Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cyclists look at winter and let out laugh

Undaunted by city's cold climate

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If you dreaded the sprint to your car the last few days because you were afraid of your face freezing off, Winnipeg's hardiest commuters have a message for you -- suck it up already.

The bone-chilling temperatures and biting winds were nothing more than minor irritations for hard-core cyclists, who headed outside with no more concern than most of us would have during a sunny day in June.

"I'm just out delivering a box of Cheerios. My mother ran out," said Laurie Ahoff, during a brief pit-stop on Main Street. His two-wheeler is about as old school as they come -- a three-speed with skinny tires and no modifications.

"What more do you need? I've been doing this for 30 years," he said.

He even rides his bike to get groceries, which he packs in a milk crate affixed above his rear wheel.

"Most people get groceries once a week. I shop just about every day," he said.

Ahoff, who owns a car, said it's too much of a hassle to drive in the winter.

"You've got to shovel it out and clean it off. With a bicycle, you just grab it and go," he said. "You want to buy my car? I'll give you a good deal."

As daunting as the prospect might seem, cycling year-round is relatively comfortable provided you dress for the weather, said Ken Berg, a manager at Mountain Equipment Co-op.

"It's not as bad as people think from a comfort and safety point of view," he said.

"Although I do have a lot of people question my sanity when they see me out on days like this."

Ed Jones has a vehicle, too, but he still prefers to get around downtown, where he lives and works, by bicycle.

"I'm just doing small hops around downtown. In some ways, it's easier (on a bike). Parking can be inconvenient. That extra dollar for parking, I can't really justify it," he said. "The challenge is keeping your feet warm."

Being a connoisseur of outdoor gear comes with the territory for winter riders.

Jones said you can get by with the same clothing you'd walk around in if you're riding for less than 15 minutes. Anything longer and he said a balaclava, nylon booties and a hoodie are absolute musts. He also recommends a one-gear bike.

"It's simple and efficient. Moving parts in this weather tend to moan and groan and break," he said.

Berg said a hard shell to break the wind is another requirement as are sunglasses or his preferred eyewear, ski goggles.

"You've got to make sure every square inch of exposed skin is covered up," he said.

Berg recommends shirts that keep moisture away from your body, too.

"If your clothes don't breathe at least a little bit, all the moisture will be kept inside against your skin and you'll get cold. Your sweat will freeze," he said.

Ahoff said the beat-up bicycles that he rides in the winter last two years before they rust out due to the salt that's put down on the roads.

"See if I can bill the city for that, OK?" he said.

Related: The new winter cyclist - November 24, 2010

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 7, 2011 B1

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