Winter has arrived in Ottawa with a brace of snow. No more denying it, no more pretending, it's simply a particular cool autumn day. No Winter is here.
Of course the other clue winter is here is the numerous how to "Winter Bike" articles.
Baby it's Cold Outside Dressing for the Weather or The Procrastinator's Guide to Winter Bicycle Commuting
These are fun, probably a little tongue in cheek, but maybe, just maybe, over complicate the issue a little bit.
Don't get me wrong, I don't think the specific advice is bad: per se. After all, I love gear; Merino wool, awesome stuff. Allergic to wool, Lifa or polyester base layers will keep you dryer then wool and almost as warm. Gore-tex WindStopper or Shells, great stuff. These fabrics will protect you from the elements while allowing the wearer to stay dry. Cycling "booties" to defeat cycling shoes built in ventilation, are great. Don't forget to replace your shoes insole, Superfeet make wool, and cycling shoe specific models...
Have you decided to take the bus yet, maybe the car? Maybe invest in a trainer and spin a few times over the winter, to keep the legs in shape? Or leave the bike in the garage and maybe pull it out in the spring. All the gear is for enthusiasts, it really does help I wouldn't suggest winter running or cross country skiing without some specialized gear. Still these articles are aimed at the curious commuter who having gotten used to the freedom of the bike is wondering how to extend the season, maybe avoid the bus and keep the car parked at home more.
As I said in a previous post What to Wear for Winter Cycling, the only truly mandatory bit of "gear" is fenders. Even that may be a stretch, I am biased, I will admit, fenders on a commuter are very much a good thing. irrespective of the season. But what about the rider? It is cold and dark and cold! Here is the best advice I can give someone who wants to ride through Ottawa's bleak winters, do it. Embrace the cold, get out the season pass faster and will be slightly less miserable. As for clothing dress for a brisk walk. Don't over dress, it is good to be cool to start, don't be afraid of experimenting. A scarf, a coat a hat, what you'd put on to walk the dog. hands and feet are the most frequent winter complaints, for all activities. My recommendation boots you can walk in. not boots that you can stand at the bus stop for half an hour. Warm feet are great, wet feet are cold. it is a similar story with hands, a thin pair of leather driving gloves probably won't be enough. Downhill ski mitts maybe to much, maybe. Hands are in the wind, often not moving much, it is worth oveer doing the gloves to be on the safe side. Consider a helmet, I'm not their biggest advocate, all but the best add warmth and falling opportunities are much greater.
Last bit of advice. Take your time. Average commute in Ottawa is roughly 8 km budget 30 to 40 minutes. It really is nice once you get going. Pay atention to yourself hands cold? Get some glove liners first. Then buy new gloves. Don't feel safe with fresh snow? (I love fresh snow, but to each their own) There are plenty of dry days, just give it a try. Winter biking is not that hard or mysterious. Honestly the worst bit of winter cycling, is not the cold or the difficulties dressing "properly". Winter cycling is dirty the roads are covered in salt and grime. It can be hard on the bike and your clothes but a little attention, fenders go a long way. Winter cycling needn't be complicated. You don't need to ride every day. Give it a try, you might find yourself hooked.