With the leaves falling off the trees and the discussions on the board about lobster gloves etc. we can't ignore that winter is on the way. Have you ever had those discussions about winter cycling and someone will inevitably blurt out, "Yeah but what about all those -30 days? And all that snow?" As a winter rider, I pay attention to the weather because I need to know how to dress and how much extra time to give myself. And I never seem to remember all that many -30 days or all that many big powder days.
Being a science nerd, I thought I would check out the actual conditions.
Looking at the last five winters and defining winter as the beginning of November to the end of March, Calgary gets on average:
- 22 days below -20
- 9 days below -25
- 2 days below -30
There have not been any days below -33 in the last five winters.
- 19 days with 2 cm or more of snow
- 7 days with 5 cm or more of snow
- 2 days with 10 cm or more of snow
I used those cutoff values as I find -25 about where things get ugly: my glasses freeze, I worry about exposed skin and carry a down jacket in my bag, in case I get stuck. Warmer than -20, unless there is a lot of wind it is usually pretty good. For the snow, 2 cm (less than an inch) is not usually an issue, 5 cm or more overnight can make for a very long ride if things have not been cleared.
The good news is that you could ride four days out of five in the winter and still enjoy temperatures above -20. Keep in mind that those temperatures are the lows for the day and unless you are riding in the hour before dawn, you will likely be even warmer than that. And there are only about seven days with 5 cm (2 inches) or more snow. Makes one wonder why the city has such an issue with snow clearing!
A person need not be a masochist to ride 70-80% of the time in the winter.