Rolling Through a Wacky Winter

27 02 2012

Living on the northern fringe of the Canadian prairie, winter is a serious affair. It’s seriously long, seriously cold, and requires serious adaptation & preparation to really be able to get out and experience it, whether riding a bike or on foot (or skis, or snowshoes, or skates – so many options!). I have a hypothesis that a portion of the traffic I get on this blog in the winter is from other year-round cyclists, trying to figure out who’s the most hardcore (I nominate this guy).

My studded tires have been grinding more pavement than snow & ice this winter.

Except for the this year. Save a couple of cold snaps that I’ve previously posted about, it’s been the warmest winter in memory, with hardly any snow and many days above freezing.

Reflections on a clear street.

It’s meant that riding through the winter has been super easy, and it seems like I have to go out of my way to find any surface to put my studded tires to work.

Sunset on the Globe.

Even an easy winter has its challenges, though, and with all the clear riding I wasn’t giving my chain as much attention as usual.

Oh chain, how have I abused thee? Let me count the ways...

I gave it a thorough cleaning, but it became obvious that is was too little, too late, and that I needed a new chain. Oh well, there were thousands & thousands of kilometers on that chain (no derailleurs make for longer lasting chain), and I knew its time was near, I was just hoping it’d last the winter. It was also a good excuse to break out Porta-Bike.

Have I mentioned how fun this bike is?

This is hardly winter riding.

And this is just wrong for February in E-Ville.

Riding Porta-Bike is always a joy, and I pumped the tires up hard to try to keep the studs off the ground and maximize zippiness. I had a lovely ride, but on the way home noticed a strange bump every time the back wheel went ’round. I pulled over and found a large bulge in the tire, with one of the screws I used for studs dangling from a screw-head sized hole, and another hole sans screw. The bulge was visibly expanding, and I quickly let air out of the tire to prevent an explosion with screw-stud shrapnel.

I took this pic after letting air out of the tire. It was initially even bigger but diffusing a potential bike bomb trumps diligent blogging.

The next day, I replaced the studded tire with a summer tire and marveled at how close that tire came to letting go. The DIY studded tires were lined with a double layer of inner tube, and I think that’s all that kept it from blowing.

Notice how all of the supporting fibers on the inside of the tire have broken in the area the studs were forced out from. Intact screw-stud at the bottom of the pic.

I figured “No big deal, two studded tires is overkill anyway.” and set off on my daily traverse, enjoying the smoothness of the non-studded tire and riding without a jacket.

So then, of course, this happened:

The deities of winter cycling decree that if you remove your winter tires, it will trigger a surprise snow storm.

In E-Ville, winter’ll catch up with you if you don’t take it seriously, even if it’s just for a day. And now, with more snow in the past 48 hours than the rest of the entire winter, winter’s back with a vengence.



10 responses

27 02 2012

I sometimes wonder if I could handle the winters of Minneapolis or Edmonton, and stay on the bike. And….I’m not sure! I guess with the right clothing/gear it wouldn’t be so bad. I’d probably keep riding for the same reasons I started–it’s better than the alternatives! Driving is too expensive and public transit is (generally) just too slow.

Definitely puts some perspective on the days I don’t wanna ride ’cause it’s raining.

28 02 2012

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’d take -5C with snow over +5C with rain any day, because the snow doesn’t soak right through like the rain does, and you can shake it off before you go inside and dry off relatively quickly. Also, with the snow cover, most of the days are sunny and bright, almost blinding at times, and I find it very uplifting, and often wonder if I could survive the long grey stretches of the coastal winter, even though we are creatures with adaptability in our nature.

But even in a prairie winter, biking beats driving or transit.

28 02 2012

Even in Portland, most people would agree with you, and I am again the odd duck on the subject–I’d much prefer damp and warm to dry and cold. A few layers of wool and/or synthetics, a rain jacket if it’s really coming down, and I’m fine 90% of the time.

I guess part of the problem is that in the winter in Portland, generally if it’s sunny and cold there’s a stiff wind from the East, and it seems to slice right through all your layers. I end up wearing my rain jacket as a windbreaker and I’m still cold.

27 02 2012

You’ve a skilled hand at the action shots.

28 02 2012

Thanks! My secret is to take many, many pictures, post few, and make sure the wrist strap is secure 😉
I think the ratio of shots I used to shots I took for the panda shots in this post was around 1:25.

28 02 2012

I also ride in the winter to work and around town. People think I am a weirdo, I am glad to see someone else is ridding through the winter.

5 03 2012

I lived and biked in Alberta for a long time and must admit I miss the the crunchy sound against the silence after a snowstorm. Here in Toronto, it is a lot wetter and muckier (is that a word?). I remember riding across the high level bridge at midnight during a snowstorm shortly after arriving by plane. I did not know I was supposed to ride on the sidewalk until I was stropped by 3 police cars with sirens blaring. At first I thought there was a really bad accident and pulled over for them to pass…oops! I never did that again! All that to say I envy you, being able to ride in Alberta.

30 03 2012
Chris Chan

Eh. It’s totally legal to ride on the road on the High Level Bridge (assuming you weren’t heading against traffic). Police often don’t know traffic laws.

9 03 2012
Adrian Pearce

Your riding pictures are great! I’m learning how to take pics while pedaling and not crashing.

That fellow in B.C. is one tough dude!

9 03 2012

Thanks! If you’re at the party tonight, I’ll have to tell you the story of how I acquired my “new” crash-proof camera.

And the guy who was trying to ride to Tuktoyaktuk? I was rooting for him, it’s too bad (though not completely surprising) he didn’t make it.

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