Last week, as I stopped to take a picture of the ice encrusted bike path I ride every day, an old man carrying bags of empties stopped his slow shuffle, gingerly balanced on the junction of the snow bank and the ice sheet and offered me some free advice.
“Turn back! It’s like this all the way.” (FTR, I had already ridden most of the full length of this trail and was on the final block.)
“It’s OK, I’ve got studded tires.” (I find people who try to tell me what’s best for me never want to hear about my studded tires.)
“You can’t ride on that!” (he motions to the ice) “You’ll break an arm!”
“I’ll be OK.”
“No! You can’t ride there! You’re going to break a leg!”
“I’ll be fine.” (I wasn’t in the mood to again point out my tire studs and explain about angular momentum and torque and how, unlike my (or his) footwear, my studded tires have the traction of a mountain goat.)
“No! I’ve already fallen twice today! It’s too dangerous to bike! You’re going to break an arm and a leg.”
I was getting impatient by this point. “Okay, I’ll turn back after I take this picture.” This response seemed to satisfy and quiet him and he continued down the icy trail. I wonder if he noticed that I didn’t turn back, and just kept on riding down the middle of the skating rink.
The path is straight, flat, there’s no cars, and I’ve got two studded tires, so I’m not bothered by the iciness of it anymore. If you changed any one of those factors, it would be a different story, but I’ve ridden stuff like this enough times and I know this path well enough that I can just relax and roll with the flow. Every winter at some point, I reach a state of winter cycling zen where I stop thinking of all the techniques and technicalities and can just trust my body to do what it does. It’s sorta like remembering how to ride a bike.
There’s been some snow since I took this picture, so at least now I have a layer of packed snow between my tires and the Ice Capades. I love packed snow. When it’s cold out (current temperature -20C, wind chill -32C) I prefer packed snow over asphalt to ride on. The sound of snow creaking is so much nicer than studs grinding away on the pavement. Here’s hoping that it stays for a long time, and when the snow finally melts, it doesn’t refreeze until next fall.