Winter biking tips and experiences

Have you ever been frustrated by your bicycle commuting, especially in winter when the conveniently usable road surface starts to decrease due to accumulation of snow ploughed to the side of the road where two-wheeled commuters usually drive in absence of a designated bike trail system or bike lanes? Here is a tip that made an enormous difference for me:

Build a tall bike!

Bell testing the tall bike in Whitehorse on wintery roads.
Bell testing the tall bike in Whitehorse on wintery roads.

Two winters ago, Australian penny farthing champion Bell Chamberlain visited Whitehorse and the Yukon Territory. She inspired us to build a tall bike from old bicycle parts that were lying around in the back yard. Merci beaucoup, Philippe! No it was not pretty, but it quickly became a head turner in Whitehorse.

The best effect it had, was that all in a sudden, drivers with their much bigger and stronger vehicles would keep a healthy distance from the bicycle, a behaviour that I usually don’t recognize when sharing traffic on the streets of Whitehorse. And instead of the wave with one finger – for apparently restricting the freedom of other road users – I got recognized with curious glances, smiles, and friendly waves.

Respectful traffic - Bell leading the procession down Lewes Boulevard
Respectful traffic – Bell leading the procession down Lewes Boulevard

The stop and go in city traffic poses some new challenges when commuting on a tall bike! Be aware.

Most of all, it is fun to see the world from a different perspective!

Spring outing on the tall bike in Whitehorse (photo credit: Aurore Boréale)

By popular demand, here you can learn how to get on (and off) the tall bike:
Our model of tall bike is built for long-legged riders.
1. Hold on to the handle bar with both hands from the left side of the bicycle
2. Left foot onto the left pedal
3. Push off with the right foot enough that the bicycle starts rolling (helps steady and balance the bike)
4. Stand up and swing the right foot over
5. Start pedalling to keep the momentum going!
6. Very important on the way down: Repeat all 5 steps in reverse order! There were a couple of incidents where I forgot that I was on the tall bike, came to a stop, and tried to step off the same way as from a regular bike. If you are an acrobat, it will be your chance to do an impromptu performance to mask the disaster!
For shorter-legged riders, weld a cross bar onto the frame as an intermediate step.

Hold on tight and push off... Hold on tight and push off…...stand up to swing your leg... …stand up to swing your leg…...and sit down and enjoy the ride! …and sit down and enjoy the ride!

5 thoughts on “Winter biking tips and experiences

    1. Thank you for checking the post and for the compliments.
      I usually deflate the tires slightly in wintertime to increase traction. Riding on snow is not problematic for as long as it stays cold (-10 C and below), then the snow is hard packed and not very slippery. Problems arise when temperatures fluctuate around the freezing point!
      By the way, I have fond memories of Norway, I visited Røros and Trondheim thirty years ago around Christmas time. It was my first exposure to the subarctic!


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