Meet Tyson Konkin: New convert talks about his first winter of commuting by bike

How old are you? What do you do for work?

I am 33 years old and currently work as a GIS Technician for a Survey and Geomatics company here in Saskatoon.

How long have you been riding?

I have been a fair-weather cyclist in Saskatoon for about 11 years now. I imagine, like most, once I got a drivers license the bicycle seemed like a childish or immature means of transportation. I got back into cycling as a young adult simply for a means of exercise and to explore Saskatoon at my own pace.

What prompted you to try winter riding? Why did you decide to give it a try?

It was actually one of my co-workers who started to embrace winter cycling and commuting just over a year ago. They lived a similar distance away from work as I did, and so I started to ask questions about how they were doing this. They were also kind enough to lend me a suitable winter fat tire bike and take me out on my first winter ride in November 2020 – and it only took a few kilometres before I was hooked!

What was the biggest factor in your decision?

The largest factor in my decision to start winter cycling would probably be equal parts of maintaining my physical and mental health. The added benefits of less mileage and gas for a vehicle and making small lifestyle changes to help the environment are extra bonuses!

How far is your daily commute?

My typical commute is about 8.0 Km to 8.5 Km which takes on average about 20-30 minutes depending on weather/road conditions.

What kind of bike do you ride?

I currently have a 2010 Specialized Hardrock which is great for fair weather cycling, and a 2021 Norco Bigfoot 2 for winter/poor weather conditions.

Did you add any special gear for winter riding?

I needed to purchase a proper winter helmet, some bright front and rear lights, goggles, as well as some extra winter outerwear. Studded tires also definitely help when riding in icy conditions.

What do you wear for winter riding? How hard was it sorting out how much to wear to be warm enough but not overheat?

I normally wear a base layer long sleeve shirt, a jacket that has a small amount of fleece lining, fleece lined pants, long underwear, one or two pairs of socks, an adjustable balaclava so I can cover my face as needed, and a winter helmet with goggles. It all depends on the weather of how many layers you need, as well as personal comfort for how cold or warm you would feel. There is certainly no one size fits all for the appropriate amount or type of clothing. It wasn’t difficult to get started and you learn quickly what works and what doesn’t – that being said I feel as though I’m still refining the amount and type of clothing for myself depending on the weather and riding conditions.

Any observations on the rideability of Saskatoon for cycle commuters? Do you feel safe? Any suggestions on how our cycling infrastructure could be improved to make things better for cyclists?

Rideability in Saskatoon for commuters could be greatly improved. There are certainly streets that I feel safer riding on than others. When riding on streets that feature on street parking directly adjacent to driving lanes, and your riding in between the parked vehicles and traffic, that usually results in some hair-raising experiences. In my opinion the best cycling infrastructure Saskatoon offers is on Victoria Avenue. Since it was recently improved along with the Traffic Bridge – cycling down it is great! There aren’t any dedicated bike lanes, nor does there seem the need for it. Simply a larger pathway for pedestrians and cyclists to share, with signage designating what side of the pathway to use for what mode of transportation is fantastic. I really hope that Saskatoon could take into account all forms of active transportation when developing new neighborhoods as well as be open to creative ideas to retrofit older neighborhoods.

What do you like best about winter riding?

I quite enjoy how quiet the parks and trails around the city are during the winter. People still get out to use them in the winter, but much less than in the summer. The sound of snow crunching underneath your tires and plowing through/over snowbanks on your bike never seems to get old!

What’s your favorite place to ride for fun?

The St. Barbe winter trail system is wonderfully well groomed and is a great place to ride. The Meewasin river valley trails as well as the single-track trails along the riverbank are also tons of fun and plenty challenging!

What was the biggest adjustment or challenge in becoming a winter rider?

The biggest challenge I faced was all in my head, really. Once I just got out and biked in the colder weather, I realized that winter cycling isn’t that crazy and is completely do-able even for an amateur cyclist like myself.

What about those really cold days we had?

We did have about 10 days of very cold weather in February this year. I did take a break from commuting and riding for fun during that time – and I really missed it! I feel as though I have a few more clothing/gear options that I need to improve on for next year, so hopefully I’ll be ready for the next cold snap!

What advice would you offer to someone contemplating winter cycling?

Just get out and try it! Weather seems to affect everyone differently, and winter is no different in my opinion. You will learn quickly what works for you and what doesn’t – even a bike ride around your neighborhood in colder weather will be enough for you to figure out what sort of clothing and gear will work for you. You can also talk to one of the amazing local bike shops we have in Saskatoon about renting a winter friendly fat tire bike for the day to see what you think!

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