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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 02-11-05, 12:30 PM   #1
Mars
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Mother nature trumps VC!

I swore an oath to myself and the Gods of cycling that if I go to work, I ride my bike. No matter what, no excuses. No matter how hot or cold, or how sick I may be feeling. Yesterday morning, I rode on my commute into work after a heavy all night snowfall. The plows were overwhelmed and most of my route was clogged with snow. My Nokian studded front tire and CX back did ok and I thought everything was under control. But...

It snowed heavily all day long as well, another foot or so, I guess. The roads were covered with fresh snow and what I call "semi-pack" which is fresh snow driven over once or twice by cars. The snow is packed down, but not enough to hold the bike up for very long. My tires broke through the semi-pack literally every second. And every break through results in the bike slewing, squirming, bucking, and fishtailing all over the place. Imagine an 8 mile ride where every second is a swerve, skid, and near fall.

I approached a stop sign on a semi-busy street. The road ahead of me was whited out and appeared featureless in the snow. The flakes stung my eyes in the driving wind. I felt, but could not see, ruts and grooves in the snow from earlier cars. I went to brake, but the rear brakes were covered in slush and ice and didn't work. I braked with the front and the front wheel instantly went out from under me and I fell. Stood up, and fell again. The road was polished snow and ice, incredibly slippery. Amazingly, those were my only falls.

The last 3.5 miles of my commute is on a narrow, no shouldered highway outside of the city. The wind was blowing harder out there and the blowing snow limited visibility to 150 yards or so. The road was in very poor condition... the semi-pack had additional hazards, drifts, and ruts. SUVs and pick up trucks roared along every couple of minutes. I had to totally focus on my riding to stay upright. Shoulder checking was out of the question. Wind and snow muffled the sound of the approaching vehicles. Could they see me in time? Their windshields were covered with snow and ice as they flew by. I was riding in the middle of their lane, but was barely in control of the bike. Would i fall in front of one of those rampaging beasts? I finally stopped, sighed, and went to the other side of the highway. Rode on the wrong side, facing traffic the rest of the way. I felt like I was betraying all the principles that I ride by... cowardly and weak, as if I had abdicated the road to the very vehicles I am at war with. But, I could see the approaching vehicles and get off the road before they arrived.

Sometimes, Mother Nature trumps vehicular cycling.
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Old 02-11-05, 12:36 PM   #2
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Sometimes it's just a terrible time to be on the road in any way shape or form. Many of the usual rules of traffic flow breakdown under those circumstances.

PS: you should've taken some photos!
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Old 02-11-05, 12:42 PM   #3
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[channeling the VC guys] That's why you should have a rear view mirror, just like other vehicles have. You can see approaching cars and not take the dangerous approach you took. You are lucky to be alive.[/channeling VC guys]

Glad to hear you made it. I probably would have wussed out and driven. In all seriousness, I got a 3rd eye bar-end mirror and its made a world of difference in my ability to see traffic coming from the rear. I'm not sure how much good it would have done in those conditions though. If you don't have a mirror, think about getting one.

edit: I really suck at spelling. sheesh!
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Old 02-11-05, 12:55 PM   #4
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I saw a pic of the snowfall in Boston. Increible.
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Old 02-11-05, 12:58 PM   #5
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Dogboy:

You make an interesting point, channeling the vc guys

I wonder, though, given the fact that the bike and therefore the handelbars (or my head, for helmet/eyeglass mounts) were in continual motion with the constant swerving and manouvering, if it would have done any good. Has anyone here been in similar conditions and tried to use their mirror?
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Old 02-11-05, 01:09 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bostontrevor
Sometimes it's just a terrible time to be on the road in any way shape or form. Many of the usual rules of traffic flow breakdown under those circumstances.

PS: you should've taken some photos!
I agree. You've got to be safe. Better to have control on the left than fall every 10' on the right.
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Old 02-11-05, 02:11 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mars
Has anyone here been in similar conditions and tried to use their mirror?
Not exactly and not for nearly as long. I have been in what you call soft-pack, and the mirror helped "some." I could tell if someone was coming if they had their lights on since it would flash the lights into my eyes occasionally. I didn't have the snowfall muffling engine noise either though. That's why I said "I'm not sure how much good it would have done in those conditions though." But for typical riding its been great.
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Old 02-11-05, 02:55 PM   #8
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Sounds like a condition I would avoid even in my car.

Was there no sidewalk? Is there no bus on this route?

Al
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Old 02-11-05, 04:34 PM   #9
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And they called me crazy!

Glad you are okay.
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Old 02-11-05, 04:46 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mars
Dogboy:

You make an interesting point, channeling the vc guys

I wonder, though, given the fact that the bike and therefore the handelbars (or my head, for helmet/eyeglass mounts) were in continual motion with the constant swerving and manouvering, if it would have done any good. Has anyone here been in similar conditions and tried to use their mirror?
The helmet mirrors work better than the bar end mirrors because if you have to move your head to another position you can still use the mirror. It seems to me that they work better in bad conditions, but if you have to control the bike in a slide all the time you just can't look back. The conditions you describe are typical for my area. The best you can do is get the best very Knobby tires with lots of studs, and learn to control your bike in a slide. Then it is just very slightly less horrible, but not much. The way I handle it is all of the above and tons of practice when possible on snowy and icy paths without cars. I ride in conditions like that in locations where there are no cars all the time. In the woods and ("Oh no" channel the VC guys) on a bike path.

Then in the morning I use the weather on the computer and if the conditions are going to be like that, I don't ride on the road. A deep hard frozen rut that you can't see under the snow could toss you right down in front of a car.
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Old 02-11-05, 04:53 PM   #11
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Well, if you are moving more at pedestrian speeds (ie you are sliding all over in the snow) maybe it makes more sense to be on the left. Just about every rule has an exception at sometime or other.
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Old 02-11-05, 04:57 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mars
But, I could see the approaching vehicles and get off the road before they arrived.
Applesauce.
http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...698#post789698
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Old 02-11-05, 04:57 PM   #13
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And maybe even walking the bike?

These are conditions I have never faced while commuting. But I understand the drive to cycle no matter what.

Al
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Old 02-11-05, 05:40 PM   #14
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It sounds like you took on one heck of a communting adventure. The best part is that you made it back to tell us of your commute. Thank you for sharing that commuting experience. And I thought Ohio was bad
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