Riding a bike all winter on Toronto's cold, salted, slushy streets is an inner-city endurance test that combines the best of cross-country skiing and scuba diving. And the worst. Here's the latest crosstown bike commuting gear that will have you prepared this January when some wimp inevitably asks, "You're not riding your bike on a day like this, are you?"
Yes, this screaming yellow GT Palomar is a tank, but heavy means more traction on icy streets. Knobby-sided but less knobby-topped tires add necessary grip for both road and park paths. ( 1 , Urbane Cyclist , 180 John, 416-979-9733, $350). Easily attached to the down-tube with supplied Velcro strips, inexpensive MudFlaps minimize pothole splashes ( 2 , Urbane Cyclist, $7). Prevent that embarrassing skunk stripe up your back with a clip-on Splash Quick Guard fender by Polisport ( 3 , Urbane Cyclist, $13).
For extended winter treks, these fleece-lined neoprene Cycling Pogies from Serratus fit over straight handlebars to keep hands warm 'n' dry ( 4 , Mountain Equipment Co-op - MEC, 400 King West, 416-340-2667, $38). Not designed for street use, these studded 26-inch Scwalbe Ice Spiker tires will come in handy once Grenadier Pond freezes over ( 5 , MEC, $96).
Keep body heat from escaping your hat-free head with a MidZone tuque made from a mid-weight polyester-spandex blend (not shown, Urbane Cyclist, $20). And keep your ears from freezing off with a WindHibitor Headwarmer headband by Sugoi ( 6 , Urbane Cyclist, $20). Dark mornings, grey days and early nightfall make these amber-tinted foam-edged goggles by Ryder essentials ( 7 , Urbane Cyclist, $39). Tired of being all wet? The DownPour Plus fits over most helmets and keeps your head and neck bone-dry ( 8 , MEC, $29). Face it - freezing rain, black ice and slippery streetcar tracks mean you'll fall at least once this winter. Think of spring and protect your noggin at the same time with an Eclipse helmet by Giro decorated with a flower print ( 9 , Urbane Cyclist, $100). Seirus's Combo Clava has a fleece hood that wicks moisture and features a fleece-lined neoprene face mask for that Hannibal Lecter effect ( 10 , Duke's Cycle , 625 Queen West, 416-504-6138, $49.99).
With inner pockets for cellphones and MP3 players, this stylin' powder-blue parka from Liquid Girl may be aimed at the snowboarding crowd, but it makes a great winter cycling outer layer. It's waterproof and has a PVC-coated seat, Polar fleece-lined, insulated hand-warmer pockets, pit zips for venting and zippered goggle pockets ( 11 , Hogtown Extreme Sports , 401 King West, 416-598-4192, $238.99).
Intended for triathletes, this navy Chrono jersey by Cannondale works as a winter biking base layer ( 12 , Duke's, $89.99). The stretchy, fitted Cadence jersey - 85 per cent nylon/15 per cent spandex - has a zipped neck and provides both warmth and room for movement (not shown, MEC, $57). Combining fashion and function, the Mythic baby blue velour top by Blurr is made from a plush cotton terry/poly blend and works great under an outer shell ( 13 , MEC, $49).
With its mutant claws, Louis Garneau's nylon-shelled Ergoair Volcano is a hybrid glove-mitt that allows fingers to move and keep each other warm ( 14 , Urbane Cyclist, $40).
Bernoulli pants are virtually indestructible. Made of polyester-faced three-ply GoreTex, they also feature a rear splash guard, articulated knees and Scotch-lite reflective strips ( 15 , MEC, $185).
In winter, there's nothing worse than wet feet. These Stormsocks ($54.99) are not only wind- and water-repellent, but fleece-lined for extreme wicking as well ( 16 , Duke's, $54.99). Splash through slushy puddles with confidence in these Cycling Overbooties from Serratus. Easily strapped over most cycling shoes, they're wind- and waterproof to boot. ( 17 , MEC, $48).
Sure you'll look like a total dork wearing this Cactus Creek reflective mesh cycling vest after dark, but at least you'll be seen ( 18 , MEC, $33). The Opti-cube EL-300 headlamp from CatEye features five high-powered LEDs to light your way through the darkest storm ( 19 , Urbane Cyclist, $60). A five-LED rear light can be clipped onto a jacket, helmet or bag. Four flashing modes: rapid flash, steady and two different "disco light shows" (not shown, MEC, $7). Let them see you coming in these reflective arm bands by Yellow Racer ( 20 , Urbane Cyclist,$4 each). Made from recycled inner tubes, reflectors by locals Push the Envelope meld road safety and environmental consciousness (not shown, Urbane Cyclist, $8).
HARDCORE BIKE COURIER TIPS FOR SURVIVING WINTER
1. Lower your tire pressure. More rubber on the road means more traction.
2. Always carry a small bottle of ice de-locker and another of graphite. In sub-zero temperatures, bike locks freeze. These'll get your tumblers moving again.
3. Plastic shopping bags - the cool black ones from the Beer Store are best - worn as liners between socks and shoes prevent wet feet.
4. Don't have a garage and a hose? After a ride in salty slush, clean your bike at a car wash. Don't ride it through, though.