In this part of the world, winter outdoor enthusiasts may be considered "insane". And when you're a winter cycling commuter, you are hard as nails. You have to be. There's not very many people that are willing to walk or run, let alone ride their bikes when it's minus 20 or 30 below!
For me, a winter bike needs to be a bike that is fun to ride. My commute to work is only eight blocks. For me, a bike built for winter riding is different than a bike that someone would commute long distances on. I have a couple of friends that commute long distances all year long and sometimes the ride is not all that pleasurable. Their bikes are designed to make "good time" rather than explore.
The river overflowing her banks onto the bike path. Now it's frozen ice.
I build winter bikes so I can go out and explore and play in the snow. We get 8 months of winter, 3 months of bad weather and then summer or, July. If I wait for nice or "perfect" weather to ride my bike, I may have to wait a long, long time. Riding for pleasure in the winter is different. I purposely go out when the weather turns bad and look for snow.
In previous years, I have gone out trail riding in the winter but I've been at the "mercy" of the walkers. I needed to wait for enough time to pass for walkers to pack a path hard enough that I would be able to ride on. It becomes quite challenging to ride a path in the snow that is only 18" wide. Veer off the path and you stop immediately in the soft unpacked snow.
High volume and low pressure is the key to happy snow riding. Fat tires will give you maximum floatation. The wider the footprint, the better, as it will handle a loose surface. There is nothing else like the feeling of a bicycle both floating and coasting on snow at the same time. It's a very different feeling than riding on hard pavement.
Tires need to be of a larger volume so you can stay on top of the surface and float at the same time. The rolling resistance is so minimal that you can coast on even the smallest declines. Huge fun! Wheee!!!
Now, I'm one of the first people out on the trail clearing a path for other users. It's really quite comical when people see me coming. I think it's hard for them to grasp that they are seeing a bicycle coming through the snow towards them. It's awesome when people move aside for me and stand there in amazement as I pass by.
I live in the core of the city and I'm literally minutes away from a trail system 100's of kilometres long which follows some great wild nature systems.
I am constantly compelled to stop and take photographs of what I'm surrounded by as I ride through it. Nature has a completely different feel when it's cold and in hibernation. All is quiet.
So far this winter, I have had a great time riding my bike in the snow and will continue to do so. No matter the weather, it's really true: if you have the right tools, clothing and equipment, it makes riding so much easier. And more fun! Happy trails and saddle up!