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  1. #1
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    This is my favorite article about winter bicyling/commuting

    This article was written in 1991 by Pete Hickey who lives (or lived) in Ottawa, Canada. I found it a couple of years ago at http://danenet.wicip.org/bcp/

    It so accurately reflects the thinking, fortitude, tenacity, and love of bicycling that many of us full-time bicycle commuters have that it makes you laugh out loud when you read it.

    Here it is for your enjoyment:

    Winter Cycling According to Pete
    From: pete@panda1.uottawa.ca (Pete Hickey)
    Date: Wed Oct 9 1991 12:05:07 GMT
    Subject: Pete's Winter Cycling Tips

    I am a commuter who cycles year round. I have been doing it
    for about twelve years. Winters here in Ottawa are
    relatively cold and snowy. Ottawa is the second coldest
    capital in the world. The following comments are the
    results my experiences. I am not recommending them, only
    telling you what works for me. You may find it useful, or
    you may find the stupid things that I do are humorous.

    PRELUDE

    Me:

    I am not a real cyclist. I just ride a bicycle. I have
    done a century, but that was still commuting. There was a
    networking conference 110 miles away, so I took my bicycle.
    There and back. (does that make two centuries?) I usually
    do not ride a bicycle just for a ride. Lots of things I say
    may make real cyclists pull out their hair. I have three
    kids, and cannot *afford* to be a bike weenie.

    People often ask me why I do it.... I don't know. I might
    say that it saves me money, but no. Gasoline produces more
    energy per dollar than food. (OK, I suppose if I would eat
    only beans, rice and pasta with nothing on them.... I like
    more variety) Do I do it for the environment? Nah! I never
    take issues with anything. I don't ride for health,
    although as I get older, I appreciate the benefits. I guess
    I must do it because I like it.

    Definitions

    Since words like "very", "not too", etc. are very
    subjective, I will use the following definitions:

    Cold : greater than 15 degrees F
    Very cold : 0 through 15 Degrees F
    Extreme cold : -15 through 0 degrees F
    Insane cold: below -15 degrees F

    Basic philosophy

    I have two:

    1) If its good, don't ruin it, if its junk you
    needn't worry.

    2) I use a brute force algorithm of cycling: Peddle
    long enough, and you'll get there.

    Bicycle riding in snow and ice is a problem of friction:
    Too much of the rolling type, and not enough of the sideways
    type.

    Road conditions:

    More will be covered below, but now let it suffice to say
    that a lot of salt is used on the roads here. Water
    splashed up tastes as salty as a cup of Lipton Chicken soup
    to which an additional spool of salt has been added. Salt
    eats metal. Bicycles dissolve.

    EQUIPMENT:

    Bicycle:

    Although I have a better bicycle which I ride in nice
    weather, I buy my commuting bikes at garage sales for about
    $25.00. They're disposable. Once they start dissolving, I
    remove any salvageable parts, then throw the rest away.

    Right now, I'm riding a '10-speed' bike. I used to ride
    mountain bikes, but I'm back to the '10-speed'. Here's why.
    Mountain bikes cost $50.00 at the garage sales. They're
    more in demand around here. Since I've ridden both, I'll
    comment on each one.

    The Mountain bikes do have better handling, but they're a
    tougher to ride through deep snow. The 10-speed cuts
    through the deep snow better. I can ride in deeper snow
    with it, and when the snow gets too deep to ride, its easier
    to carry.

    Fenders on the bike? Sounds like it might be a good idea,
    and someday I'll try it out. I think, however, that
    snow/ice will build up between the fender and the tire
    causing it to be real tough to pedal. I have a rack on the
    back with a piece of plywood to prevent too much junk being
    thrown on my back.

    I would *like* to be able to maintain the bike, but its
    tough to work outside in the winter. My wife (maybe I
    should write to Dear Abbey about this) will not let me bring
    my slop covered bicycle through the house to get it in the
    basement. About once a month We have a warm enough day that
    I am able to go out with a bucket of water, wash all of the
    gunk off of the bike, let it dry and then bring it in.

