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  1. #1
    20+mph Commuter JoeyBike's Avatar
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    Snow Country Commuters - How do you do this?

    First, it never snows where I live. We get severe weather from time to time, but our precipitation does not generally pile up on the ground. So, after watching The Weather Channel all winter I was wondering:

    What concessions does your employer make for ridiculous snow days, if any?

    Do you use sick days if cycling is just impossible or bail to the train, bus, car?

    If it is impossible for you to bike, is it likely impossible for the motoring employees to be stuck at home too?

    How much is too much snow for you?

    How many work days each winter do you lose on average due to the white stuff?
    "For all we know his skills may be excellent, allowing him to ride like an idiot without actually being one." - FBinNY

  2. #2
    born again cyclist Steely Dan's Avatar
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    it depends greatly on where one lives in the snowbelt.

    i happen to live in the city of chicago, which has one of the largest and most diligent snow truck fleets in the world. they are maniacally OCD about snow removal and they dump untold amounts of salt on the streets to keep things clear. it takes a really massive blizzard (18+ inches) to completely shut the street system down here. so riding through deep snow is just not something i encounter all that often. ice is a far bigger nuisance due to freeze/thaw cycles, so my studded schwalbe marathon winter tires are able to handle the vast majority of what old man winter throws at me.

    also, i have a very easy train commute that i can use to avoid big snowfalls. today they're predicting up to 10" of snow by this evening, so i just took the train today instead of riding because it's so easy and convenient.
    The first rule: if you're riding a bike and not having fun, then you're doing it wrong.

  3. #3
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    I moved to CA from Maine where we did get snow. Employers make different concessions for snow depending on the type of company - in my case, I worked for a manufacturing company where we could not leave the manufacturing process without operators, and shutting it down would take several days to start back up, so basically if there was a big snowfall, you stayed at work until someone came to relieve you. For office type workers, it is usually much more forgiving with people often working from home, coming in late, or whatever makes sense. In places where they get a lot of snow, they are usually very good at clearing the roads.

    For the most part, I find it easier to get around on a bike in the snow than a car. The thinner tires cut through the snow to get to the pavement much easier than car tires, which tend to squish the snow down and make it much slippier. My personal limits were that I would not ride my bike TO work if there was fresh snow on the roads, or if the temp was below 0F, I'd ride home in whatever weather was there. Given those limits, I would drive to work a few times a year, go in an hour or two late a couple of times per year, never lost a work day for weather.

  4. #4
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    I'm sure policies vary quite a bit by employer. I can't remember our office ever closing. The policy is that if you can't get to work, you take PTO. If you have no PTO available they'd let you go in the hole as long as you're not a problem employee. Some people can work at home.

    Generally they're pretty understanding about people being late due to slow traffic. For most staff it's not critical that they be here at particular time. For those that need to meet with customers, well, they need to get up earlier. ;-)

    Minneapolis is very good about plowing their downtown streets, snow emergency routes, and bike paths. They are not so good about residential streets. We got about 10" starting yesterday and I would guess that not a single plow has gone down my street yet.

    It depends on the type of snow but generally if there's anything over 3 or 4 inches of unplowed snow on the street it makes no sense for me to bike. I can probably walk faster. So today I walked to the train station which is about a mile a way from the house. I could catch a bus to the train but I'm not motivated enough to check a schedule. Quite honestly, most snow "storms" are relatively peaceful unless the wind comes up. The temps while snow is falling are typically mild for winter and I enjoy the walk. Winter storms are much more stressful for those that drive.

    Generally there's one or two days a year that I decide not to bike because of snow and typically they'd be pretty crappy days to drive as well.

    Even a badly timed couple of inches can really slow down prime time commutes and in those conditions I can arrive by bike much quicker than I could drive.
    Last edited by tjspiel; 03-05-13 at 02:11 PM.
    If you're not riding with a psychedelic gecko on your shirt, you ARE having a substandard experience.

  5. #5
    Randomhead
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    the snow belt is north and west of me. We are in the ice belt. I have been riding studded tires. They really get out and plow if there is enough snow to be a problem

    When I rode to work in Wisconsin, it wasn't uncommon that I would be at work and ~10 of my co-workers had to call in because they couldn't drive to work for some reason or another.

