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A guide to winter cycling in Ottawa

“Winter Bike” by Christiane Wilke, via the OttawaStart Flickr pool.

Getting out in the winter can be brutal. However, with the way that Ottawa’s winter is turning out, getting involved in winter activities shouldn’t be a hassle. So, strap on your winter boots, gloves, and helmet because cycling — winter cycling, to be specific — is an increasingly popular way to explore the city and get to your daily destinations. Though it may seem difficult to trek through snow, it doesn’t have to be. Invest in the right equipment (fat tires and all) and winter cycling really can be a breeze. So get out there and enjoy!

Useful Maps and Route Planning

  • This interactive map created by Bike Ottawa allows cyclists to view the (plowed and unplowed) bike trails in the city. A cool feature about this map allows cyclists, or anyone to contribute to the map in real- time.
  • Another useful planning tool is titled Isochrones, whereby you can plan your route to see how long it might take you depending on the route that you choose.
  • If cyclists are looking to bike on freshly groomed trails, this SJAM (Sir John A. Macdonald Winter Trail), site advises cyclists when trails are groomed.
  • This map provided by the NCC has an incredibly detailed map of where all the bike routes are in Ottawa, Gatineau as well as Outaouis area.
  • Though this site is more directed to biking in the summer, this map provides cyclists with routes that are outside of Ottawa, more focused on the nature trails and pathways – away from the city life.
  • OC Transpo also has a bike info pagefor those wanting to bring along their bike onto the O-Train.

Major Routes

  • From Gatineau Park to the Greenbelt in Ottawa, the Capital Pathway runs 236 kilometres, which is managed by the NCC. Many of the pathways include the Rideau Canal, the Greenbelt Pathway West, Ottawa River and many more.
  • From Laurier Avenue West, continuous lanes span all the way towards Colonel By Drive.
  • The lanes from O’Connor Street to Laurier are also ploughed well enough to travel around the downtown core.
  • From Laurier Avenue to Hurdman Station (along the O-Train Line 1), this 2,300 m-track also serves as a multi-use pathway as well.
  • From Rideau Street to Murray Street (Mackenzie Avenue), there are winter-maintained tracks, which span 400m.
  • Even though the pathway from Pimisi Station to Albert Street (between Preston and Booth), are ploughed specifically for pedestrians, it is still considered a multi-use pathway.

According to the City of Ottawa, these are bike routes that are not winter-maintained:

  • The multi-use pathway, Bank Street underpass on Riverside Drive.
  • Even though, Byron Avenue (west and east bound) has painted bike lanes, it does not get ploughed, as well as Sherbourne Road (Carling Avenue to Byron).
  • Prince of Wales Drive (Forest Hill Avenue – south of Dynes)

When is the ideal time to start winter biking?

According to winter cyclist Sean Flynn, starting in September is ideal because it allows cyclists to experiment with different clothing and layers. Flynn, who’s been winter cycling for about five years in Ottawa, also advises to lubricate your bike’s chain once or twice a week, depending on how often you’re cycling.

You can read more about the experience of cycling in the winter on Bike Ottawa’s website. They have two interviews with winter cyclists on their blog.

Places to Rent Winter Bike Equipment

  • If you’re looking to own equipment for winter biking, check out MEC. They also have some tips on their blog.
  • For tune-ups, rentals and equipment, check out Cyco’s.
  • Located on Booth and Somerset Street, Tall Tree Cycle is also a source for short and long-term rentals, as well as tune-ups.

For more info, check out our main cycling guide.


Perushka Gopalkista

Perushka Gopalkista is a South African writer who currently lives in Ottawa. She has a degree from the University of Ottawa and is wrapping up her last semester of Journalism at Algonquin College. You can find her on Twitter @Perushka_G.