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The 12 emotional stages of winter cycling

Here are the inevitable emotional stages winter cyclists experience while braving the cold

Winter cycling is in full swing in most of Canada. January and February are the coldest months of the year. Getting out on the bike can be quite the adventure. It involves more preparation, more gear and perhaps most importantly a little hardy spirit to withstand the elements. Once you do it, you won’t regret it

Stage 1 – Convincing yourself to go for a ride

Getting out when the thermometer reads -12 C and it feels like -19 C with the wind chill can be a challenge but you have to remember how much fun you’ll have. Even when it’s dark and cold you’ll look to find the will power to pull yourself out of your warm bed. While the temptation is strong to skip it, you really want to ride and you know once you’re out there you’ll have a good time so you inevitably rise to the challenge.

Stage 2 – Layering

The art of layering is the most important aspect of riding in the winter. Get your clothing just right and you won’t even feel the cold. Put on too few layers and you’ll quickly lose body heat or too many and you’ll sweat exposing yourself to chills and discomfort. Laying out your clothing before your ride and checking the weather will help you make the right decision but inevitably right as you head for the door you will swap out a piece for something warmer.

Stage 3 – Getting out the door

It can be a cold slap in the face emerging from your warm home into the fridged depths of winter. Brace yourself because you need to resist the urge to head back indoors and saddle up for the ride ahead.

Stage 4 – Coffee shop

Of course, before you can ride you need to spend 20 minutes sipping a warm coffee to wake up at your favourite local coffee shop. You’ll wait for your friends and see how many of them were able to resist the urge to stay in bed. They are already missing one of the best parts of a winter ride and it’s just going to bed more fun once the pedalling starts.

Stage 5 – The first 5 minutes

The first minutes of a winter ride can be trying. You’ll regret your clothing decision to come out in the first five minutes of riding but once your body warms up you’ll be fine. If you’ve layered properly you’ll be a little chilly to start but remember the harder you ride the warmer you’ll become.

Stage 6 – This isn’t so bad

Once you’ve warmed up you will have no regrets with your decision to ride. In fact, you’ll wonder why so many people bailed. You’ll get into the grove and feel more alive than you have all weekend. You are a winter cycling warrior and you are unstoppable.

Stage 7 – Uh oh, toes and fingers are getting cold

Don’t get too overconfident because at these temperatures any prolonged exposure to the elements will leave you feeling chilled. The first warning signs are when your hands and feet start to go numb. Don’t panic, wiggle your fingers around because help is on the way.

Stage 8 – Coffee stop #2

The sweet warming relief of another coffee stop is exactly the respite you need. Warm up and sip a cup of coffee while munching on a pastry to regain the mental fortitude to stick with the ride until it’s done. This was exactly what you needed.

Stage 9 – Obligatory selfie


To show all your friends what they missed out on make sure to take a good selfie. Sure, you will need to briefly expose your hand to the cold in order to take the perfect photo but if you don’t take one, what was even the point of getting out to ride?

Stage 10 – Realizing you’ll make it through the ride

Yes, it’s still cold but you see the warmth of home at the end of the tunnel at this point. Maintain focus on the task at hand and try to push right to the end. You know you are having fun and won’t regret riding once you are inside but at this point it’s hard to keep that thought in mind.

Stage 11 – Peeling off the layers post ride

Warmth! You’ve gotten home and finally can head for a warm shower. Be warned, if you are too cold maybe stave off the urge to jump right into the hot water. Instead, you take all those layers off leaving them in a pile in the middle of your floor. Turn the kettle on to make some cold tea and wrap yourself in a warm blanket.

Stage 12 – Hot shower time

Finally, you are exactly where you’ve been dreaming of being for the past hour. Your ride may at times been a little uncomfortable but you avoided the trainer. This is what keeps you alive. This is what gives you the edge over your riding mates. You ride outside no matter the weather.