  6. #6
    tougher than a boiled owl droy45's Avatar
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    Snow is a common occurance and people are used to it from November thru April. There is never really too much snow for my little SUV because roads are always plowed well and most places do business as usual and extra curricular activities get canceled or postponed. Travelling in snow by car is much easier than by bicycle if you excersize extra caution and slow down. Dry soft snow which is untracked is navigable by bike with narrow knobby tires but if its packed by cars in any way it gets extremely hard to travel through it. Any more than 3 inches is too much for my bike. The bike tends to sink through and swerve and shift all over the place. That type of snow requires the big tired bikes like the Surly Pugsley which will stay on top of that to a certain degree. I never lose time from work due to snow.
    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

  7. #7
    Pedalin' Erry Day lasauge's Avatar
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    Colorado Springs doesn't get a lot of snow, but more than New Orleans for sure, and this winter has been my third totally car-free. When we get more than a couple inches of snow I just stick to riding on the main roads, which actually get plowed, and it's not too bad. Riding on snow and ice takes a little practice, but it's no more difficult to learn than mountain biking on trails that have loose dirt and exposed rocks, except for maybe 2 or 3 days each year in February and March when we get a kind of heavy, wet snow that turns into a terribly slick, mucky mixture that gets packed down into solid ruts when sand is added - but with some determination and a good, consistent power output, even the 10/10 difficulty conditions can be ridden. As others have described, I always get to work by bike, even on days when some people can't make it in their cars!

    Only once have I called in to work because of weather, a couple years back we had a rare storm that dumped two feet of heavy, wet snow and the snowplows just couldn't keep up. I called in because the city was essentially shut down, so it didn't make any sense to suit up and spend 30 minutes trekking the route to work when there wouldn't be any customers coming either! My employer totally understood and approved.

    Only really special thing I do is that I deliberately choose to live close to work to make commuting easier. Right now I only have to ride two miles, that keeps the amount of extra travel time I have plan to for on snowy days minimal.

  8. #8
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lasauge View Post
    ...but it's no more difficult to learn than mountain biking on trails that have loose dirt and exposed rocks, except for maybe 2 or 3 days each year in February and March when we get a kind of heavy, wet snow that turns into a terribly slick, mucky mixture that gets packed down into solid ruts when sand is added ...
    It seems like most of our major snow events are with snow of the above variety, - fueled by moisture out of the Gulf of Mexico. The other kind of snow we get, the light fluffy stuff, comes from "clippers" and usually are under 5 inches. That kind of snow is pretty easy to ride through (and shovel).

    Parts of Minnesota can get Lake Effect Snow from time to time, but not Minneapolis.
    Last edited by tjspiel; 03-05-13 at 02:57 PM.
    If you're not riding with a psychedelic gecko on your shirt, you ARE having a substandard experience.

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    My co-workers ask me if I rode to work? The answer is always yes. Snow stopped me on Christmas day a few years ago. Drove the front wheel drive car and got stuck in the parking lot. The Trek would have gotten me there without getting stuck. I just leave earlier.
    " If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand which feeds you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countryman " Samuel Adams, 1772

  10. #10
    Senior Member kmv2's Avatar
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    Snow means you arrive late, whether by car or bike.
    The difference is the car people will complain about it all day, the bike people will come in with a big smile on their face.

    I rode an MTB most of the time, I had a hybrid 700c with 37mm cross tires last season. On the worst days it was half ride/half walk the bike.. but generally its pretty fun to play in the snow.

  11. #11
    Senior Member wolfchild's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeyBike View Post
    What concessions does your employer make for ridiculous snow days, if any?
    If it's snowing very heavy and the roads are bad my employer will allow everybody to go home early

    Quote Originally Posted by JoeyBike View Post
    Do you use sick days if cycling is just impossible or bail to the train, bus, car?
    We don't get paid sick days...No ,I've never missed a day of work because of bad weather.

    Quote Originally Posted by JoeyBike View Post
    If it is impossible for you to bike, is it likely impossible for the motoring employees to be stuck at home too?
    If the weather is bad I leave home extra early and give myself lot's of time. The funny thing is that I always get there on my bike first before everybody else gets there with their cars.

    Quote Originally Posted by JoeyBike View Post
    How much is too much snow for you?
    About 12 inches and my ride becomes "hike a bike"

    Quote Originally Posted by JoeyBike View Post
    How many work days each winter do you lose on average due to the white stuff?
    Never missed a day of work due to bad weather.

  12. #12
    Randomhead
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    I think the only day I hitched a ride in Wisconsin it snowed about 4". The problem was it was wet snow on top of fluffy snow and then the wet stuff froze into ice. I would get about 10 feet and break through and have to stop. They usually plowed, but I think that was early in the season and they didn't get out before I did

  13. #13
    Bicycle Commuter Bluish Green's Avatar
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    Where I live, our winter is less bad than Chicago or Minneapolis. And the main streets get plowed pretty well too, so I can generally ride the major arterials (for the most part) with studded tires. However, studded tires carry their own associated problem - their rolling resistance makes any strong headwind seem twice as bad. When a direct headwind is over 20 mph and I'm pushing winter tires, I get off the bike and walk it up hills and for tough stretches, because my gears are not low enough to prevent me from getting tight hamstrings fighting all that at once.

