keep an eye out for little rainbow-edged patches on the street. This is an indication of an oil patch. Never brake or corner in the center of the roadway at intersections, as this is where autos leave the majority of their drippings. Make an effort to notice metal surfaces such as manhole covers or steel-grid bridge decks, painted traffic markings, or wet leaves, as they all become very slick when wet.
Watch the Corners: Cornering in the rain can be tricky and dangerous. Shift as much of your weight on the outside pedal as possible.
Light It Up: Heavy rain and the glare from auto headlights reduce motorists’ vision, so it is a good idea to ride with a bright LED lamp on the seatpost and handlebar.
For more information: Bike Calgary Rain Tips