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Winter Cycling Don't let snow and ice discourage you this winter. The key element to year-round cycling is proper attire! Check out this winter cycling forum to chat with other ice bike fanatics.

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Old 12-04-13, 08:43 PM   #1
debit
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I hereby surrender whatever winter cycling street cred I may have had

Today in Minneapolis we had some snow. This was on top of yesterdays snow/freezing rain mix. Given the choice of slushy streets or bike paths with a mix of frozen slush on top of random clumps of ice, I picked the streets. This morning wasn’t too bad, actually, as the bike lane was still (sort of) visible. But this evening, after a a day of steady snowfall, was just a mess. No bike lane, roads covered in semi frozen sludge, cars spinning out, etc.

But I was determined to not wimp out, so I trudged my bike out the door after work and gingerly made my way to a bike path. It wasn’t terrible, as most of it was packed down, giving my studded tires something to bite into. But four miles later the trail ran out and it was time to take to the street again. And my tires slipped and slid in the slop and after it became clear that even taking the lane wasn’t giving me much better footing, I conceded defeat. About a mile from home, I took to the sidewalk and walked my bike home. At first I “there, there’d” myself. It was sloppy, cars were dangerously close when passing me, what if I’d gone done when one almost clipped me, etc. Then I saw not one, not two, but about six different cyclists go by. Just peddling away like it was a sunny day in the park. They are all braver people than I.
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Old 12-05-13, 05:55 AM   #2
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If you don't feel safe doing something then you probably won't BE safe doing it. Maybe it was your guardian angel at work. I know one person who is alive today because he took too long in the bathroom and his 4 buddies took off without him. Three minutes later they were all dead, except him. Fate, luck, Karma or coincidence? Whatever you want to call it you weren't supposed to ride your bike to work that day.
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Old 12-05-13, 06:46 AM   #3
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Thanks, and I know you're right. Everyone has different comfort and skill levels. I just really, really hate giving up.
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Old 12-05-13, 07:27 AM   #4
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Thanks, and I know you're right. Everyone has different comfort and skill levels. I just really, really hate giving up.
There is a large difference between giving up and not being stupid.

Learn it and you'll likely live longer. (Personally, I'm still working on it. )
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Old 12-05-13, 07:51 AM   #5
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I understand your mentality as I've battled it for over twenty years here in the Twin Cities. Yesterday's conditions were maybe passable for riding around here, but there were close to 200 vehicle accidents too. I've decided it just isn't worth the risk to be out there on the bike with all that mayhem going on. Too many inexperienced drivers, texting drivers, cell phone talking drivers, bald car tires, plows throwing snow, narrow streets, etc... Better days are ahead and I prefer to be around for them. :-)
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Old 12-05-13, 07:59 AM   #6
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Its not giving up but living to fight another day. Or lost the battle but win the war. Really , I give you credit
I probably wouldn't have even attempted it. Also every storm is a little different and conditions are never
the same twice. People in cars may think so , but most can't even notice a wind shift, or a change in a few
degrees.
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Old 12-05-13, 10:29 AM   #7
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I don't know your exact conditions but I do know there are conditions where riding a bike in the winter isn't practical. For me that point is usually pretty obvious. If you are having to walk your bike because the ground conditions are not making it practical to pedal it, then it is time to put the bike in the garage and walk.

There is nothing shameful about giving up on impractical conditions, other forms of giving up on winter cycling are subject to scrutiny.
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Old 12-05-13, 01:21 PM   #8
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In the Boston area, I call that stuff "brown car snot" , tough to pedal in it and get traction.
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Old 12-05-13, 01:26 PM   #9
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In the Boston area, I call that stuff "brown car snot" , tough to pedal in it and get traction.

around here we call it
riding in mashed potatoes
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Old 12-05-13, 02:20 PM   #10
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^^^^ First it's mashed potatoes, them mix in sand, salt and 300 car tracks to get brown snot.
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Old 12-05-13, 02:21 PM   #11
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You deserve credit for trying and using your head and putting it away until the roads get plowed. Don't get fooled by those that claim they go in all conditions every day no matter what. They may be out there but it certainly is not going well. I have been doing this for years and have upgraded my gear all along as technologies have improved and when there is any kind of snow or slush in the road and the shoulder is not passable, it just isn't worth it anymore. I have tried everything short of the Surly Pug and nothing rides safe and well in deep slush and snow. It is extremely unsafe and you can slip out at any time and get run over by a car. I always wait for the storm to be over and the roads cleaned up and then go. Plain ice is no problem but snow is treacherous.
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Old 12-05-13, 03:28 PM   #12
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^^^^ First it's mashed potatoes, them mix in sand, salt and 300 car tracks to get brown snot.
and that stuff is so dangerous for most cars even with all wheel drive due to "slushplaning" which is more dangerous than hydroplaning. some days are better than others, conversely some are worse. there will be better days and there will be worse days. you don't have to ride EVERY day. do you have winter studded tires? what size tires do you have? they aren't great big wide ones are they?
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Old 12-05-13, 06:28 PM   #13
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ado you have winter studded tires? what size tires do you have? they aren't great big wide ones are they?