    When it's really bad, I will go to plans B, C, D, etc.:

    - Some days I need to change the hours I ride (for example, one day I went in to work over 2 hours early to beat a storm in).
    - I have used a couple of vacation days to avoid hamstring hell on wicked West wind days
    - I have gotten a car ride a couple of times

    As long as I stay out of core storm events and don't have to ride straight into 20+ mph headwinds on studded tires, the rest is mostly do-able. Wind and winter tires are hell. I am ready for this winter to end!

  14. #14
    20+mph Commuter JoeyBike's Avatar
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    Interesting info all. Thanks for the input. I have no way to know otherwise.
    "For all we know his skills may be excellent, allowing him to ride like an idiot without actually being one." - FBinNY

  15. #15
    Senior Member wolfchild's Avatar
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    If all the snowplow operators went on strike or stopped working then riding a bike would be impossible, if that ever happened ,then even people who drive small cars wouldn't be able to get to work. It's amazing how dependent we (people who live in a snowbelt) are on snowplowing.

  16. #16
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    Snow removal is very good here (small city in upstate NY), if I can't bike, that means the roads/snow is so bad that things are being cancelled. I run studded snow tires and I think only once did I have to walk my bike rather than ride, and that was a huge storm. It's all what you're used to. And like someone above, never missed work because of bad weather.
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  17. #17
    tsl
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    What concessions does your employer make for ridiculous snow days, if any?
    None

    Do you use sick days if cycling is just impossible or bail to the train, bus, car?
    I ride my bike. I started bike commuting in March 2006, and haven't missed a day since July 2006.

    If it is impossible for you to bike, is it likely impossible for the motoring employees to be stuck at home too?
    What is this word, "impossible"? (Actually, my car-bound co-workers hate me because I took away their "too much snow" excuse.)

    How much is too much snow for you?
    If the bottom bracket is dragging in it, I begin to question.

    How many work days each winter do you lose on average due to the white stuff?
    Zero.


    What you have to understand, is that the The Hyperbole Channel™ is run by a bunch of weather nuts, who also have learned that the more they pump up the littlest thing, the more eyeballs they get, which increases advertising revenue. It's a win-win for them--they get their rocks off, so to speak, and they get more money. So they pump up the hyperbole engines and a few flurries turns into a blizzard of epic proportions. Here's a thought, let's even name them, like hurricanes!

    Second, the forecast snow depth is almost never reached (see hyperbole, above). And even when it is, I don't give a damn how much is on the lawn. It's how much is in the street that matters. The city may pre-treat (or there may be leftover salt from the last time) and right from the first flakes, it begins to melt on the street. They'll dispatch plows shortly after. So no matter how much falls, the city is working on it even before it hits ground.

    The worst snow of this season was maybe eight inches (of a forecast 10-15, see hyperbole, above), and the worst the streets that I ride were, was a half-inch to an inch. And that much was truly exceptional.

    This winter I put my studded snow tires on over the weekend before Christmas. I can probably take them off now, but I'll wait a couple of weeks, and use other bikes in the meanwhile. Of the three months the snows were on, I really needed them maybe 20 days of the 90. They were nice to have, but not truly necessary, for maybe another 10.

    R-town, like Chicago, is a Great Lakes city. We get can snow nearly every single day from mid-December to mid-March. Lake-effect snow (as opposed to snowstorm snow) happens simply because the cool wind is blowing across the warm water. That's why Great Lakes cities get so much snow, and why we deal with it like it's not a big thing. It ain't. Happens every day.

    I can't speak for inland cities, or the middle states, but here on the North Coast, it's steady as she goes.
    Last edited by tsl; 03-05-13 at 06:38 PM.
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  18. #18
    Cyclist, Runner & TRX'er merkong's Avatar
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    If the bottom bracket is dragging in it, I begin to question.

    Here in MN this morning I never sw the bottom bracket. Not once. The ride home everything was cleared. Ate and took two hour nap. Woke up, packed bag, hit forum and heading to bed...
    Last edited by merkong; 03-05-13 at 07:59 PM. Reason: Because I can...
    "Rub some dirt on it..."

  19. #19
    Senior Member asmac's Avatar
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    What concessions does your employer make for ridiculous snow days, if any?
    We have a snow day every couple of years if our employer decides it's putting people at risk to come to work or to go home. Congestion is bad on a sunny day and folks have long commutes.

    Do you use sick days if cycling is just impossible or bail to the train, bus, car?
    Not an issue for me.

