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Urluberlu: meet the Montreal cyclists riding through winter

One Franco-Canadian photographer has captured some of the estimated 50,000 Montreal residents who keep cycling through sub-zero winters

Too cold to cycle? Not in Montreal, where around 50,000 cyclists keep riding through winter in temperatures as low as -17c.

One Franco-Canadian photographer, Valerian Mazataud, has captured images of some of the 15% of Montreal’s cyclists who keep riding through winter, pictured in temperatures as low as -17c.

Titled Urluberlu, the series title is a clever play on the French word Hurluberlu, which can mean spinner, crank or oddball.

Mazataud says where once year-round cycling was a marginal activity, more and more of Montreal’s inhabitants are now cycling through the winter.

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He says: “Along with Moscow and Sapporo, Montreal is one of the coldest and snowiest city above 1 million inhabitants. Nevertheless, it's the only one which finds its way into the top 20 of the most bicycle-friendly cities, according to the Copenhagenize index.”

“During the winter, an estimated 15% of cyclists remain on their saddles, around 50000 of them.
If ten years ago the winter cyclist could be considered as a freak (hurluberlu in french), the phenomenon is now far from being marginal. These self-proclaimed huluberlus may well be the first represents of a urban population accepting its winterity. In other words, choosing to embrace winter rather than fight it.

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Riders – men and women – are pictured in snow boots and ski goggles, as well as some innovative layering of regular winter clothes. The style of the images of what Mazataud describes as a ‘semi-nomadic’ winter population, is inspired by the formal portraits of early ethnographers and anthropologists discovering unknown tribes in their natural environment – often amid huge snow piles left after the streets have been cleared of snow.


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