I do, and yes, they are wide (Nokian 294 26x2). I realize that might have been part of the problem, but my reasoning for going with them yesterday was based off the previous day's frozen ridges of doom. I figured lower pressure, wider tire = more stability, but was so very wrong in this instance.
[h=1][/h]
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Old 12-05-13, 07:03 PM   #14
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But I was determined to not wimp out . . . .. . ...

Then I saw not one, not two, but about six different cyclists go by. Just peddling away like it was a sunny day in the park. They are all braver people than I.
That was my motivation yesterday as well. And until you actually get get out there and try, you never know how it is going to be.

I had the same experience you did with the tires. Don't know if this is bad form to quote my own post, but I can cut and paste better than I can type.

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Snowing tonight. For the first time, I did not make it home - made the "call of shame". There really wasn't very much snow - maybe 3 or 4 inches - but it was just the wrong kind of wet for my 1.9" mtb bike tires. I'd float up, then crunch down, so even through the unbroken snow it felt like I was constantly riding over bumps. Just exhausting. I could barely stay upright on the smooth sections, but where there was plow chop thrown over the trail I couldn't ride it. Interestingly, I saw tire tracks from the super fat tire bikes - they didn't have a problem. And one guy passed me on a skinny tire single speed - he was cutting through the snow better than I was and was managing to stay upright, though he was really working at it.

It took me two hours to ride what usually takes me 45 minutes. That is the halfway point, and the end of the "good" trails. At that point, I knew the next 4 miles would be un-rideable, since the trail is right next to a busy 4 lane. Hiking 4 miles sounds like fun I know, but I was in my SPDs with booties. So I figured it would take me at least another two hours to get home, probably more, and I was already exhausted from the first part of the ride and the ten hours of work before that.

So I called my wife.
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Old 12-05-13, 07:26 PM   #15
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You know what's funny? My first reaction to reading your quote was that of course you did the sensible thing. I guess it's easier to be supportive of others than it is to ourselves.

Last night I decided that because of the drastic drop in temp I would drive today, and am glad I did. The city did not do a sterling job of plowing to the curb along my normal route. And then, as if to mock my lack of fortitude, as I was cleaning the snow off my car this morning some college kid rolled by on a fat tire unicycle.
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Old 12-05-13, 07:38 PM   #16
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I can't rationalize trying to ride on snow and ice packed roads when you have alternatives available like your own car to get to work. Sure we all enjoy the ride when the roads are decent but when they are that bad the risk isn't worth the reward. Even a modest slip can send you to the hospital for a broken bone or dental work. My bike is parked till the roads get clear. And now that the temps are sub zero there is no fun to be had and I am old enough that I don't give a **** about trying to impress anyone.
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Old 12-05-13, 08:07 PM   #17
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I can't rationalize trying to ride on snow and ice packed roads when you have alternatives available like your own car to get to work. Sure we all enjoy the ride when the roads are decent but when they are that bad the risk isn't worth the reward. Even a modest slip can send you to the hospital for a broken bone or dental work. My bike is parked till the roads get clear. And now that the temps are sub zero there is no fun to be had and I am old enough that I don't give a **** about trying to impress anyone.
It's not about impressing anyone for me. Biking is something I enjoy, even when the conditions are challenging. Being on my bike is the lure to get me out of the house and into the office, and then my reward at the end of the day. This winter is my first where I plan to commute all season; not just when the weather is nice and the paths are cleared. And so I'm disapointed that the weather defeated me yesterday, but plan on trying again tomorrow.
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Old 12-05-13, 08:31 PM   #18
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.

Last night I decided that because of the drastic drop in temp I would drive today, and am glad I did. The city did not do a sterling job of plowing to the curb along my normal route. And then, as if to mock my lack of fortitude, as I was cleaning the snow off my car this morning some college kid rolled by on a fat tire unicycle.
I took the bus today - I was EXHAUSTED all day! And, just like you, as I'm walking by the gov't center on my way to the bus stop this evening, I passed by two people unlocking their bikes getting ready to ride home. Damn! I guess I'm not the toughest one out there.

But the nap I took on my bus ride home was heaven.
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Old 12-05-13, 11:21 PM   #19
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I managed yesterday night, having only to walk a few stretches of impassable trail.

This morning was worse, not better, with really hard, rutted ice, a headwind, trails still unplowed, and loose snow. But it was daylight, so riding in the street was an ok option. But I was out of my comfort zone, and not in a good way.

This evening was better, except for some stretches of city street that had been polished so well, and frozen so hard, that my 2000-mile old studs didn't quite bite hard enough, and I have a nice bruise on my elbow to show for it.
Tomorrow I'll drive. This weekend I'll put on the new studded tires. When the streets are a bit cleaner, I'll be back at it.

