Winter Bicycling

Last week we got forcefully reminded that winter doesn’t end until the equinox.  Monday night into Tuesday it finally snowed, although I’m not sure “snow” is the right word for the almost three inches of frozen, wet, sloppy concrete that covered the ground.  I knew that biking on Tuesday would have been ill-advised, so made my way to work on public transportation.  It worked really well, probably because the bus I took followed a snow route rather than its usual path, which involves a very steep, winding incline.

Wednesday, though, I thought I’d be able to make it in on bike.  The day dawned clear and bright, but still sub-freezing.  It took me about 20 minutes to go a mile and a half or so.  I was doing more walking than biking, and the wind was starting to kick up.  My relatively narrow tires just didn’t have the traction to go over the snow concrete that now had a foundation of ice under it.  I swallowed my pride and headed back home so I could take public transportation again.  Thursday as well I took the bus and Metro because the sidewalks near home were still pretty slick in spots.  Friday was good biking weather, though.

Even though it was an abandoned attempt at biking in the snow and ice, I did get to refresh my memory on how to tackle winter weather.  The first tip is to go slowly, but confidently.  You don’t want to trip yourself up by going too slow over the ice, but you also can’t go tearing down the path like it’s dry.  Second is to keep your wheel as straight as possible–I’ve only ever skidded and fallen when making a turn or going around a curve (however slight).  This translates into some wide turns, but a gentle wide turn that makes you look like a goofball is better than a crash, if you ask me.  Third is to avoid ruts–you want to maintain control of where your front wheel goes.  Even though things were largely cleared off on Friday, there were still a couple of patches of ice, including one that had several ruts going across it.  Rather than try to navigate that and get sucked into a rut, I opted to dismount and walk it.

So, lucky me, I got to refresh my winter bike skills just in time for Spring to actually start.  With any luck this will make next winter a bit less of a shock to the system.