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.