Today on the blog, CCNL catches up with María Andrée López Gómez on how to bike into the winter. Maria is a social epidemiologist and has a background in Public Health, Sociology and Demography, and Occupational Health. She is a postdoctoral fellow at the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) at Memorial University studying factors related to recruitment, training and retention of people in small-scale fisheries in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL).
When she’s not riding one of her four bikes, Maria volunteers with Ordinary Spokes, a non-profit, community organization that runs a repair shop and cyclist resource centre in St. John’s, NL. Keep reading to see Maria’s advice on how to bike into the colder months.
This post is part of the Get Outdoors Series, where we explore ways to enjoy NL in all seasons.
How did you start biking in the winter?
As a person who hates feeling cold, I would tell them that biking in the winter is a great way to keep warm! But to be honest, I started biking in the winter because it felt safer and it felt right. In St. John’s, sidewalks are not cleared for pedestrians to safely walk anywhere so biking was a way to take over the roads that were cleared and feel safer (no fear of slipping and breaking a bone). I also feel that St. John’s has good human dimensions, places are not far away. The furthest place I have to go to in a “normal” busy work week would be 5 km. This is a very short distance that does not justify the use of a car. Plus I don’t own a car, although I do have access to one because I live with a person who owns a car.
What advice would you give to people who want to start biking in colder weather?
There are several things you need. First, I would recommend you buy or make studded tires. Here is a short video on how to make your own. Studded tires provide the right support for snowy and slippery roads, especially in a city full of hills.
Second, make sure your brakes work well and you have strong lights on your bike as days are shorter in the winter. You can buy lights for your bike at most sports stores and bike shops.
Third, bundle up! Key areas to cover are ears, hands, eyes, mouth and feet.
Let’s talk gear. What do you wear to bike in winter? What’s on your bike? Can you talk about your tires?
1. I usually wear a winter cycling balaclava that covers my head, ears and mouth.
2. Ski gloves, as they have the material that protects from cold wind.
3. Ski goggles
4. Snow boots, but some people like the waterproof shoe covers which can be a bit expensive, but definitely a good investment if you don’t feel comfortable biking in snow boots.
5. I cover my outfits with old baggy pants and a yellow safety jacket to be visible. I am lucky to be able to borrow one that is made for winter. Sometimes I also only use my usual jacket, but I risk getting it dirty.
Are there biking safety practices people should know before hitting the road?
I like to wear a safety jacket that has reflective stripes. I always carry my lights. I have a 65 lumens rear light and I have it on during the day and night. I do this because I am biking with the cars all the time. I find that cars in NL do not seem aware that the road is also for cyclists. The lack of bike lanes and signs supporting the transit of bikes speaks to this.
You have 4 different bikes. What do you use each bike for?
I have 4 bikes and they all have their names.
A) La norteña: A cyclocross Norco that I bought second hand and turned into a rad bike. This is my speedy bike and I do long rides with it. I recently completed the Irish loop in 4 days and 3 nights, but I also like doing long rides that range between 30 to 100 km.
B) Baby: A road bike, brand Giant. My first road bike! I bought it second hand in 2015. It has traveled with me to 5 different countries and I have completed road trips with her. I recently retired her to be my summer commute bike. It is great for hills and carrying groceries.
C) Kona: It’s a gravel bike, brand Kona. I also bought it second hand and it’s great for the T’railway, sturdy and light.
D) Miel: Brand Miele, it belonged to my partner’s mother, her old touring bike. I converted this one to my winter bike. I refurbished the bike with studded tires and front brake levers. I used an old bike as I know that the salt in the winter will get everything rusty.
Could you talk a bit about Ordinary Spokes. What does the organization do? When did you become a member? How can other people get involved or join?
Ordinary Spokes is a volunteer-run community cycling organization that aims to build bike culture and empower cyclists of all experience levels. We advocate for biking for all and do-it-yourself (DIY) bike repair. I became a member in early July this year. During the summer we were serving the public at the Humpday Market at the St. John’s Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays, but now that the weather is getting chilly we are back at our building at 151 Empire avenue. We are currently NOT OPEN to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions, but we are working on a plan to do so.
If people have donations they can come leave them at our building at 151 Empire Avenue Mondays and Wednesdays from 5-8pm. We share the building with the tool library and people will find the door closed, just knock and our volunteers will be there.
If people are interested in volunteering with us, they should send us a message at email@example.com or contact us via Facebook. We are working on ways to include more volunteers as we are preparing to sell more bikes and give bike workshops over the winter.
How do you get outdoors? From summer hikes to winter skiing, we want to hear about the way you enjoy NL throughout the year. Email us to chat!