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Tag Archive: snow

Snow! (and studded tires)

Yesterday I awoke to 25-degrees and snow. Luckily Chicago didn’t have any measurable amount of the white stuff, but it was enough to blow around on the pavement and set the tone for wintry weather to come.

snow_bike_lane

By the time I rode home the roads were completely clear, but as I approached a red traffic light and a fellow cyclist, I heard the recognizable chatter of studded tires on dry pavement. When we stopped, I had to verify that my ears weren’t deceiving me, “Do you have studded tires on your bike already?” Of course he did! His preferred tire? Nokian brand tires from a company in Finland. He seemed very confident in his decisions – both in brand and in having mounted them on his bike already.

My friend Dottie from LGRAB swears by her Schwalbe brand studded tires, which I’m sure will soon be back on her Oma for the winter.

So far I’ve managed to commute year-round in Chicago without studded tires, but each year about this time (when I see white snowflakes dancing through the air and patches of ice forming on the streets), I question whether or not they would be helpful. I am impressed by the seeming lack of rolling resistance that studded tires offer while on dry roads. Apparently the carbide studs used in today’s studded tires are much more durable than the steel studs manufacturers used to use. The bike commuter I met last night definitely rolled along at a speedy pace.

Questioning your own need for studded tires? Stay tuned… Our very own Just Ask Jack will soon be offering up more answers to your questions about studded tires.

How-To Enjoy Winter Biking

The local news recently reported about winter biking in Chicago.

They even featured video of the fun of “snow” cycling.

As reported by Ben Bradley:

January 8, 2010 (WLS) — A half-foot of snow can be daunting for drivers, a headache for walkers and make a calamity of the commute. But for some cyclists it makes a great ride.

Sure, anyone can do it when the sun is shining and the thermometer reads 80-degrees. But, it takes a special breed to break out the bike during a winter snowstorm.

“Winter in Chicago doesn’t conqueror cyclists, cyclists in Chicago conqueror winter!” said one man while grabbing his bike.

Whenever more than two inches of snow fall in the city, these cycling enthusiasts gather at the appropriately named “Handlebar” tavern. They swap stories from recent rides, some down a bit of liquid courage and then they don their winter wear and hit the streets.

“It’s 50-percent guts and zest and just sheer will and the other 50 percent is gear, knowledge and knowing what you’re doing out here,” said Kevin Monahan, winter biker.

They pass drivers scraping their windshield, try to avoid plows like the plague, and- for the most part- try to stick to the side streets for their three-plus mile winter rides.

“It would be easy to live in a warm climate and bike all winter long,” said one rider.

“One of the great things about biking in the winter is it gets you out of the house and you can avoid cabin fever,” said Dave Glowacz, winter biker.

Some of the winter riders are the same folks you’ll find filling downtown streets during monthly bike rallies called Critical Mass. Their numbers fall with the temperature- but so does the disdain from those who prefer four wheels to two.

“We don’t get heckled as much in the winter. We get more respect. I think they appreciate us for our guts!” said Monahan.

The driving force behind snow cycling is a simple belief: If kids can play in the snow, so should adults.

Nor wind, nor rain, nor snow, nor sleet… (but I’m no hero)

… we continue to prove that bike commuters ride through it all. Just on the news this morning, I heard that over 2/3 of the U.S. is experiencing wintry weather (especially the Midwest).

Last night’s commute home offered me a full wintry mix of conditions. First, the wind gave me a nice push; the wind coming out of the southeast provided a welcome push and facilitated pedaling through the slush quite nicely. Then the wet slushy snow flakes completely soaked me – at least my legs (still seeking better waterproof rain/winter pants). And finally sleet pricked my exposed cheeks.

winter slush

Luckily the temps remained in the upper 30s and kept the temperatures mild and and roads wet (and just a bit slushy) but no ice.

Today as the winds pick up and bring the freezing weather, many of us can expect blowing snow and blustery (likely icy) conditions.

Yesterday when I rode in, my co-worker called me a hero for riding in the snow. I’m no hero and I know when the conditions are too dangerous. I don’t want to be a hero. I’m just out to safely enjoy the ride.

Winterizing – the Green Machine Rides Again

This morning I fully intended to ride my regular commuter bike – El Toro (as I’ve deemed her) – with new narrower bullhorn handlebars and a new stem for better reach/height (more about the commuter fitting I got coming soon). However, a few snafus during the part swap led to El Toro taking a few days off and me putting the Green Machine (last year’s winter bike) back into service. Perfect timing, too, since flurries danced through the air as I rode to work.


Lincoln Avenue on a wintry weather morning - flurries in the air.

I know it’s winter in Chicago when the extra layers get added to the wardrobe and I take time to consider the bike choice (since last year I’ve chosen to ride the mountain bike in winter) and tire choice (should I add studded tires this year?).

In fact, with my extra winter layers on, I’ve been told I’m not recognizable by folks who never see me sporting the helmet, jacket, balaclava, gloves, boots, etc. The layering process is a post for another day, but wisely selected layers are invaluable.

My choice to switch to the Green Machine came after a couple of winters on my old ten-speed and doing some research on how other riders battled the elements. Ideally, I’d love a Pugsley, especially after reading about it on the blog Up in Alaska; if she can ride in Alaska, I can certainly ride through Chicago’s winter!

What bike do you ride in the foul elements? Anyone got experience with the studded tires and their effectiveness on snow/ice? Each year and each season I continue add to my arsenal and my knowledge as a bike commuter.