September 12, 2022 • Mountain Living
Bike All Winter: Stay active and reduce your carbon footprint with Community Cruisers
By Kate Barker, Photos by Dark Horse Photography
“If you can ride a bike, you can ride a bike in winter.” Jen Tweddell, Chair of the Board of Directors for Community Cruisers
With winter fast approaching, many people are out on their bikes enjoying the changing season while considering their plans to store their wheels for the winter. It’s common in Canada to think of biking as a summer-only sport, and while mountain bikers have adopted fat bikes for the winter trails, commuters often think their time is over when the snow flies. But you don’t need to put away your wheels just because the season is changing. And with the award-winning Bike All Winter program from Community Cruisers, it won’t break the bank to get your bike ready for the roads this winter.
“Biking in the winter is fun and convenient,” says Jen Tweddell, Chair of the Board of Directors for Community Cruisers. “But it also saves money and it’s good for the environment.” For some people, it’s their only form of transportation. Not everyone can afford to buy and maintain a car, but most people can find a quality bike at an affordable price to get around town. Moreover, bikes are easy to store and you don’t have to worry about finding parking downtown. There’s no brushing snow off the windshield and warming up the engine when the temperature drops. A bike is always ready to go!
For those who have never commuted by bike in the winter, it can seem daunting. With expert help to get your bike ready, and assistance along the way to keep you motivated, Bike All Winter is connecting locals with the tools and resources they need to actively commute by bike all year long.
Bike All Winter is based on other successful winter biking programs. According to data collected from its first two years, Community Cruisers estimates they avoided 2.9 tonnes of GHG emissions in 2020 and 6.5 tonnes in 2021 by removing vehicles from the roads. The program is accepting even more participants this year, with a larger carbon offset expected. Bike All Winter won an Alberta Emerald Foundation award in the Air category for reducing emissions and encouraging active transportation.
“In many parts of the world, cycling throughout the winter is a very normal thing. Our goal is to create that here. It’s not an extreme sport, it’s something for everyday.” Jeremy White, volunteer mechanic with Community Cruisers.
The Bike All Winter program provides tools, training, and advice so participants can afford to accessorize their bikes for winter riding and take to the roads and trails with confidence. The program is funded by the Town of Canmore, Banff Canmore Community Foundation, Rotary Club of Canmore, Community Cruisers, and others.
Once participants are selected, their bikes are assessed to see what equipment they need. While the program is subsidized, some participants choose to pay for their own equipment, or offset the costs by paying for part of it. “It varies from 100% paid to 100% supported,” says Tweddell. Typically it costs between $300-$400 to outfit a bike to ride successfully in winter.
Once the need is assessed, the equipment is ordered with the support of Outside Bike and Ski. When it arrives, just before the snow flies, Community Cruisers mechanics help install the equipment on the participants’ bikes, and the participants go through a tutorial to learn tips and tricks for winter biking, including how to dress, how to navigate the roads and pathways in town, and how to be a good ambassador for the program. They can also choose to work with a mentor, sometimes an alumnus of the program, who can help them gain confidence on their first winter rides.
The program also includes a membership to Community Cruisers, which means participants can use the workshops to swap their bike tires back in the spring. Participants in the program are chosen to be role models for biking in winter, and they’re encouraged to tell their stories to inspire others to cycle through the seasons. “Last year, our youngest participant was 5 and one woman in her 80s participated. There is no age limit. Anyone can do it,” says Tweddell.
“When people try it, most of their reservations about riding in the winter disappear. We ask them if they would do it again, everyone says yes! Once you get used to it, people always want to do it.” Jen Tweddell
There are three main things that Community Cruisers volunteer mechanic Jeremy White recommends for biking in winter. The first is swapping out your summer tires for studded ones. While this isn’t 100% necessary for those used to riding in all seasons, the added grip on slippery road conditions gives people the confidence to commute in the cold. Second, he suggests adding fenders so the slush doesn’t get all over you. And third, putting lights on your bike is a necessity for biking in winter. It’s the law, and it’s a major safety feature as the days get shorter.
Some other safety suggestions include lowering your saddle height to lower your centre of gravity, not pumping your tires so full to give more surface area to grip on the road, and making sure the chain is oiled so it’ll run smoothly throughout the winter. White also recommends slowing down, and keeping in mind the bike will take longer to accelerate and decelerate, similar to a car on the winter roads.
This year, the Bike All Winter program will be accepting a total of 100 participants in the Bow Valley: 50 from Canmore and 50 from Banff. Everyone will receive the necessary tools to outfit their bikes for winter riding, receive support through workshops, group rides, and optional mentors, and they’ll participate in promoting the program through photoshoots and storytelling.
The selected participants will be ambassadors for winter riding and help encourage biking through the cold months. Everyone is encouraged to apply. Community Cruisers is looking for a diverse group of individuals who can be role models. Almost any type of bike is accepted, including e-bikes, and the equipment is yours to use for years to come. If you don’t have a bike but want to apply, Community Cruisers can set you up with a decent bike for a very affordable price.
According to the Biosphere Institute, 40% of community emissions in Canmore are from transportation. If residents reduced their car travel by 10km each week, and used active transportation like walking or biking, or alternate transportation like carpooling or transit, the town could avoid 2,592 tonnes of emissions each year.
According to 2020 data, the Bike All Winter program increases the confidence of bikers and encourages them to continue biking all year round.
- Prior to joining the program, 80% of participants rode their bikes 1 (20%) or 0 (60%) days per week in the winter
- During the program, 84% of participants rode their bike 2 or more days per week between November and March
- 100% of participants would encourage others to try riding a bike in winter
- 100% of participants stated they would ride their bike next winter
- 88% of participants said they would use their new equipment next winter
Are you interested in the benefits of winter biking? Apply to get your bike outfitted and have access to all the support you need to actively commute in the snowy months. Applications for the Bike All Winter program are open from September 15 to October 15 and can be accessed online at communitycruisers.ca