    I tear the thing down, clean it and put it together with
    lots of grease. I use some kind of grease made for farm
    equipment that is supposed to be more resistant to the
    elements. When I put it together, I grease the threads,
    then cover the nuts, screws, whatever with a layer of
    grease. This prevents them from rusting solidly in place
    making it impossible to remove. Protection against
    corrosion is the primary purpose of the grease. Lubrication
    is secondary. remember to put a drop of oil on the threads
    of each spoke, otherwise, the spokes rust solidly, and its
    impossible to do any truing

    Outside, I keep a plastic ketchup squirter, which I fill with
    automotive oil (lately its been 90 weight standard
    transmission oil). Every two or three days, I use it to re-
    oil my chain and derailleur, and brakes. It drips all over
    the snow beneath me when I do it, and gets onto my
    'cuffs'(or whatever you call the bottom of those pants.
    See, I told you I don't cycle for the environment. I
    probably end up dumping an ounce of heavy oil into the snow
    run-off each year.

    Clothing

    Starting at the bottom, on my feet I wear Sorell Caribou
    boots. These are huge ugly things, but they keep my feet
    warm. I have found that in extreme to insane cold, my toes
    get cold otherwise. These boots do not make it easy to ride,
    but they do keep me warm (see rule 2, brute force). They do
    not fit into any toe-clips that I have seen. I used to wear
    lighter things for less cold weather, but I found judging
    the weather to be a pain. If its not too cold, I ride with
    them half unlaced. The colder it gets, the more I lace
    them, and finally, I'll tie them.

    Fortunately, wet days are not too cold, and cold days are
    not wet. When its dry, I wear a pair of cycling shorts, and
    one or two (depending on temp and wind) cotton sweat pants
    covering that. I know about lycra and polypro (and use them
    for skiing), but these things are destroyed by road-dirt,
    slush and mud.(see rule 1 above). I save my good clothes
    for x-country skiing.

    An important clothing item in extreme to insane cold, is a
    third sock. You put it in your pants. No, not to increase
    the bulge to impress the girls, but for insulation.
    Although several months after it happens it may be funny,
    when it does happens, frostbite on the penis is not funny.
    I speak from experience! Twice, no less! I have no idea
    of what to recommend to women in this section.

    Next in line, I wear a polypro shirt, covered by a wool
    sweater, covered by a 'ski-jacket' (a real ugly one with a
    stripe up the back. The ski jacket protects the rest of my
    clothes, and I can regulate my temperature with the zipper
    in front.

    I usually take a scarf with me. For years I have had a fear
    that the scarf would get caught in the spokes, and I'd be
    strangled in the middle of the street, but it has not yet
    happened. When the temp is extreme or colder, I like
    keeping my neck warm. I have one small problem. Sometimes
    the moisture in my breath will cause the scarf to freeze to
    my beard.

    On my hands, I wear wool mittens when its not too cold, and
    when it gets really cold, I wear my cross-country skiing
    gloves (swix) with wool mittens covering them. Hands sweat
    in certain areas (at least mine do), and I like watching the
    frost form on the outside of the mittens. By looking at the
    frost, I can tell which muscles are working. I am amused by
    things like this.

    On my head, I wear a toque (Ski-hat?) covered by a bicycle
    helmet. I don't wear one of those full face masks because I
    haven't yet been able to find one that fits well with eye
    glasses. In extreme to insane cold, my forehead will often
    get quite cold, and I have to keep pulling my hat down. The
    bottoms of my ears sometimes stick out from my hat, and
    they're always getting frostbitten. This year, I'm thinking
    of trying my son's Lifa/polypro balaclava. Its thin enough
    so that it won't bother me, and I only need a bit more
    protection from frostbite.

    I carry my clothes for the day in a knapsack. Everything that
    goes in the knapsack goes into a plastic bag. Check the plastic
    bag often for leaks. A small hole near the top may let in water
    which won't be able to get out. The net result is that things
    get more wet than would otherwise be expected. The zippers will
    eventually corrode. Even the plastic ones become useless after
    a few years.

    RIDING:

    In the winter, the road is narrower. There are snow banks
    on either side. Cars do not expect to see bicycles. There
    are less hours of daylight, and the its harder to maintain
    control of the bicycle. Be careful.

    I don't worry about what legal rights I have on the road, I
    simply worry about my life. I'd rather crash into a snow
    bank for sure rather than take a chance of crashing into a
    car. I haven't yet had a winter accident in 12 years. I've
    intentionally driven into many snow banks.

