snow-covered bicycle

Green living seems so easy for those who live in warmer climates, doesn’t it? “Use a clothesline instead of a dryer,” they say, “It’s easy!” And they say this with nary a thought of what Northerners should do in mid-November when we find ourselves wrestling our sheets off the line after they have frozen into 8-foot-wide slabs.

Fear not, Canadians and other northern dwellers who find themselves in the cold clutches of winter for six months of the year — an environmentally friendly life is not beyond your reach! You don’t have to wait until the snow melts to show your green side, either.

One way that tried-and-true environmentalists are maintaining their Mother Nature-loving ways throughout the dark months is by winter biking. Does that sound cold, dangerous, and unappealing? I thought so, too, initially, and then I realized the following three things.

1. It’s essentially no different than winter driving.

You may need to outfit your ride with different tires (winter-biking aficionados recommend tires specifically made for winter riding or thick mountain bike tires), take caution in allowing yourself enough time to stop, look out for of icy patches, and be aware of snowbanks that may obscure your view.

So, basically take the same precautions you would take when sitting behind the wheel of your frigid car, hands gripping the icy steering wheel, burning fossil fuels while waiting for your engine to thaw. Except that you don’t have to do any of that anymore, because you’re winter biking!

Winter biking
Winter biking doesn’t have to be dreary. Image courtesy of Adams Carroll.

2. It warms you up.

When I first heard about winter biking, it sounded horrible. Why on earth would you willingly subject yourself to the tortures of the elements when you could be cozily ensconced within a warm car or bus?

But I was overlooking one simple fact: Our bodies are absolutely amazing. Within a few minutes of biking, your muscles begin to loosen, your breath and heart rate quicken and your entire body begins to generate heat — faster than most cars do, I’d be willing to wager.

Properly equipped in light winter gear, with a warm beanie under your helmet and good pair of gloves (which you’d be wearing, anyway), you’ll actually be far warmer biking than you would be standing at a freezing bus stop, or spending 10 minutes chipping ice off your windshield.

3. It’s an incredible way to begin (and end) the day.

We have a tendency in our culture to focus almost exclusively on the end result, rather than the process. In everything. So when we commute to work, we try to find the easiest way from Point A to Point B, without much regard for what the journey itself is like.

But exercise is not only healthy, but it’s also an excellent tool to help fight depression — a condition that affects many during the light-deprived winter season in northern climates. And beginning your day with physical exercise, fresh air, and sensory stimulation is an unbelievably fabulous way to kick off each day.

Yes, even a Monday.

Feature image courtesy of Reid Rosenberg

Editor’s note: Originally published on February 18, 2015, this article was updated in January 2020.

By Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.