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Time to put the bike away? Why not try winter biking! (4 photos)

'Being on a bike gives you a new appreciation of how beautiful our area is and winter brings out a whole different way of seeing things,' says athlete of the year

With the first signs of snow, many of us are getting ready to put our bicycles away for the season.

But with the ongoing pandemic and hesitancy to spend long hours indoors, it may be time to think about extending our cycling season, whether we bike as a form of transportation, or for outdoor exercise.

According to local cyclist Adam Hill, “you don’t need to shut down in the winter time.” Hill’s philosophy is sure to inspire you as you consider how to stay active outdoors this winter.

Orillia’s 2019 Athlete of the Year, Hill has an impressive background as an endurance cyclist, and has gained recognition, not only in Orillia, but throughout North America for winning races and setting course records.

But it’s his commitment to spending time outdoors on his bike and his passion for the local environment that is most inspiring.

Even with his full-time job as a respiratory therapist at Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, Hill makes time to ride his bike year round. He has clocked over 23,000 kilometres so far this year. Although he has a set-up that allows him to train indoors, he prefers cycling outside.

“I can ride on my trainer inside, but your body works differently when you’re working against real conditions outdoors. Being out in the elements, especially where we live, is so enjoyable," said Hill.

"Being on a bike gives you a new appreciation of how beautiful our area is and winter brings out a whole different way of seeing things.”

Hill’s winter cycling experience was recently enhanced when he discovered the fat-tire bike at the Crank and Sprocket Bicycle Company, owned by local cyclists Jacob McClelland and Tristan Spurr. Also year-round cycling enthusiasts, McClelland and Spurr were instrumental in helping Hill keep cycling safely through the winter.

“With proper maintenance, clothing and accessories (such as lights and fenders), you can ride throughout the winter on all almost any bike,” explained Spurr. “But the fat-tire bike is specially designed, with its fat tires (4 to 5 inches wide), for unstable and soft terrain like snow.”

“My bike has given me a safe way to be outside,” said Hill. “I want to get out on my bike for long rides and feel safe.”

Along with the stability offered by the bigger, heavier fat bike, Hill has invested in a pair of studded tires.

“They are a game changer; they are so much more stable. I can be outside and just pedal my bike without worrying about every piece of ice or slushy roadway,” he said.

“A wider tire that’s knobby or studded is better for snow and slush,” agreed McClelland. “Studded tires are especially helpful for icy conditions. They’re not just for fat-tire bikes. Some people who ride their mountain or hybrid bikes year round bring them in to have the tires switched over when the seasons change, just like your car.”

As a long-distance cyclist, Hill typically rides along the trail systems and concession roads throughout the Orillia region, but also takes advantage of the single-track forest loops maintained by the Simcoe County Mountain Bike Club (SCMBC).

“The SCMBC grooms these trails for biking and I see more and more people using them in the winter. I think it’s a cool thing for people to try," said Hill. "For me, it’s a way of resetting and spending time by myself. If I start out feeling stressed or worried, by the time I finish a ride, it’s gone.”

Hill says he also enjoys the racing aspect of his sport because of the travel opportunities, adding that some of his most memorable times have been when he gets to explore different places by bike.

Even still, with most race events cancelled, he says this year has brought its own advantages.

“Being able to open my garage door and just start riding has been great,” said Hill. “Even in our own community, we have such beautiful areas, just down a concession road. We are so fortunate to have these opportunities here.”

HELPFUL TIPS FOR WINTER

If you want to keep cycling this winter, check out these tips from Tristan and Jacob at the Crank and Sprocket and local cyclist, Adam Hill.

Safety

  • With less daylight and reduced visibility during the winter, make sure you have proper lights and reflectors on both the front and rear of your bike.
  • Fenders are a must and help keep water and slush off your feet and back.
  • Consider a wider tire that is knobby or studded.
  • Wear bright colours and reflective clothing.

Bike Maintenance

  • In the winter, the goal is to fight salt and grime. Lubricating and cleaning your bike often will help prevent rust, wear and corrosion, especially from road salt.
  • Get a cold weather tune-up for your bike.

Warmth

  • Layering is the key. Start with a base layer that is breathable and moisture-wicking and always wear a windproof outer layer.
  • Wear a headband or beanie (slim cap) under your helmet.
  • Keeping your hands and feet warm is paramount. Wear a good pair of winter boots or boot covers for your cycling shoes. Invest in a good pair of gloves or lobster claw mitts.