    Sometimes, during a storm, I get into places where I just
    can't ride. It is sometimes necessary to carry the bicycle
    across open fields. When this happens, I appreciate my
    boots.

    It takes a lot more energy to pedal. Grease gets thick, and
    parts (the bicycle's and mine) don't seem to move as easily.
    My traveling time increases about 30% in nice weather, and
    can even double during a raging storm.

    The wind seems to be always worse in winter. It's not
    uncommon to have to pedal to go down hills.

    Be careful on slushy days. Imagine an 8 inch snowfall
    followed by rain. This produces heavy slush. If a car
    rides quickly through deep slush, it may send a wave of the
    slush at you. This stuff is heavy. When it hits you, it
    really throws you off balance. Its roughly like getting a
    10 lbs sack of rotten potatoes thrown at your back. This
    stuff could even knock over a pedestrian.

    Freezing rain is the worst. Oddly enough, I find it easier
    to ride across a parking lot covered with wet smooth ice
    than it is to walk across it. The only problem is that
    sometimes the bicycle simply slides sideways out from under
    you. I practice unicycle riding, and that may help my
    balance. (Maybe not, but its fun anyway)

    Beware of bridges that have metal grating. This stuff gets
    real slippery when snow covered. One time, I slid, hit an
    expansion joint, went over the handle bars, over the railing
    of the bridge. I don't know how, but one arm reached out
    and grabbed the railing. Kind of like being MacGyver.

    Stopping.

    There are several ways of stopping. The first one is to use
    the brakes. This does not always work. Breaks can ice up,
    a bit of water gets between the cable and its sheathing when
    the warm afternoon sun shines on the bike. It freezes solid
    after. Or the salt causes brake cables to break, etc. I
    have had brakes work on one corner, but stop working by the
    time I get to the next. I have several other means of
    stopping.

    The casual method. For a stop when you have plenty of time.
    Rest the ball of your foot on top of the front derailleur,
    and *gradually* work your heel between the tire and the
    frame. By varying the pressure, you can control your speed.
    Be sure that you don't let your foot get wedged in there!

    Faster method. Get your pedals in the 6-12 O'clock
    position. Stand up. The 6 O'clock foot remains on the
    pedal, while you place the other foot on the ground in front
    of the pedal. By varying your balance, you can apply more
    or less pressure to your foot. The pedal, wedged against
    the back of your calf, forces your foot down more, providing
    more friction.

    Really fast! Start with the fast method, but then dismount
    while sliding the bicycle in front of you. You will end up
    sliding on your two feet, holding onto the bike in front for
    balance. If it gets *really* critical, throw the bike ahead
    of you, and sit down and roll. Do not do this on dry
    pavement, your feet need to be able to slide.

    In some conditions, running into a snow bank on the side
    will stop you quickly, easily, and safely. If you're going
    too fast, you might want to dive off of the bicycle over the
    side. Only do this when the snow bank is soft. Make sure
    that there isn't a car hidden under that soft snow. Don't
    jump into fire hydrants either.

    ETC.

    Freezing locks. I recommend carrying a BIC lighter. Very
    often the lock will get wet, and freeze solid. Usually the
    heat from my hands applied for a minute or so (a real minute
    or so, not what seems like a minute) will melt it, but
    sometimes it just needs more than that.

    Eating Popsicles

    Something I like doing in the winter is to buy a Popsicle
    before I leave, and put it in my pocket. It won't melt! I
    take it out and start eating it just as I arrive at the
    University. Its fun to watch peoples' expressions when they
    see me, riding in the snow, eating a Popsicle.

    You have to be careful with Popsicles in the winter. I once
    had a horrible experience. You know how when you are a kid,
    your parents told you never to put your tongue onto a metal
    pole? In very cold weather, a Popsicle acts the same way.
    If you are not careful, your upper lip, lower lip, and
    tongue become cemented to the Popsicle. Although this
    sounds funny when I write about it, it was definitely not
    funny when it happened.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Mike

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Bingo: I can relate to that. Why we do it? Who knows but I for one can't stop. I get just over a week on a plastic bag,
    Achieve your goals: Attitude is everything:

  3. #3
    Senior Member bikerider's Avatar
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    That was a good read Mike, thanks. I share a lot of the sentiments expressed here and I like the tongue in cheek style

    My favourite bits:

    Originally posted by mike
    Me:

    I am not a real cyclist. I just ride a bicycle.

