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Riders of the storm

By Adam Marsal

Riding in the snow storms was nothing exceptional for Jaylene Denton, former bike messenger in Edmonton, Canada. How to stay on the bike during the winter season? Here’s some useful tricks and tips from her in the second part of our ‘professionals on bikes series.’

250 days a year on the road

Jaylene was working full time, which means riding 250 days a year. Such a job definitely involves riding on snow and ice or combinations of both. ”As long as you keep the bike upright then you’re good!” Jaylene explains. Her daily portion was from 15 to 80 kilometres depending on the clients demands. This didn’t change in the winter, because messengers have to ride to the same places all year long.

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Photo: Jaylene Denton

Nothing is really waterproof enough

As you see from the photos, Jaylene managed to stay on her bike even during heavy snowfall. She admits to prefer snow to rain anyway. ”No matter how much waterproof gear you have, it only works to an extent and by the end of the day you will be thoroughly soaked.

Photo: Jaylene Denton

This is challenging because you have to make sure not to get deliveries soaked,” she says. Lots of times Jaylene ended with bruises after accidental falls but the injuries didn’t change anything with her love for cycling. ”I loved it. It’s a great job to experience, I will always look back on it with fondness.” Jaylene says.

How to prepare the bike for the winter?

”I ride fixed gear in the winter to keep maintenance low key. The first winter I rode a freewheel single speed and we had some nasty humidity which caused a lot of ice to build up around my brakes, rendering them useless. Since my rear wheel had a flip flop hub I just flipped it to the fixed side so that I would have a way to stop without my brakes.

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Photo: Jaylene Denton

This was the very first time I rode fixed gear, and I never went back to freewheel – except on my road bike, obviously. Otherwise, just making sure the brake cable and housing are clean and greased and that the components are working is all I need to do before the winter comes.”

What about tires on snow?

”For extremely bad weather it’s fine to put on studded tires. Lots of commuters in Edmonton ride fat bikes, or mountain/hybrid styles with studded tires. Nokian and Schwalbe both make exceptional ones.”

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Photo: Jaylene Denton

What to wear to stay warm?

”I like to wear a thin merino wool base layer under my shirt, and wool socks. This way when it gets cold I can just add a layer. For example, if it is -30°C I would wear the merino wool base layer, a fleece hoody, and a windproof jacket like North Face or Columbia. The windproof part is crucial. A good wool or fleece neck gaiter that can pull up over your mouth and nose is nice, plus a cycling cap under the hood, under the helmet.

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Photo: Jaylene Denton

Your legs and torso will stay warm while you move, so it’s important to focus on your head, hands and feet. Keeping your feet warm is a must. I like woollen socks with a windproof shoe. There are some mountain bike style shoes that are designed for the -30°C range if you prefer. Good gloves are important too, a mitten style is best for warmth.”

This article is the second part of our ‘professionals on bikes’ series. Please don’t forget to read the first part about a policeman who loves cycling.