Friday, May 3, 2013

Why riding in snow may not have been my brightest cycling moment

As some may recall, I recently wrote (proudly, I might add) about my experience of riding while it was snowing. It was a first for me to ride with snow actually falling and although I had read many, many times about those with much worse snow than we get that it's best to avoid bikes with a derailleur during such weather (and should opt instead for an internally geared bike or a single speed), I was determined to carry on. Pshaw!  I follow no rules. I have plenty of bikes, and yes, they all have a derailleur; but logic (and others' experience) be damned, I was going to attempt a ride in the glistening, albeit extremely freezing and wet snow.
This was the photo used in the prior post - as I was so excited to "show off" all the snow 
If you happened to take a glance at my snow-ridden derailleur photo (which was taken only a brief time into the ride), and you happen to be someone who has attempted this sort of thing on your own (or, you - unlike myself - are smart enough to learn from others' mistakes), you may wisely be shaking your head at my foolishness right about now.

It's just frozen water, right? How bad can it be. Very soon after this ride, I was leaving town for several days. I casually mentioned to Sam that it might be nice to take a look at the Hillborne to see if it needed to be wiped off - though I stated it was nothing urgent, and I could always take a look when I returned home. When I did return, we were involved with other craziness and I forgot all about looking in on my bike, so a couple of weeks after the ride, I finally got around to pulling it out to see if I should clean him off a bit (Mental note: this is what happens when one has more than one bike).

Did I mention that my bike is steel? As in, that stuff that rusts quite easily when exposed to water. As in, those bikes from our youth - you know, that same material they were all made of - and that we see, often rusted through, because they were left out in the elements. Yeah, that steel.

Um, well, I probably should've taken photos. They would speak far better than mere words can do, but I will say that many of the metal pieces (the chain ring, pedals, crank, etc) weren't looking so great. It appeared to be rusting (orange-y kind of color on these parts) and there was an extreme amount of gray-ish/black gook covering the rims and tires. I got out the hose and a sponge, as well as some soap and went to work, attempting to remedy my "great idea."

The good news is, I was able to get most of the bike cleaned up without too much trouble. The tires are somewhat cleaner (though being a light color, I doubt they will ever completely be rid of the gray-like substance from the de-icer on the roads), and the rims look decent again, but I am definitely concerned about the future of the chain ring and some of the other pieces on the bike. It's not as though it sat in grime for months or years, but I think there is a lesson to be learned in there somewhere.

For starters, I understand why people opt for their "lesser" bike in this sort of weather. Who wants to worry that their favorite bicycle may become rusty from riding in the snow? The internal hub makes complete sense in this sort of situation as well. The derailleur ices up so quickly and it becomes incredibly difficult to change gears. If, like me, you live in an area with some hills, you may not want to be mashing up the hills when it's icy on the ground. Additionally, if the snow had been falling at any faster rate, I'm not sure the brakes would have even worked properly (I had one close call, but fortunately, I wasn't riding very fast). A single speed (or internally geared hub) with a roller brake might very well be the easiest thing to use in snowy weather. Perhaps - just a small perhaps - I should be more willing to learn from others, rather than venturing out and thinking that their opinions or experiences aren't applicable to me.

Don't get me wrong, the derailleur system worked just fine, and I would ride this away again (though I would clean the bike up much, much sooner), but I think there are better, more appropriate ways of riding while it's snowing. The derailleur system does fine when the roads are pretty clear and the snow is just on the ground, but when the snow is actually falling, there may be more effective ways to ride a bike.


  1. Thanks for giving me a reason to keep my Dutch bike and have it repaired before winter returns. :D

    1. :O) Happy to help through my dumb acts. I think it's definitely worth hanging on to, Cecily.


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