    ...

    Do I do it for the environment? Nah! I never
    take issues with anything. I don't ride for health,
    although as I get older, I appreciate the benefits. I guess
    I must do it because I like it.

    ...

    Basic philosophy

    I have two:

    1) If its good, don't ruin it, if its junk you
    needn't worry.

    2) I use a brute force algorithm of cycling: Peddle
    long enough, and you'll get there.

    Bicycle riding in snow and ice is a problem of friction:
    Too much of the rolling type, and not enough of the sideways
    type.

    ...

    More will be covered below, but now let it suffice to say
    that a lot of salt is used on the roads here...Bicycles dissolve.

    ...

    It takes a lot more energy to pedal. Grease gets thick, and
    parts (the bicycle's and mine) don't seem to move as easily.
    My traveling time increases about 30% in nice weather, and
    can even double during a raging storm.

    The wind seems to be always worse in winter. It's not
    uncommon to have to pedal to go down hills.

    ...

    Freezing rain is the worst. Oddly enough, I find it easier
    to ride across a parking lot covered with wet smooth ice
    than it is to walk across it. The only problem is that
    sometimes the bicycle simply slides sideways out from under
    you. I practice unicycle riding, and that may help my
    balance. (Maybe not, but its fun anyway)
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

  4. #4
    Senior Member Greg's Avatar
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    I'm now ready if it ever blizzards here.

    Thanks Mike.

  5. #5
    Donating member
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    OK - I am NEVER going to be this hardcore.

    But, I loved the article:

    My favorite dry humor part:

    If you're going
    too fast, you might want to dive off of the bicycle over the
    side. Only do this when the snow bank is soft. Make sure
    that there isn't a car hidden under that soft snow. Don't
    jump into fire hydrants either.



    OUCH !!!

  6. #6
    RAGBRAI. Need I say more? Steele-Bike's Avatar
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    Now I am psyched up for the winter riding season!

  7. #7
    Career Cyclist threadend's Avatar
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    Yep, Pete has hit the nail on the head, I can relate to all of it except that part about going over the bridge rail, yikes!

    Thanks for posting it Mike.
    2003 Iceman Challenge - 2:34:55 - 897 / 2,000*
    2002 Iceman Challenge - 2:39:23 - 1093 / 2,186
    2000 Iceman Challenge - 2:49:18 - 1516 / 2,153
    *estimated

  8. #8
    Love Me....Love My Bike! aerobat's Avatar
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    Great post, Mike!

    Having grown up in Ottawa I can certainly relate to the slush and freezing rain.

    We don't have as much of that here in Winnipeg except at the end of winter although it is colder for longer periods of time.
    "...perhaps the world needs a little more Canada" - Jean Chretian, 2003.

  9. #9
    Senior Member
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    Kinda makes me feel like a wimp!

  10. #10
    Breaker of Spokes P. B. Walker's Avatar
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    LOL... loved that part about the "third sock".

    I'm just glad it doesn't get that cold here... geez.

    PBW

  11. #11
    Senior Member rainedon's Avatar
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    This is an old thread came up in a search that I did. I thought it was pretty funny, so I'm replying to it in hopes of bringing it back to the top.

  12. #12
    無くなった HereNT's Avatar
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    Thanks for bumping it - that was a great read. Makes me feel a little more psyched up for the commute home tonight. Should be about 15F and straight into the wind...

    It's going to be FUN!

  13. #13
    DNPAIMFB pinkrobe's Avatar
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    Although several months after it happens it may be funny,
    when it does happens, frostbite on the penis is not funny.
    Tee-hee!
    Proud Member of the HHCMF
    '06 Cervelo Soloist Carbon | '09 Titus El Guapo | '09 Misfit diSSent | '09 Wabi Lightning

  14. #14
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Good bump rainedon. I'm going to try the popsicle at work this winter.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  15. #15
    52-week commuter DCCommuter's Avatar
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    Why am I not surprised that:
    a. he works a university
    b. he has a beard

  16. #16
    In Transition fruitless's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DCCommuter
    Why am I not surprised that:
    a. he works a university
    b. he has a beard
    using the term "knapsack" is a real giveaway

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