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Tag Archive: bike winter

Let the winter bike commuting begin

So much going on in Chicago lately… namely, it seems that winter has (finally) arrived. (Note: you will hear no complaints from this bike commuter about the mild weather and temperatures in the 40s and 50s these past few weeks…) From a few headline searches, Chicago isn’t alone in bracing for winter’s impact.

First snowy bike commute of the season

Now apparently Chicago is just gearing itself up for a true Winter Bike to Work Day this coming Friday.

As noted on the Active Transportation Alliance‘s event webpage:
Enjoy coffee and tea from Caribou and Cheesecake from Eli’s 6:30 to 9 a.m.

The first 50 bike commuters who come by the event can choose from either a free bike light or a free balaclava. Everyone who stops by can enter a raffle for a folding bike.

Winter Bike to Work Day takes place on Jan. 20, the 27th anniversary of Chicago’s coldest day, when the official temperature at O’Hare International Airport was 27 degrees below zero.

Last Thursday the city of Chicago experienced the first significant snowfall of this winter cycling season and today flurries lingered but did not accumulate. For the next few days, more so than snow, Chicagoans face the bitter cold temperatures with “real feel” temps hovering in the single digits! If you’re lucky, the windchill will just barely keep the temperatures above freezing for your commutes in on Wednesday morning.

Snow Bike - Fat Tires and Disc Brake


In anticipation of winter’s arrival, I have been lent a snow bike to test out. Last Thursday I put the snow bike to the test and she performed, especially for the ride home on Thursday over the snow covered streets.

Double-wide "fat" tires + braking power


The double-wide fat tires on this puppy – though not studded – did keep me feeling more stable on two wheels. Unfortunately such a downhill bike does not come with fender mounts, so I popped on a mudguard for spray from the underside and a rear clip-on fender to the seatpost. This bike’s front disc brakes assured me that I would have stopping power when I needed it. Neither the tires nor the brakes let me down. Unfortunately, I think the brakes need adjustment as I could notably feel resistance in the wheel that kept it from spinning freely. Still – in the wintry bike commuting conditions of last Thursday night’s ride, I certainly wasn’t riding anywhere fast.

The bike cops that were out patrolling acknowledged me with a smile and a nod; I think we were equally impressed to see each other out on the roads that evening.

The roads in Chicago are usually pretty well plowed and salted, as was the main east-west street I take leaving work. Salt riddled its damp pavement. But then I turned northbound; the rest of the way home I navigated my way north on mostly snow-packed roads. This type of snow was the slippery kind that makes it hard to gain traction and the roads were such that all of the road had already been driven over and packed down; these roads were some of the worst road conditions I’ve ever encountered on a commute for that much of my route. Luckily, there were few cars on the roads. I just tried to steer clear of the fish-tailing cabs.

The snow bike plowed through and I stayed upright til the end. The end of my journey through a couple blocks of side streets really tested my bike handling skills. I even had a cab following me and worried that much more about falling over into his path. To my surprise, he never honked and kept a safe distance, giving me room to navigate and fishtail now too. (What goes around comes around – from following a fishtailing cab, to a cab following me as I fishtailed.)

At long last I made it home and had to haul up the bike to my apartment. At that moment I realized the heft a front disc brake adds to the bike; I like to think that the added front-end weight helped in my snowy journey. For the final trip up my steps, however, it added to the inconvenience factor of using such a bike on a regular basis.

Today weather forecasters predicted possible snow accumulations of 1″-2″ but only a dusting of flurries stuck to the pavement. For today’s adventure, I put the Green Machine back to work, more than a full month later than it was called into action last winter season.

The Green Machine

With no knobby tires (yet), the Green Machine offers much less rolling resistance, with all the stability of a mountain bike for anticipated snowy commutes. The biggest drawback so far to the Green Machine remains her lack of a full front end fender (due to the full suspension fork):

No full front fender mounts on the Green Machine

Tomorrow I may add MTB Barmitts to the Green Machine to add further buffering from the windchills. Up until now, my REI mittens have served me well, but do not allow full dexterity for grip and brake controls.

Mittens protect my hands on the harshest of days

(On a side note: last Thursday I had carried a secondary glove set-up in the rear pocket of my cycling jacket. In that pocket I had stashed my wind barrier lobster cover gloves, just in case my big mitts proved to be too much for the conditions. I also had my camera in my back pocket for easy access. During one of my reaches into the pocket for my camera, I must have caused one of my gloves to fall out of my pocket. I arrived at work and was cleaning off my jacket and discovered I was missing a glove. Also in the ordeal, I got my camera wet and it is now at the camera “doctor” so my photos may be sparse for a while. On my commute home I tried to find my glove, but too much snow and darkness made the search difficult. Friday morning I followed my same route and paused at the same locations where I’d taken photos the previous morning. The plows had clearly passed through overnight. Lo and behold – along the curb at my second stop there it was – my lost glove! It lay there in a crumpled up heap of soppy slush and suffered only a couple of knicks from the plows but it survived! Sorry, folks, no photo of the discovery.)

Tonight’s commute home wasn’t so bad. The challenge was mainly in breathing; in the cold temps I pull up a buff over my nose and mouth which keeps the air warm and moist but still doesn’t solve the runny nose dilemma. I had pulled down the buff entirely by the end of my commute.

