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Guelph offers some great trails for winter biking

‘There’s no such thing as bad weather just bad clothes,’ says Speed River Bicycle's Cosmo Carere

It may not be surprising that the owner of Speed River Bicycle in downtown Guelph bikes year-round. But the growing popularity of winter cycling means Cosmo Carere is certainly not the only one braving the cold and embracing the snow.

While many people picture extreme riders that are heavily bundled up and battling white-out conditions, Carere says winter cycling is gaining popularity amongst those looking to extend their recreational season or continue their active commute. He says that with the right bike, proper gear and well-maintained trails, winter cycling can be fun and accessible for everyone.  

“The old saying is, ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather just bad clothes,’” says Carere, who commutes daily to the shop on his bike, and rides recreationally on trails around town. He suggests wearing insulated shoes and layers to gear up for a winter ride. That might include a base layer, two heavier layers, and windproof pants, gloves and a jacket.

“You’re generating a lot of body heat so you don’t have to totally bundle up,” he says. “You just want to keep the wind off you and you want to stay dry.” 

As far as the bike itself, Carere says there are things you can do to augment your existing ride: fenders will keep the snow and slush from flying into your face and up your back; good lights will ensure you’re visible; and studded tires will help with traction, particularly in icy conditions. For heavy snow days, some riders use ‘fat’ tires which make it easier to ride on soft, unstable terrain. Road salt can also be damaging to the bike frame, so some riders may opt for a cheaper frame with fewer bells and whistles to use in the winter. 

“Ideal conditions are between minus-5 and minus-7 degrees after a snowfall when the snow has been packed down,” says Carere. “If you’re off in the trails, it’s great. It’s quiet, snowy and beautiful. It’s actually one of the nicest times to be out in the woods.”

For those interested in the community aspect of winter cycling, there are a number of clubs and organizations that encourage people to get out and embrace the weather. The Guelph Off-Road Bicycling Organization (GORBA), which maintains the off-road trail network, maps out a winter loop for people to ride and post pictures on social media for prizes.

Speed River Bicycle organizes guided bike rides throughout the year, including a New Years’ Resolution Ride in January. Other well-maintained trails in the area include Guelph Lake, Twin Ponds in Puslinch and the Arkell Spring Grounds. 

On Dec. 12, Carere and other experts in winter cycling will be hosting an event at Fixed Gear Brewing to talk about gear, trails and how to get involved. He says Guelphites are lucky to have both the weather conditions and the infrastructure to make winter cycling more appealing.

“With all the freeze and thaw, [cross-country] skiing can be hard and outdoor skating rinks are difficult,” he says. “But you can put fenders on your bike and ride year-round. We actually have an ideal situation here in Guelph.”