Bumpy, Bumpy Roads

19 01 2011

Snow, and cold, and more snow, and more cold, have been the story of my life for the past couple of weeks. E-ville’s seen the biggest January snow storm in 20 years, followed by more snow almost every day and temperatures in the -20’s (before windchill). This is a winter city, though, and we don’t take snow days. I’ve ridden every day, though about half my trips included bringing my bike onto the train.

The first day of the big dump, I took a fall on a major thoroughfare while riding Porta-Bike (first fall of the winter, and first fall on that bike). Falling in traffic is always terrifying, and my first instinct is to get my ass up and out of the road, before checking if me & my bike are OK. As I was climbing over the 3 foot high windrow, dragging Porta-Bike behind me, some dudes in a car drove past and pointed and “ha-ha”ed me (Muntzed twice in one month – what is wrong with people?!?). I ended up with a few small bruises, but the bike seemed to take the worst of the fall, with one of the cotter pins loosening up.

I limped it to EBC, as I knew there was another problem festering that I needed to deal with. The bike once had a built in generator and there are holes in the frame where the wires used to run in and out, including one directly above the bottom bracket. When I initially cobbled the bike together, I never expected to be riding it as much as I have, never mind as a winter bike, and didn’t bother to plug it. The bottom bracket had already started to feel gritty, so I knew I’d better overhaul it and plug the hole before replacing the cotter pin.

Hole in frame successfully plugged with a screw and a piece of tube.

Random fun fact – no two nuts on Porta-Bike are the same size, and there is a mix of metric and imperial to keep it interesting. Oh, the joys of frankenbikes.

This is what the parts of the bottom bracket and cranks look like when they're not on the bike. I don't usually use those plastic bottom bracket condom things, but I dug one out in case the plug didn't hold.

With new grease and bearings (and a new cotter pin that took way too long to find) I was back on the street with Polar Porta Bike, the brown sugar slayer. A local street style blogger even stopped me for a picture on a cold afternoon (this is what bike style at -20 looks like, note the frost in my hair and scarf).

As the snow continued to pile up faster than the plows could remove it, cars and feet packed it down, turning every surface hard and bumpy, with textures ranging from washboard to mogul. When I first contemplated winterizing the folding bike, Ravingbikefiend warned me that the biggest reason he didn’t ride any of his 20″ wheels in winter was because of how the bumps jarred his back. After a few days, the thrill of quasi-bmx riding was replaced by my lower back screaming for mercy (the fall didn’t help, either), and I realized I needed to get on a full sized bike again.

Snow ridin' on the Glow-Bee

The Glow-Bee has needed some additional tweaking for its first winter. I discovered the cushy air sprung saddle I love so much turns rock solid when it gets cold, so I’ve temporarily replaced it with a less comfortable but much springier (and squeakier) old-school sprung saddle. I’ve also added a second studded tire on the back, making this the first winter I’ve ridden with two studded tires. It’s still not as stable as Polar Porta-Bike, but it’s faster and has gears, so it’ll do.

All this snow's been good for the snowshoe hares. They can walk on top of the snow and it lets them eat higher branches that they couldn't reach before.

The weather forecast is finally looking up, and near freezing temperatures will feel balmy compared to what it has been. Now, I’m looking forward to enjoying it (and marveling at all the mountains of snow higher than my head), instead of just bearing the ride.