Winter cyclists laugh in the face of snow, ice and -40 C wind chill

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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WINNIPEG Even in the dead of a Prairie winter, when the thermometer dips below -40 C, the streets are covered by a sheen of crackling ice and breathing brings a frozen sting to the lungs, Lindsay Gauld will get on his bicycle.

WINNIPEG Even in the dead of a Prairie winter, when the thermometer dips below -40 C, the streets are covered by a sheen of crackling ice and breathing brings a frozen sting to the lungs, Lindsay Gauld will get on his bicycle.

The former Olympian, now 60, is one of a growing number of people who cycle even in conditions that would drive most people to hibernate.

There are no bad days, just bad clothing choices, laughs Gauld as he takes a break in downtown Winnipeg on what he considers a relatively mild day. It only feels like -20 C with the wind chill.

Youve just got to keep your feet warm, your hands warm, your head. I mean, Ive got three layers of clothing on. Id maybe add one more.

Gaulds love for cycling is literally full-time. He retired comfortably a few years ago and now works as a bike courier for the exercise more than the money. He enjoys battling traffic and the elements as he covers more than 100 kilometres on an average day.

Its not just former athletes like Gauld who was on Canadas cycling team at the 1972 Munich Olympics who pedal year-round.

Growing concern about the environment, fitness and the high cost of fuel have persuaded students, office workers and others to abandon cars for two-wheeled transport, even in Canadas coldest cities.

My family is really prone to obesity, and I was finding when I had a car that I was putting on quite a bit of weight, says Meghan Bodner, a 33-year-old web developer who commutes 20 minutes to work each day.

Bodner gave her car to a relative a few years ago, determined to get in shape and do her part for cleaner air.

Winter cycling can make it harder for motorists and cyclists to get along, as they share streets narrowed by piles of snow, Bodner says.

Once I had a Pepsi can thrown upside my head. It just takes one or two really rude people to ruin your day.

Winter cyclist Steve Andersdon says hes gotten some sideways look from friends and co-workers.

People often, when I get to school, think Im crazy: You know its -30 C, you must be freezing , says Andersen, 28, who rides his bike for about 15 minutes to and from classes at Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton.

Andersen says his biggest challenge comes on days when he faces a stiff north wind as he crosses the citys High-Level Bridge which spans the North Saskatchewan River. A balaclava, extra mitts and a few layers of clothing allow him to get through it. He even works up a sweat, taking off a layer or two as his ride progresses.

Youre not cold the way you are when you stand around waiting for a bus, Andersen says.

Winter cycling is not nearly as hard as most people assume, Andersen says. A sturdy bike, good tires and extra lubrication to protect bicycle parts from the bitter cold will get people through snow and ice.

Organizations: Grant MacEwan College

Geographic location: WINNIPEG, Edmonton, North Saskatchewan River

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