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Surviving Montreal’s Frigid, “Snow Moon by Bike” Ride

I'll come out and say it: I am a NYC winter-bike-riding wimp: I almost never jump on the bike once temps dip below about 35 degrees. But after visiting Montreal to ride on easily the coldest night I ever have, just maybe I'll re-think that.

On Saturday, I participated in Velo Quebec's "Snow Moon By Bike" ride which featured about a thousand riders taking a journey around the city in temperatures in the single digits. (Wind chill below zero F). Montreal had just finished hosting the Winter Cycling Congress and I decided if I was gonna try to make it thru, I'd ask people not only about why they come out for the ride, but any advice they could offer riding in sub-zero temperatures.

Many good layers, of course, was the suggestion of the day. But also making sure to take it easy so you don't sweat which can be very perilous in the cold. I also learned - the hard way - that breathable footwear and gloves (mittens especially) were especially vital in the wind!

It was a challenging but fun ride for me since I not only had the icy roads and other riders to contend with, but also was documenting, thus I had to hop on and off and only wear a very light glove on my shooting (right) hand. By the end I couldn't feel my middle finger at all - and my hand didn't really return to fully useable until about a half hour indoors. My toes got it pretty badly, too, they felt fine walking around prior to the start but once you're on the bike the blood flow in your feet changes and any wind just wicks heat right away. My doubled up socks in my snug sneakers weren't much of a barrier, but I didn't bring boots.

All in all this was a splendid experience. I certainly have even more respect for the #VikingBiking mentality of Montreal residents to battle temperatures that scare me. I think I'll now be more brave in my future winter NYC riding.

Clarence Eckerson Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • Claudia Lorena Corcino

    Thank you for sharing the experience. I had the opportunity to visit Montreal last summer and I really admire the respect for the cyclists and the infrastructure in the city. I did enjoy the Tour de L'ile and Tour Le Nuit.