Tips to Keep You on Your Bike Through a Saskatchewan Winter
Being a cyclist in Saskatoon can be a labour of love when we have a relatively long winter. The snow is around for a good portion of the year and when you add in some -40 C days, and it can feel like an uphill battle to get out on the bike between fall and spring. With a few helpful tips, I think that I can encourage you to get out and have some fun on two wheels this winter.
Studded - Almost any bike can be turned into a great all season commuter with a good set of studded tires. Ranging from approximately $50-150 per tire it’s a great way to keep your current bike rolling through the winter.
Plus Size or Fat Tires - Studded tires are great - especially for icy sections, but you still might struggle through loose snow. This is where some plus size tires or a fat bike can come in handy. They’re also a necessity for getting on the trails in the winter. You won’t be extremely zippy out there; think of it as resistance training - but you will be stable. Also, both plus size tires and fat bike tires are available in studded options for double duty.
Tire Pressure - simply said - let a little out. You don’t want to be riding on the rims, but a little less tire pressure will give you a little more traction.
a. Salsa Mukluk Fat Bike b. Wolf-Tooth Bar Mitts c. Bontrager Rear Light d. Black Diamond Headlamp e. Serfas Front Light (1200 Lumens)
f. Camelbak Insulated Water Bottle g. Multi tool h. Park Tools Torque Wrench i. Peak Multi Tool j. Lowepro Camera Bag k. Revelate Frame Bag
Lights - most avid commuters have a good set of front and rear lights to show traffic (and other cyclists) they’re on the road. With sunlight hours existing almost exclusively while we’re at work in the winter - you’re going to need them even more so.
Insulated Water Bottle - it took me approximately one frigid ride where my water was a popsicle 30 minutes in to purchase one. Camelback makes a great one, and in multiple sizes. You can also try using a thermos that you’re willing to let rattle around in your bottle cage.
Helmet - a winter helmet is a great investment. They come insulated, and higher end options will come with adjustable venting so you’re able to ride comfortably in almost any temperature. Smith and Giro are two that I’ve used and would recommend.
Goggles - avoid the eye watering cold and throw some goggles on. I purchased some that have interchangeable lenses so that I can also fine tune them to how bright (or dark) it is outside.
Racks/Bags - keeping the gear off your back is always great when you can. A rear rack with some side bags, a frame bag, or a saddle bag are all great ways to carry your gear. It’s nice to have somewhere to throw snacks, multi-tools, spare tubes, or warmer/cooler clothing options as well.
a. Craft Base Layer b. Smart Wool Neck Warmer c. Patagonia Gore-Tex Shell d. Ice Breaker Buff e. 45NRTH Split Finger Gloves f. Power In Motion Heated Glove Liners g. Patagonia Nano Hoody h. Sombrio Riding Shorts i. 7Mesh Riding Leggings j. Smith Quantum Helmet k. Smith Goggles *not pictured: riding pants for colder days.
Tourism Saskatchewan recently ran a post that showcased how to dress for winter activities. What to do, and what to avoid - and I highly suggest you take a look at it here. I simply follow the three layer rule: an inner layer for wicking moisture away from your body, a middle layer to insulate you from the cold, and an outer layer that acts as a barrier between you and the elements.
Cycling does have one thing unique to it as far as keeping warm - the hands. Below are a few more tips for keeping them warm, but still keeping the dexterity to operate the bike.
Gloves - 45NRTH makes some great cycling specific split finger gloves. This will give you the dexterity to operate your shifters, brakes, and droppers. For those really cold days I like to use a set of heated glove liners made by Power In Motion.
Pogeys/Bar Mitts - riding a bike with mountain bike style handle bars? 45NRTH also makes a great set of pogeys. Pogeys, or bar mitts, basically act as sleeves over your gears and brakes and allow you to get your hands out of the cold and into an insulated pocket. They are great for when you want to wear a lighter glove for dexterity, or for when it’s a really cold day.
Where to ride
Meewasin Trail - a great way to ride around the river and take in the sights on a nice day. Do the full loop from North Circle Bridge to South Circle Bridge if you’re feeling ambitious.
St. Barbe Winter Trails - maintained by a group of locals - you’ll need a fat bike to enjoy these trails. Located out by Cedar Villa Estates (just west of the snow dump off Valley Road) you’ll find plenty of km’s of trails. Another bonus - the area is an old tree nursery, so on those high windchill days you’ll find it’s quite sheltered.
River Trails - located throughout Saskatoon you’ll find trails running from Mistawasis Bridge all the way (and past) South Circle Bridge. There are trails for all skill levels, and definitely the most scenic riding in the area.
New trails are always being added to Trail Forks, a great online resource to find mountain biking trails. I suggest getting the app and browsing it locally and to find other biking and hiking trails throughout the province.
So you’re not ready to make the leap and purchase a bike just yet? A great way to see if winter riding is for you, or if you just want to have some fun for a day, is to rent a fat bike from your local shop. Below you’ll find a list of shops all over the province that offer fat bike rentals. I suggest calling in advance to book the rentals as they can be quite popular. Make sure top ask the staff where their favourite trails are.
Fresh Air Experience
Hopefully this is a good jumping off point to help you get out there and enjoy winter by bicycle. And, if it really takes off for you, don’t hesitate to ask your local bike shop about winter ride groups.
See you out there!
Author & Photographer: Brayden Elliott
Rooted in the Saskatchewan prairies, Brayden Elliott has been a full time part time photographer for over 6 years. Influenced by the landscapes around him and what they can offer, he has been drawn to the photography and videography of adventure traveling and cycling of all kinds. He has shot catalogues and campaigns for several brands including The Annual Catalogue for MacNeil Bikes out of Montreal, Canada. To keep up with his adventures find him online at @bray.elliott or www.braydenelliott.com