Cycling in winter: growing popularity and required adjustments

Biking in winter in the surroundings of Nijmegen (Doortje Swaters)

As winter sets in, one of the most popular sports in the Netherlands, cycling, becomes harder to perform. While some amateurs take a seasonal break, other adjust to the weather conditions. During this year unlike any other, this latter category has grown in size.

Over 2020, the sales of bicycles and e-bikes in the Netherlands have continued to increase, reports Bike Europe. The COVID-19 lockdown has pushed more people towards this active way to be outdoor. However, with shorter and more rainy days, lower temperatures, and iced roads, winter present some danger to bikers.

But this does not seem to stop old and new riders. Doortje Swaters is a student in Nijmegen with years of cycling experience and she explains to The Lens Press how she adjusts to biking in the winter months. While in summer she rides around 400 km a week, now she sets the target around 150-200 km divided over 3 or 4 days. In winter, she says, the body uses more energy to keep warm, so it is important to be prepared in terms of food and clothing. But with the longer time that the preparation and the afterward maintenance and cleaning of the bike takes, “I always think it’s an achievement to go,” she says smiling.

Doortje Swaters biking in the hills around Nijmegen (Doortje Swaters)

In the region around Nijmegen, the mountain bike trails offer the perfect way to avoid the stronger wind and most slippery roads in the winter. According to Doortje Swaters, many more bikers have taken the trails this winter, compared to the previous years. “It is a really big problem,” she says, people do not respect the signs, go too fast and that can become dangerous for children and animals. While that might be partly due to the inexperience of beginners, the growing number of people walking and being outside during this lockdown makes the problem bigger, especially during weekends.

“You would be amazed by how many people are out cycling,” agrees Herman van der Meulen from the homonymous bike shop in Groningen. Their sales have increased over the last year and he explains that the jump in people ordering a personalized bike, like racing ones, has caused the average waiting time for the delivery by manufacturers to grow to around 40 weeks. “There are a lot more people cycling nowadays and that’s because of COVID-19,” he says. “Also in winter,” he adds “because there are not other things they can do”.

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