Sunday, December 27, 2009

Riding in a Winter Wonderland

The snow has finally accumulated sufficiently in Missoula to have made the last month of getting around town a little more difficult on a bicycle. Snow, ice, freezing fog, slush, gravel, and de-icer all combine to make the roads just that much more treacherous, not to mention the limited amount of day time light and the confined roadways from piled snow that force cars to basically take over the bicycle lane on certain streets.

I have given up riding the fixie for now and switched to the used mountain bike I purchased this summer. The wide, aggressively treaded tires work great on the snow, ice, and had pack that dominates most of the side streets in Missoula ( you must understand that Missoula, being a town with not much money to spend on snow removal, concentrates on the main roads with the most traffic that are critical to moving people around and so the side streets are left to be turned into hard-packed public ice hockey rinks).

The only problem comes when my tires hit a patch of semi-packed snow that has warmed above freezing. This stuff is not yet wet slush and still has the consistency of snow, but when the front tire hits a patch of it, the weight of the bike pushes the snow away from the tire and your then forced to quickly try and regain your balance before your front tire goes out from under you. In these conditions I talked to a lot of people or heard conversations that involved "my hip hurts" or "I ate it hard around a corner." Luckily I have yet to fall, though I have been forced to put my foot down more than a few times.

Predictably the miles I'm putting on my bicycle have plunged (I'll have an updated millage figure within a week) as I have switched to the bus in the most horrid of weather - below zero - and have cut out trips from just not wanting to deal with riding other than for essentials, such as commuting and to get to the grocery store. And of course I haven't been on a bike for the last week since Ashley and I made our way up to her parents for the holidays; I couldn't imagine a better time to be on a bike getting in some exercise than during this food heavy time of year.

However, with all the extra hazards that you face as a cyclist during the winter, there is nothing quite like riding through a few inches of freshly fallen snow. The soft crunch the snow makes under the bicycle tire and the muffled silence of the world newly peaceful really does create a different and wonderful world to be riding through.

1 comment:

Dottie said...

Lovely description of winter cycling. Here's to not falling!

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