Cycling Alongside Children: Cold Weather Cycling

So far the children and I have managed to cycle them to school at least once a month.  Well, it was several times in December until the harried pre-Christmas schedule saw us just needing the convenience of quicker vehicular transportation.

Then in January we managed 2 or 3 round trips but I wouldn’t let them cycle in the super cold weather we’ve had.

So far in February we’ve manged two trips.  We are sincerely hoping that the weather gets warmer by the end of this week and then stays in that zone!

Cold weather cycling with children raises a lot of eyebrows.  I get the feeling the assumption is that I’m ‘forcing my children’ onto the bikes.  It is typical that one of the children are requiring extra encouragement but that encouragement is usually coming from the other child.  Then there are the mornings that both children are encouraging me to take the bikes instead of the van.

We’ve taken some precautions that we think make cold weather cycling safer.

First we’ve taken the time to make sure each child is on a cycle that is more upright in position.  From what I’ve read on the internet, an upright position puts more of the riders weight on the back wheel (logical) and helps them steer and keep their balance in slippery conditions.

Our experiences seem to support this.  We’ve ridden in some very snowy streets and typically our front wheel indicates that we’re in trouble and then the feet go down or adjustments are made to keep the balance.

In fact the children have only slipped once.  First it was my son and that was because he was riding hands free and went over a patch of ice.  About 10 feet down the road my daughter slipped and we are thinking she went down because her ‘mind slipped because of E’s fall.’ (her explanation and I tend to agree, she lost her mental game!)

Second, we’ve installed internal brakes on their winter bikes.  My daughter and I currently only own one bike, but the husband and son each have a winter bike.  Oddly enough, husband doesn’t have internal brakes and wishes he did.

Third, I made sure both of them have racks on their bikes so that they are not carrying their school bags on their backs.  Now, my son has developed the opinion that it is not manly to put a basket on your bike so he uses his rat trap to hold his bag on the bike or it ends up in my basket.  Because, having your mother cycle your books home… nevermind! 😉

Fourth, we don’t alter anything else that I’ve mentioned in previous posts.  We don’t take different routes (EXCEPT we do not take the long route home through the woods as it is not ploughed).  We don’t change our position on the road or ride sidewalks.  We don’t ride as often but that is more because I’m concerned about the drivers and them not expecting children on the road!

Last, clothing.

I’m a knitter and we’ve found that we all love neck cowls.  When knit with alpaca or merino they provide toasty warmth that stays warm even though you’re huffing through the material.

We also have a thinner beanie style hat that we wear under ‘bucket’ style helmets.  These helmets are different from those we wear in the summer and I made them wear their hat and then sized the helmet to fig snug with the toque in place.  Typically I knit the beanie style hats a wee bit long so that the ears are covered by the hat.  I’ll also knit a facing into the hat (provisional cast-on and then a picot turn for the girls or a purl row for the boys in a stockinette tube hat), which provides a double layer over the ears.

Our noses and lips are typically out although our cowls can and do get pulled up.

We do have a pair of ski snow pants for each of us.  They are a wee bit thinner than traditional snow pants.  We all appreciate the extra warmth but wonder if knitted tubes over the knees would be enough.  Sadly time has not allowed me to experiment with this yet!  I’d say my son wears his ski pants 50% of the time, on the way to school and then ‘forgets’ to put them on and takes off home before I can force him to wear them.

The kids don’t have time to change out of long underwear at school and found that it was too hot to leave them on, so we found the snowpants was the best option for us.

They wear their normal winter coats but I switch between my regular coat and a windproof, waterproof cycling shell with a warm sweatshirt underneath.  The last combination works great and I do love it but does look a bit odd going into stores.  I’m hoping to eventually have enough money to buy a 2XL merino wool cardigan from the bike shop to wear under the shell.  Sadly being a tall busty woman does have its negatives!

The kids do wear their regular mitts as well.  I have several pairs of mitts and gloves and tend to favour my lobster style cycling gloves.  The kids have not complained of cold fingers yet.

They bike in their regular winter boots, the kind you get at any big box store.  I will go between a pair of cotton socks and a pair of wool socks over top in my steel toe work shoes, or sometimes I’ll cycle in winter hiking style boots and then change into my work shoes.

If you were to see us on our cycles in the winter time we do not look ‘cycle chic’ but we definitely look normal Canadian person dressed against the cold.  If you were to see us near the end of our cycling trip you’d have to laugh though, typically we’ve removed our cowls, unzipped our coats and sit there fanning ourselves to cool down.  But hey!  At least in winter you can cool down quickly!

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