    If it is impossible for you to bike, is it likely impossible for the motoring employees to be stuck at home too?
    No, with my definition of "impossible to bike"

    How much is too much snow for you?
    Any at all on the road. I ride on a busy street and it just isn't worth the risk of sliding under wheels or have cars slide into me. Even after it's ploughed the roads are narrowed by snowbanks and there are random slippery spots.

    How many work days each winter do you lose on average due to the white stuff?
    <1 but alligators would sure slow me down...

    I rode home one day in a few inches of snow. It was dark, the snow blanketed rutted ice you couldn't see and it was a very harrowing experience so never again. I enjoy biking and don't want to ruin it.

  20. #20
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    I bike to the bus stop at about 5 am, so traffic is basically non existent. Makes riding through the snow fun. As others have mentioned, we are dependent on plowing. Today a five mile stretch of the trail I take had about 4" of snow, which wasn't bad, but sections had crud from the plow covering the entire trail, and 4" of plow crud is not ridable for me. It was relatively warm today, 30 degrees, so that combined with all the salt made for OK conditions. Still had a couple interesting sections - they cancelled school today, and one of the trails I take goes by a Junior High school. No school = no reason to plow the trail. The trail had 9+" of snow, so I had to walk that section, about a quarter mile. Days like today with fresh snow are fun.

  21. #21
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by asmac View Post
    I rode home one day in a few inches of snow. It was dark, the snow blanketed rutted ice you couldn't see and it was a very harrowing experience so never again. I enjoy biking and don't want to ruin it.
    You get used to it. Kind of. Studs really help on the ice but aren't very effective if it's covered with snow.

    The first mile or two of my commute in the morning can be like that, and of course, it's the last mile or two on the way home. 4 inches of virgin snow can be fun. 4 inches of pushed around stuff on top of those ruts is not, and that's basically my limit.

    It seems like unless a snow storm stretches out over multiple days chances are that a plow will come through between the time the magical 4" mark is reached and the time I have to ride into work.

    And if it's 4" of powder rather than heavy stuff, then it's not a big deal.
    Last edited by tjspiel; 03-05-13 at 11:09 PM.
    If you're not riding with a psychedelic gecko on your shirt, you ARE having a substandard experience.

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    What concessions does your employer make for ridiculous snow days, if any?

    We get to work from home on snow days.

    Do you use sick days if cycling is just impossible or bail to the train, bus, car?

    I'll use the bus/train if the roads seem too dangerous for cycling, or stay at home if it's really bad. I never use sick days for this, though.

    If it is impossible for you to bike, is it likely impossible for the motoring employees to be stuck at home too?

    Yes. On days that I take a "work from home" snow-day, about half of my colleagues (who mostly drive) do as well.

    How much is too much snow for you?

    It's not really the amount of snow, but the forecast. If we get 30cm (1 foot), but the storm has mostly ended, I'll go to work. If we have 15cm (6 inches) and the forecast is calling for continued snow all day, I'll stay home.

    How many work days each winter do you lose on average due to the white stuff?
    None lost, but on average, I use the work from home policy about 3 days each winter.

  23. #23
    http://www.538.nl acidfast7's Avatar
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    I never think about it as I find it quite hard to spend all of my leave.

    35 days / year + 10 federal holidays / year + unlimited sick days + no set working schedule.

    However, I don't ride when there's a chance of ice on the ground ... it's not worth breaking a collar bone to bike commute when an excellent subway system exists.
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  24. #24
    ♋ ☮♂ ☭ ☯ -=(8)=-'s Avatar
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    I did it in Vermont for a few years.
    They were real good about making roads passible, fast. After trying different bikes, I ended up SS and Fixie. The snow/salt/slush mixture would make deraillures(sp) useless in a mile. For me, skinny tires worked best. The real important part was to dress like you were in Siberia. The roads I took, frostbite would have been a real issue if the bike became inoperable and had to walk. 12 miles in, 12 back . . . In retrospect, not my favorite riding situation

  25. #25
    20+mph Commuter JoeyBike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tsl View Post
    What you have to understand, is that the The Hyperbole Channel™ is run by a bunch of weather nuts, who also have learned that the more they pump up the littlest thing, the more eyeballs they get, which increases advertising revenue.
    Oh, I am well aware living in hurricane country. They park their satellite trucks near areas that flood during a normal high tide or heavy rain and try to get people who don't know any better all lathered up about it. If ONE street is flooded they make it look like the entire city is going under.

    Then when a REAL disaster hits (Katrina) they have to seek therapy.

    I freely admit, when it comes to snowstorms, named or otherwise, I do not know any better. This is why I started this thread. I suspected it was all blown up as much as possible by the Weather Entertainment Channels.
    "For all we know his skills may be excellent, allowing him to ride like an idiot without actually being one." - FBinNY

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