Arctic High

25 11 2011

One of the nicest things about northern prairie winters is that the sun still shines and brightens the short days, reflecting and sparkling off of brilliant snow. The catch? Those sunny days happen when the air is so cold that it can’t even hold enough humidity to condense a cloud, meaning that many of the coldest days are sunny ones.

Mid afternoon, -20C, sun is low, not a cloud in the sky.

The equipment needed for enjoying such a day is simple: warm clothing (with a sleeve big enough to keep my P&S camera warm) and studded tires to navigate the snow that’s been packed down solid and polished to ice.

The only 20" studded tires you'll ever see are DIY. Edit - apparently Schwalbe makes 20" studded tires, but DIY is the only way I've seen metal on a 20.

Sudden cold snaps in November also make for slow days at the bike shop, leaving time for Porta-Bike pampering. After taking these pictures, I overhauled its bottom bracket and coaster hub. The best part was finally finding the proper cotter pin for the left crank. In the picture below, you can see that the cranks are not aligned 180 degrees from each other, but I am proud to say that now, for the first time since I cobbled this bike together, the cranks are perfectly aligned. Additionally, the rubber plug I made last year for the bottom bracket hole seems to be working well, and the old grease was still pretty clean.

Polar Porta Bike - now pronounced with a preceding kazoo flourish.

At least this first wintery blast didn’t last long, and it’s made the last few days, with their average, near freezing temperatures, seem balmy in comparison.

Cold sun.

I’ve been helping out a lot of other people get into winter cycling lately, but I’ve also become increasingly disconnected with some of my fellow citizens. Cycling year round is  normal to me. Spending time outside, no matter what the weather, is normal to me. So I’m finding it difficult to understand how someone can live their life in a winter city and feel entitled to a 21 degree, climate enclosed shell 24-7, and balk and complain should they ever have to feel the wind for thirty seconds because of the absence of indoor parking. These are the same folks that tell me it’s impossible to ride my bike in the winter (or for transportation, period) despite the fact that I”m successfully doing it, and have been doing long enough that the incomprehension now runs both ways.



5 responses

25 11 2011

I love your blog! I am a first time winter cyclist and i found your blog to be encouraging.. in fact I have also gotten a co-worker of mine to commit to cycling all year round!

I wanted to ask you how you find the seasonal above temperatures of 0-+2 when the snow is melting and becoming slush I am finding it hard to ride even with studded tires on the streets as I fish tale often… any suggestions or is it just one of those things that you have to get use to of going slow and finding your balance? I find the paths fantastic as they are cleared well! But some of my commute is on the road.

Keep blogging I love it!

Rider of “Steady Steve”

25 11 2011

Thanks for the lovely comment!

Fishtailing in brown sugar can be one of the most disconcerting aspects of winter cycling. The secret (if you can’t avoid it) is to just power through it, because as long as there’s torque on your rear wheel, the angular momentum will keep you upright. It’s a lot of work. Though I’ve had my share of falls, I’ve never fallen while fishtailing – it seems like the worst thing that can happen is that it sucks all your momentum and you have to stop.

28 11 2011

There’s nothing a cyclist can do about it: slush riding is not fun. And when the slush freezes, then it’s really not fun. 😀

You can only hope that the maintenance crews can/will do something about it. Often that would be scraping excessive slush away from the bikeways, or scraping the extra ice off before the slush season in the spring. Then You’d have hard ice or asphalt to cycle on.

That works best on separated bike paths as the extra maintenance work can be just on them, not the whole street. On street fair weather lanes will suck.

Re: aligned cranks: I had an “old clunker” bike (can that be said about bikes? 🙂 which had non-aligned cranks…and a few other problems. I was almost happy when it was stolen.

30 11 2011

Schwalbe makes the Marathon winter studded tire in a 20″ size.

27 12 2011
Brown Xmas « Breaking Chains and Taking Lanes

[…] for the unseasonably warm weather, as he bought a new snowblower after the first (and only) cold snap we’ve had so far this winter. By this logic, he is also responsible for the rain, being […]

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