Changing Gears

By Hartley Butler George

When winter rolls around, most people leave their bikes in the garage and hit the gym for their cardio fix. For others, the biking season never ends.

Ice Biking

Winter cyclists, or ice bikers, are part of a growing trend in Montreal. Many ice bikers say their wheels get them places faster than other transportation, and there’s no need to wait for a car to heat up or to stand at a freezing bus stop. In fact, with the right clothes, this sport is more likely to make you sweat than give you frost bite. But is it enough to give you a solid workout?

Gilbert Ayoub, part owner and trainer at Cycle Technique prefers to cycle indoors in a “focused and controlled environment,” where his clients are guaranteed predictable terrain and not a single wipeout.

Spin vs . Cycle

Ayoub thinks ice biking is dangerous and does not provide a well-rounded workout. “There is not much exercise or training value in it,” he says, “it is slippery, and most of the time these cyclists are just trying to get from point A to point B without killing themselves.” He thinks those who are serious about strengthening their biking skills are better off sticking it out at the gym between seasons, where he says his clients improve significantly by the next summer.

Etienne Roy-Corbeil, the co-owner of Dumoulin Bicyclettes, has been a year-round cyclist for two decades. He says he loves the challenge and thrill of staying on the roads, even with a bit of ice.

“I hate cycling indoors,” he says, “there is this impression of going nowhere. There is no breeze in your hair, or feeling of cycling outdoors, except for the pain. Winter biking is fun. It is another ball game compared to riding in the summer.”

Most people worry that ice biking is too cold, or dangerous, but Roy-Corbeil says it’s just a matter of being prepared: a windbreaker, a few layers of clothing and studded tires go a long way.

After a few bumps and bruises, he’s learned the hard way. “You just need to adjust your riding style,” he says. If you hit the ice at a high speed, “You are on the ground so quickly that there is no time to prepare for the fall. It is harder on the bones but there is no road rash like there is in the summer.”

A Lifestyle Choice

When the bike paths disappear under the snow, deciding how you will get your workout is a lifestyle choice. If you can’t afford a potential injury and want to develop your endurance in a safe environment, the gym might be your best option. However, if you are up for the challenge of an invigorating winter commute, you just might be pulling your bike out of the garage again.

“Take your time and just keep going for as long as you are comfortable,” says Roy-Corbeil. Practice, and when you finally hit the road, be prepared for the cold, a lot of fun and maybe a “few crazy looks.”

Cycle Technique
788, Atwater
T : 514-937-3626
W :

Dumoulin Bicyclettes
651, Villeray
T : 514-272-5834
W :

Winter 2011, Vol 3 N°1

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