Monday, April 15, 2013

Snow Day: Cycling While It's Snowing

This morning, I woke up knowing we were supposed to get snow. Typically, when the snow is hyped as much as it has been, it turns out to be nothing - as in, it doesn't snow at all. Beyond that, it's the middle of April, and for most people, spring is in the air and we expect that the days are warming, rather than cooling off.  I took a glance out the window and saw that there was actually accumulation, but wondered if I should just bike in to workout this morning anyway.
It's snowing... but it didn't seem that horrible - though it did get worse
Mind you, I never ride when it's snowing. I will ride when there is snow on the ground, but I have avoided venturing out into an actual snow "storm" that is currently taking place. However, I wimped out and decided that I would drive in for the morning workout because I just didn't "feel" like riding. Look at the poor Beetle out there... she needs to be driven and warmed up, right?

When I got out to start the vehicle, she turned over, but wouldn't idle for more than a few seconds. After several attempts, I gave up and figured the universe wanted me to ride. I was a bit scared (if you read here regularly, you know how I dread the ice more than anything), but figured if I wanted to workout, that was just how it was going to be for today. I was bundled up anyway, and it didn't feel too bad, so I decided to go and grab the Hillborne out of weekend hibernation and take him to class.

I started off just fine - pedaling slowly so that I could feel any changes or slick surfaces. I decided to take surface streets rather than the trail system because the roads would more than likely be plowed (whereas the trail would not), not to mention the heat from the cars would help melt some of the snow off the roadways. I have to say, there are some really cruel drivers out on the roads! I turned on my lights (since my coat is white and blends easily with the snow) to help others see me, but it was as though some went out of their way to splash mud-snow on me as they drove by. Okay, so maybe they think I'm an idiot for riding my bike in the snow, but hey - I still have a right to be there, and it really won't kill anyone to slow down for a couple of seconds as they fly around me. My glasses (never have I been so thankful that I wear them) acted as a kind of windshield as snow splattered across my face. Pretty soon, I really couldn't see through them at all and had to peek out between the top of my glasses and the bottom of my beanie cap.
Snowy ride, but still smiling, so it can't be all bad.
Arrival to class was just about exact, but by the time we were through, I could see more snow was building up outside. Eeek! I wasn't entirely sure how to feel about it, so I decided I would attempt the trail system to get me most of the way home. This was perhaps not one of my brighter ideas. The snow was definitely heavier on the trails than on the roads and the first bridge I reached sent me sliding off out of control. I wasn't pedaling fast, but for some reason the ole noggin' just wasn't thinking about the fact that bridges are slippery when snowy. Speaking of noggin's...word to the wise, if you don't normally wear a helmet, when riding in a snow storm, this may be the time to actually wear one. I did not, and while there were no head injuries, I'm not sure I would attempt this again without one - if for no other reason than it is extremely difficult to see what is under the top of the snow.
As you can see here, the roads look better than the trail in front of me...
though this portion of the trail wasn't bad at all
Although this isn't something I do on a regular basis, there were some basic things that really stood out to me in regards to what not to, and what to do in the future (such as wearing a helmet, as mentioned above). For example, it's a bit trickier to ride a bike with a derailleur than it would be with an internal hub. As the photo below illustrates, it's easy for ice and snow to accumulate, and then shifting becomes an issue. I did my best to just stay in one gear, but that's not easy when there are hills to climb to get to where I need to go. Of course, I'm not sure it's worthwhile for me personally to invest in another bike that has an internally geared hub, but if this were to become more routine, I could certainly see the advantage. Additionally, I'm not sure fenders are particularly beneficial in a situation like this. Snow seems to get all over anyway, and it tends to get caught between the tire and the fender, which forces me to stop every so often and attempt to get the snow out from this area.
Snowy everything
Slowing down also seems to be an essential activity during this type of ride. I normally average (on this particular ride) about 14 miles per hour. Today, I averaged about 9.5 miles per hour. I found myself slowing down at the top of down hill areas as well. It seemed unwise to go flying down hill when I couldn't really see what was on the ground in front of me.

All in all, it was nice to be out in the elements, and although my hands were numb by the time I arrived to class, and I was drenched in melting snow, it was a good experience that I would definitely try again.  Even the new Soma cream tires held up well and had decent traction (review coming on these shortly). Of course, a thorough cleaning of the entire bike will be in order very soon, but I would highly recommend venturing out on a snow-day ride of your own... assuming, like those of us in northern Colorado, you're still experiencing the fun of winter weather.


  1. Oh, my. I'll bet you'll be glad to see warmer weather soon.

    I was sort of hoping for a little snow this winter in Portland, OR just for the chance to try riding in it, but we never had any that stuck around for more than an hour or so. Not that I think I would necessarily enjoy riding in the snow - at least not in conditions like you had, but I want to try it some time,

    1. Our winter was actually fairly mild too, so I was a bit surprised by this latest storm. :O)

  2. Well done, I have only ridden one time in icy/snowy conditions back when I was able to commute to work, and it resulted in 1 spill, the snow/ice actually does not hurt too bad. My hips and butt did a great job, of course.. I wear a helmet : ). At the time I rolled a single speed, so there was no extra derailleur ice-up to worry about, that's the ticket, or the internal hub!

    1. I'm not sure i can justify another bike unless this became more habitual...but, around here, who knows?

  3. You need a snow bike with fat tires! :)

  4. YIKES! You are so very brave. My helmet is off to you!

    1. Ha...I don't know about that, but I would try again, definitely. :O)


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