November 2nd, 2023

Eileen Kimmett, coordinator of the GreenUP Store & Resource Centre, stands in full winter cycling gear with her bike after a five-kilometre commute in 2022 from her home to the GreenUP Store in downtown Peterborough. (Photo: GreenUP)

Eileen Kimmett, coordinator of the GreenUP Store & Resource Centre, stands in full winter cycling gear with her bike after a five-kilometre commute in 2022 from her home to the GreenUP Store in downtown Peterborough. (Photo: GreenUP)

By: GreenUP

As the weather cools and days get shorter, many people are putting their bicycles away for the year. But at B!KE: The Peterborough Community Bike Shop, things are just ramping up for the winter cycling season. For the seventh year, Peterborough’s community non-profit bike shop is offering Winter Wheels, a program to encourage and support riding through the winter.

The program, funded by the City of Peterborough, provides participants with winter riding equipment, information, skills, and opportunities to ride. Broadly, Winter Wheels aims to build a community of winter riders and making winter riding more visible in Peterborough.

Jean Greig, Program Manager at B!KE, and Ness Pringle, Communications Coordinator, state that safety and visibility are just as important to Winter Wheels, as getting users out on the city roads.

“Winter Wheels [also] fits well with the city’s new Cycling Master Plan, which includes encouraging year-round riding as one of its major goals,” Greig states.

As the next round of Winter Wheels participants get geared up, GreenUP was encouraged to ask a 2022 participant: “What’s it like to ride your bike in the winter?”

Luckily for us, Green-Up Store Coordinator Eileen Kimmett was a Winter Wheels participant. Her experience offers a taste of just how joyful winter riding can be. Read on for Kimmett’s reflection on how she adapted to cycling in the winter.

“Have you ever thought about cycling in the winter? For years, this was the last thing I would do during that season. Icy roads, darkness, slush, traffic, all being terrifying obstacles for me. Then again, I always ran in the winter, and in all kinds of winter weather, too. So really, I had no excuse not to try winter cycling.“

Eileen Kimmett’s bike in the B!KE: Peterborough’s Community Bike Shop’s workspace. No matter what age or stage you are at in riding, B!KE can help you select a bicycle, discuss winter cycling clothing, and will suggest safety tips, trails, and routes that can help you enjoy riding a bike in winter. (Photo: Eileen Kimmett / GreenUP)

Eileen Kimmett’s bike in the B!KE: Peterborough’s Community Bike Shop’s workspace. No matter what age or stage you are at in riding, B!KE can help you select a bicycle, discuss winter cycling clothing, and will suggest safety tips, trails, and routes that can help you enjoy riding a bike in winter. (Photo: Eileen Kimmett / GreenUP)

With the encouragement of many colleagues, Kimmett submitted an application to B!KE’s 2022 Winter Wheels program and was accepted.

Kimmett’s goal was to commute daily and go for recreational bike rides at least 4 times a week, far exceeding the program goal to reach 1 commute a week.

“To be honest, I was nervous about commuting home in the dark after work. The sun has long since set by the time my work day is over. I had all my gear ready for cycling at night, rechargeable bike lights, a helmet with lights and reflective clothing. You could see me from far away,” she states.

“But to my surprise, I discovered that I loved cycling in the dark! I did not feel unsafe at all. The level of awareness of my surroundings increased. And in the day, when there was traffic, I felt safe and my studded tires equipped me to move off the road and onto the sidewalk when I needed to.”

During the Winter Wheels program, the staff and volunteers at B!KE provide instruction and guidance on winter handling skills, bike maintenance and offer many fun events like evening Glow Rides (cycling with decorative lights) and group rides during the day.

Kimmett even commuted on days when it was -20C out! With proper clothing, she says, there is a deep sense of accomplishment being out in the cold, snowy and windy weather.

Kimmett lives with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and encourages winter cycling for anyone who finds motivation to be low during the winter season. Feeling energized by getting out for a bike ride, regardless of winter weather challenges, was an unexpected positive for Kimmett that came from participating in B!KE’s Winter Wheels program.

Jackie Donaldson, Eileen Kimmett, and Tegan Moss of GreenUP celebrate winter cycling as a method of active travel to work. (Photo: Ashley Burnie / GreenUP)

Jackie Donaldson, Eileen Kimmett, and Tegan Moss of GreenUP celebrate winter cycling as a method of active travel to work. (Photo: Ashley Burnie / GreenUP)

“Many suffer with SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder. During the winter months, it does get difficult to get motivated to go outside and enjoy the cold weather and the dark hours, let alone cycle to work,” she states.

“Taking part in Winter Wheels ensured that I got outside on a weekly basis. Not only was cycling great physical exercise, it was great mental exercise. I really enjoyed the post-ride feeling of having lots of energy, energy which motivated me to get out cycling again.”

Cycling was not only a way to get Kimmett out to work and back home safely, but a way to enjoy nature and the community.

“There is something about being in nature during the winter when everything is quiet except for the sounds of the birds and animals. Cycling on the many trails in Peterborough, in the winter, can be very relaxing.”

B!KE: The Peterborough Community Bike Shop, is a long-time partner of GreenUP. No matter what age or stage you are at in riding, B!KE can help you select a bicycle, discuss winter cycling clothing, and will suggest safety tips, trails and routes that can help you enjoy riding a bike in winter.