In previous BNS blog posts, we covered the physical preparation needed for winter cycling, exploring how to dress and how to prepare your bike for winter roads. But there’s another hurdle stopping many fairweather cyclists from continuing through the winter: wrapping your head around what’s required. 

Opting to cycle through the cold and foul weather does require some psychological preparation. No matter how well you dress or prepare your bike for occasionally nasty roads, if you’re not mentally prepared, you might run into some winter cycling difficulties.

How to Prepare Your Mind for Winter Cycling

Plan Your Route

With the uniquely challenging conditions of winter riding, it’s important to plan ahead. Are there stretches of your ride that are more likely to be slick or icy? Consider figuring out a route that will help you avoid that particular segment. There are also some paths you might love riding in the summer that don’t receive winter maintenance. Ditto city roads. Make sure to plan ahead and stick to safe routes to ensure an enjoyable ride. You don’t want to end up at the beginning of your favourite ride only to discover the trail isn’t safely cleared for cycling. 

Take Your Time

While you’re bound to have some days of sunny skies and dry roads in the winter, it’s probably not the season when you’re going to be hitting new Strava PRs — and that’s OK! To ride safely in the winter, it’s important to become accustomed to taking your time when necessary. Slick or rough road conditions, darkness, and fewer cyclists on the road are all good reasons to slow down compared to your summer riding. This can be a mental hurdle for those of us who are always aiming for personal bests and peak fitness, but it’s an important part of preparing for winter cycling.

Adjust for the Darkness

There are days in December when the sun doesn’t come up until 7:30 a.m. and then sets at 4:30 p.m. It feels like a rip-off, especially if you’re accustomed to getting up early for rides before work or taking long and leisurely evening rides. The good news is you can still ride safely in the dark with the right preparation. As we discussed in our blog post about how to dress for winter cycling, you have to plan ahead to be seen by other road users. Get used to making sure you have your bike lights and visible clothing, and take time to wrap your head around the extra caution needed when riding in the dark. 

Another friendly reminder that the official Rules of the Road require you to use a front white light and a rear red light or red reflector (we strongly recommend using a light) when riding between 30 minutes before sunset (dusk, not dark) and 30 minutes after sunrise.

Try Something New

Are you a dedicated roadie who lives for narrow tires and smooth tarmac? Winter conditions can make your favourite style of riding a bit tough (outside of the dreaded indoor trainer). Perhaps it’s worth considering a different, snowier cycling discipline. 

With the increasing popularity of fat biking and other more winter-friendly styles, you can use the season as an excuse to try something new. Road cyclists are often surprised at how much they enjoy getting off the beaten path and learning the joys of bike handling on a different style of bike. Who knows — you might just fall in love with winter riding enough to add a new bike to the stable.

Remember Why You Love Cycling

If you’re reading this blog post, you’re probably the type of person who constantly tells people how happy riding makes you (aka a cyclist!). That is, after all, why most of us cycle in the first place. Cycling is a proven mood booster and has been linked to reduced stress and even improved work performance. A recent study from Concordia University confirmed what many of us already knew from experience: biking to work can set you up for a good day. And the mental health benefits of cycling don’t disappear during the winter months. 

But when it’s cold and dark outside, you may need to remind yourself that you love cycling to find the motivation to layer up and get out for a ride. While the first couple minutes are bound to be cold, you’ll warm up in no time and quickly remember why you love cycling so much. Sometimes we just need an extra nudge to get out in the cold and do what’s best for us.

Make Safety a Priority

Remember: ensuring your own safety and the safety of all road users is important year-round. Winter cycling in Nova Scotia presents its own set of challenges, so it’s essential to remember to always follow the rules of the road. Need a safety refresher? Check out the Nova Scotia Bicycle Safety brochure (PDF). Bicycle Nova Scotia also offers insurance coverage for members, giving you peace of mind to know you’re covered in case of an accident. 

Looking for more Nova Scotia cycling tips?

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Photo by Jorge Ramírez on Unsplash