As Harry Callahan says, "A man's got to know his limitations."

Kudos to you for knowing them sooner than I did.
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Old 12-05-13, 11:44 PM   #20
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Oatmeal plus sand equals brown sugar here... we have quite a few feet of hard packed snow now and when that gets churned up the going gets really tough.
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Old 12-06-13, 02:51 PM   #21
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I had to drive on Wednesday because my wife wasn't able to pick up my daughter from school as she usually would. I was bummed out in the morning because while there was some snow already, it was actually pretty pleasant.

By Wednesday afternoon though I was glad to be in the AWD car. There was enough snow to at least make me question whether I'd want to try it on a bike or not. Usually 3 or 4 inches of unplowed snow is my limit. Otherwise it's too much work and I can walk faster.

Thursday morning was just OK. The streets around my house were good. It was mostly smooth hardpack which I like while using studded tires. A few places on the trail weren't plowed yet and some required me to get off the bike as it was all frozen ruts. By Thursday afternoon everything was plowed and it was a relatively easy ride home.

Today was just cold.
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Old 12-06-13, 08:29 PM   #22
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I have tried everything short of the Surly Pug and nothing rides safe and well in deep slush and snow. It is extremely unsafe and you can slip out at any time and get run over by a car. I always wait for the storm to be over and the roads cleaned up and then go. Plain ice is no problem but snow is treacherous.
I got a Pugsley this year and took it out in snow for the first time in that same storm. The Pugsley also slips around in the "brown car snot," but not as much as my mountain bike did. Still, it does slip, and those slips are sudden and unpredictable, and as you say, very dangerous on a busy street. My main route to work, Penn Avenue South, is not plowed to the curb and even with the Pugsley I don't feel comfortable on that street. Fortunately I have a back route to work and have to go on Penn for just two short stretches to cross two freeways.
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Old 12-07-13, 10:10 AM   #23
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Wednesday sucked. I thought it was just me. After getting to work (8 miles from Midway to downtown Mpls) I thought that I had lost it, that I was not able to ride in the winter anymore; it totally took it out of me. The ride home was not as bad because I was prepared for misery, but I was exhausted when I got home. Thursday AM I felt much the same way, it was so cold and the wind was so bad; I seriously thought I was done. I made a few tweaks to my saddle position during the day and the ride home was better.

But Friday changed it all. Below zero temperatures, no wind, ice packed streets, that is like magic to me. I loved it.

I'm trying not let the early winter rides get me down. I know winter cycling mechanics are different than dry roads, and my muscles need to adjust. That said, I know it is dangerous out there and I know when to call in a ride or jump on a bus.
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Old 12-08-13, 05:37 PM   #24
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Don't feel bad for bailing, I rode my Moonlander on Wednesday. For the most part it was a capable choice. I figured it'd be much more efficient than driving. The AM commute was rather pleasant as they'd plowed the path early and it was a pretty nice ride, but....

The evening was a different story. As it snowed most of the day and the plows weren't keeping up at all, I had a couple places to go after work and it was hell. The main roads were terrible, crossing unplowed streets was downright terrifying or close it impossible even with 5" wide tires through 8 inches of cookie dough ruts with ice underneath. Kept altering my route on the fly to avoid traffic, even if the conditions were worse, hell I even took sidewalks, whatever I could do to put myself in the safest place, if not the easiest pedaling. Even walking was ridiculously hard. I made it but I worked my A$$ off, it took forever and I was totally spent afterward. The snow was wet and it was just flat out one of the hardest days I've had in a long time. Oh, there were moments that were truly fun, and the moonlander was key, but there were moments made me want to cry.

We live to fight another day.

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Old 12-09-13, 02:16 PM   #25
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Don't feel bad for bailing, I rode my Moonlander on Wednesday. For the most part it was a capable choice. I figured it'd be much more efficient than driving. The AM commute was rather pleasant as they'd plowed the path early and it was a pretty nice ride, but....

The evening was a different story. As it snowed most of the day and the plows weren't keeping up at all, I had a couple places to go after work and it was hell. The main roads were terrible, crossing unplowed streets was downright terrifying or close it impossible even with 5" wide tires through 8 inches of cookie dough ruts with ice underneath. Kept altering my route on the fly to avoid traffic, even if the conditions were worse, hell I even took sidewalks, whatever I could do to put myself in the safest place, if not the easiest pedaling. Even walking was ridiculously hard. I made it but I worked my A$$ off, it took forever and I was totally spent afterward. The snow was wet and it was just flat out one of the hardest days I've had in a long time. Oh, there were moments that were truly fun, and the moonlander was key, but there were moment made me want to cry.

We live to fight another day.
I hear ya. If hind sight was 20/20 you probably would have left the bike parked for that day. It was that kind of day here today. I left it parked anticipating a terrible ride home tonight. Not sure if that was an accurate assumption as the storm appears to have not produced much of any weather at all but at least I took it on the safe side and drove. Tomorrow I will hit it hard early before sunrise.
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