Still I arrived home refreshed and breathed a hefty “Ah..” in the crisp night air. I glanced up and to my amazement saw clear skies and a sky above full of twinkling stars and some visible constellations. For a city gal, seeing stars from my place is a treat.. and it’s one reason I do enjoy the crisp and clean (dare I say refreshing?) cold winter air. I love the clear wintry night skies!
(I’m still not much of a fan of snow!). 🙂

A special thanks to my coworker for snapping the photos of the Green Machine you see in this post.

Mark your calendars for Saturday’s Chicago Cycle Swap

This Saturday, February 26, 2011, the Chicago Cycle Swap returns for a second year, proceeds directly benefiting Chicago’s nonprofit the Active Transportation Alliance and Chicago’s Bike Winter. The event is open to the public 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse. Admission is $10 (cash only) at the door, but print out this coupon a $5 savings.
chicago cycle swap
OR – take advantage of a special deal from the Active Transportation Alliance: “In the spirit of our community building goal, we are offering a special on Active Trans membership to support our nonprofit work improving biking, walking and transit in our region…$20 gets you into the Swap plus a one-year Active Trans Premium membership including the Chicagoland Bike Map and all the other benefits.

More than 50 bike shops, merchants, nonprofits and individuals will be at this cycle swap offering great deals and all are previewed online to help you plan ahead. Individuals looking to buy or sell a bike will have the opportunity to do just that. The event will host a bike corral where bike shops and individuals can sell bikes along with what’s available at their booths. “Our guess is that there will be at least 120 bikes for sale at the Swap and that’s probably a low-end estimate,” said Ethan Spotts, Director of Marketing & Communications at Active Trans. Want to sell a bike? If there’s space available, attendees can pay admission plus $5 per bike, limit of three bikes, to place them in the corral with a price tag.

This year’s cycle swap is being held at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse which can easily be reached by bike and public transportation. Please note that this venue is different from last year’s inaugural swap which was held at Jak’s Tap. Spotts says of the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse that “It’s a classic Chicago Park District venue that’s been used by groups like Break the Gridlock for their conference in the past and it’s close to major bike routes, great transit and the highway for people coming from outside of Chicago. Another key venue requirement for us was to be able to work with Goose Island Catering to offer food, coffee and beer (and soda).”

Don’t feel like shopping all day? A full lineup of presentations and demos are scheduled to give you (and your wallet) a break throughout the day.

Unlike other bike swaps, “We’ve built it as a grassroots community event bringing together local bike shops, merchants, vendors, nonprofits and the public instead of a corporate-style bike show,” says Spotts. “We wanted to keep it low cost for everyone, vendors and attendees, while ensuring we could cover our costs enough to make a donation to our partner Chicago Bike Winter.”

If you’re riding, be mindful that bike racks may fill quickly (especially if the weather is decent); bring your lock.

See you at the Swap.

SNOW DAY!

Here in Chicago we officially have logged the third-largest snow storm in history for this city.

This blizzard has left about 20-inches of snow on the ground with significant snow drifts and hundreds of abandoned cars on north-bound Lake Shore Drive. Not to mention the thunder snow many Midwesterners experienced and the 60+mph wind gusts!

Luckily I did not have to venture out into the snow or the aftermath.
chicago snow

A few cyclists have been posting updates about their enjoyable adventures on their bikes today – including a calm bike ride down an abandoned Milwaukee Avenue and not having to share the roads with many (if any) cars (most of which were likely buried in).

In the meantime, I continue to monitor local riding conditions via our local bicycling network – The Chainlink’s discussion board – and the Chicago Biking Conditions and Advice Wiki.

I’m just thankful to not have been a part of the epic snow-in on Lake Shore Drive.

I miss my bike and I think may have a touch of cabin fever. Luckily the infamous Groundhog – Punxsutawney Phil – predicts an early spring!

Winter Biking Primer from Chicago

Streetfilms recently did some filming in Chicago and I love the resulting video about the joys and ease of winter riding that they put together:

I particularly agree with the comment about bike commuting helping to ease the “winter blahs” (at minute-mark 2:08).

Final note about riding in single digits vs. snow (minute 4:01). Last Friday at 7-degrees on the bone-dry roads I felt warmer than I did yesterday when it hovered close to 30 but stayed damp all day.

Happy Winter Bike to Work Day (in Chicago at least)

Historically in Chicago January 20 marks the coldest day on record — when temps registered 27 degrees (F) below zero at O’Hare International Airport.

In honor of the dedicated cyclists who keep the pedals turning during these cooler temperatures, Chicago’s Active Transportation Alliance is hosting a celebration this morning for bike commuters. Today we don’t have the below zero temperatures (yet) but it’s still chilly out there.

Happy Winter Bike to Work Day from Chicago!

As posted on the Active Trans calendar:

Bike by the Federal Plaza in Chicago’s Loop on Jan. 20 from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. for the annual celebration of cyclists who don’t let cooler temperatures stop them from pedaling to work.

The Active Trans warming tent will provide riders with Caribou coffee and tea plus our traditional Eli’s Cheesecake. This event commemorates coldest day in Chicago history—Jan. 20, 1985, when the official temperature at O’Hare International Airport was 27 degrees below zero. Federal Plaza is located at Adams Street and Dearborn Street in the Loop.

Get a Grip Cycles will be at the event showing off winter gear and offering free adjustments, West Town Bikes will be pumping out the tunes with its sound system trailer and Chicago Bike Winter will be offering free fleece headwear. Representatives from the Chainlink website also will be on hand to introduce cyclists to their resources.

For more winter riding events and tips, check out the resources organized by winter cyclists on the Bike Winter website.