Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sleigh bells? No, bike bells!

Yesterday we had our first snowstorm of the season, and it was a doozy! I don't know what the official report for Fort Collins was, but this morning we took a measurement in our backyard and came up with 16 inches. School for the kiddos was cancelled and my workplace closed mid afternoon. Today, the kiddos' schools were still closed but work was open for me. Darn! I could have used a snow day at home. (Although it would have been tempting to start on my NaNoWriMo project, which I can't do for another few days.)

So this morning I had a few options to get to work. I could dig my car out and drive, then park four blocks away and walk in. Or I could walk to the bus stop three blocks away, try to figure out the bus schedule, hope it's running today, and use the extremely convoluted and inefficient route home at the end of the day. I could walk; it's just under 3 miles to work. Or I could bike.

I chose to bike. My wife called me hardcore. I called it the most efficient way while using the least amount of effort. (Is that laziness?) I figured I could always walk the bike if things go too rough, or even find a bus to hoist it onto.

I should mention that our street never gets plowed and cars routinely get stuck when it snows. The snowfall yesterday was very light and fluffy and since the ground was still pretty warm, the bottom layer was all slush. It didn't freeze overnight, so there
was very little ice, which is a good thing. I should also mention that although I've been biking to work for over a year, I haven't biked in a fresh snowfall before. Last year, during the few snow days we had, I wimped out and drove instead.

I made it to work but it was slow going. I fully expected to go down a couple of times but that didn't happen, even though there were close calls. I saw one other hardcore bike commuter today, and a bike track in the snow proved that there was at least one other one. The bike racks were quite eerily empty at the university, though.

Lessons learned from my bike ride to work today:
  • I really should get snow tires for my bike. The slush was especially challenging to pedal through, and a couple times I had to walk the bike through heavy slush, because I just couldn't get traction.
  • Brake early and often. Just like in the rain, the snow makes the tires & brakes wet, which reduces the brakes' effectiveness. Oh, and don't brake too fast.
  • Downhill slopes are not my friends. See braking, above.
  • Slow and steady wins the race. (Even though it's not a race... you get the idea.) I normally cruise down Mountain Avenue at a rather brisk pace, thanks to the straightaway and beautifully wide bike lanes, but not today. The bike lanes weren't plowed, though the street was.
  • I'm surprisingly well equipped for winter bike commuting. I shouldn't be surprised, since I did this last year, but the snow throws an added wrinkle onto it. But I was plenty warm thanks to my under-helmet lining, gloves, heavy coat and boots. The fenders helped a ton, too. Now for those snow tires...
Hopefully getting home will not be as challenging, and there won't be ice.


  1. Oh this makes me shiver just looking at it! Thank God I'm in sunny FLA. haha

  2. Hard core, for sure! What an adventure that must have been. I think I'd opt for 6" wide snow tires, if they made them for bikes!

  3. I've got studded tires for two of our bikes...we put them on last christmas and basically used them in the snow once. Granted, with me working at home, and Sara 30 miles away, we rarely NEEDED to go anywhere bikable.

    I'm looking at getting an office a few miles away, which means I'll be putting them back on. They're kinda annoying when the snow isn't on the street...loud...but they were fun when it was snowy.


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