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My hardest commute yet

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

This morning, conditions were even worse than they were yesterday. We got some freezing rain on top of the snow and everything else, and in fact it was raining when I left for work this morning despite the fact that it was in the lower 20s. I was pretty surprised when I walked outside to find we were getting more freezing rain. The maintenance guy was putting salt on the sidewalks and whatnot and he seemed stunned to see that I was about to ride a bicycle. There was a pretty good layer of ice on everything, to the point where in some places I could walk or ride without leaving a footprint or tire tread in the snow. Fortunately once I left the parking lot and got onto a real road, things were a little bit better — although not by that much.

The roads right by my apartment weren’t too bad, they were mostly slushy with a little snow and a little ice mixed in. But it was raining pretty hard and that of course made riding more difficult. The bike path was abysmal, the whole surface consisted of snow covered in a layer of ice in which my weight could barely even leave an imprint. And footprints from pedestrians had frozen, making for a very bumpy, slippery ride. I took my time and while I lost traction in my rear tire a couple of times, it was mostly pretty good. Only on the climb up back to the road did my tire spin a bit.

The freezing rain persisted and I started to notice ice accumulating on my handlebars, light, and shifters. Things were getting a little crazy. The roads in the residential area I rode through were pretty poor, although once I got closer to campus, things improved. However, after riding on a small path there and ending up on a road where most cars can’t go, things got really sketchy again. A lack of traffic meant that ice was forming on the surface of the road, and I didn’t even realize how slick it was until I approached a stop sign. I braked carefully, but still my rear brake started sliding out to the side. I feathered my brakes but it happened again. Ultimately I needed to stop so I continued feathering my brakes. My rear wheel slid out from under me and I had no choice but to lay the bike down. I was only going probably 7 mph or so at the time so I just laid down the bike and slid a few feet myself. Then I stood up (which I could barely do, due to the ice), got back on the bike, and kept moving.

The rest of the roads weren’t too bad but I was getting a thick layer of ice on my shifters and now even my jacket was accumulating ice. My movements resulted in crackling sounds from the ice breaking. My glasses had water and ice on them. Fortunately I didn’t have far to go and the road conditions improved. I never thought I’d be that happy to see snowy slush. That stuff can be nasty, but it’s nothing compared to the frozen surfaces I was dealing with.

Our parking lot at work was just ridiculous, more snow with a layer of ice on top of it. I could barely even walk on this surface. I’ve found I actually do better on surfaces like this one on the bike. I guess I need some knobby shoes. For times like this I wish I had studded tires, but there’s no way I could justify the expense, given how infrequently I’d need them.

It was crazy how much ice was all over my bicycle and my jacket by this point. I wish I could have gotten some pictures, but I needed to get to work. I’m hoping conditions will improve by the time I go home, because that was insane. But I’m sort of convinced it’s safer than driving in some ways at least, and once again, I had FUN riding to work in this stuff.

6 Responses to “My hardest commute yet”

  1. Pete Says:

    Congratulations! You are now an official hard-core winter commuter and entitled to all rights and accolades that accompany such status. Enjoy!

  2. Jon Says:

    Yeah, I’d say snow commuting is safer on a bike than in a car. If you had crashed your car at 7 mph, at the stop sign, I’m sure it would have resulted in some measurable damage.

    BTW Wishing you a belated Happy Birthday.

  3. Ian Says:

    I second Pete’s affirmation and welcome you to the ‘Cyclists that keep the rubber side down, regardless of weather Club’.
    Happy Belated Birthday and that Floyd jersey rocks!

  4. Ear to the Breeze » Blog Archive » Bookends Says:

    […] photos « My hardest commute yet […]

  5. No Biking for a Week « Bicycling in Bloomington Says:

    […] I have some experience riding in ice and snow and after doing it for awhile, I decided it wasn’t much fun. Of course, it’s not much different from off-road riding in many ways. Last Friday, it snowed and iced. I drove my spouse to work and was driving towards my office when I saw a bicyclist riding on 7th St. I’m fairly certain it was my fellow Bloomington biking blogger – Ear to the Breeze. The look on his face was similar to what I feel riding down a rooty, rutty, rocky hill on a mountain bike. His words. […]

  6. Ear to the Breeze » Blog Archive » February, 2008 cycling recap Says:

    […] My hardest commute yet […]

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