Some days there are no safe routes to work. Today was the first day back to work after a weekend of snow storms. The snow plows had only worked on the main streets, so all the side streets were a lumpy mess of ice and snow. And since the sides of the roads were piled with snow from the sidewalk snow blowers, I was forced to ride too close to traffic. By the time I got to work, I had spent over a half hour creeping along the streets and hiking through the park for my 2.5 mile commute!
Here are a few of the things I learned and practiced today:
Slow down! The unpredictable terrain caused me to watch my front wheel. Occasionaly I tried to make up time where I had traction, only to come into a dangerous section that I didn’t see coming. I practiced keeping my speed slow enough to react to changing conditions, braking where I had traction before hitting patches of ice.
Keep a straight line. Wandering around from tire track to tire track is a good way to end up on your head. It’s important to keep an eye on what your front wheel is doing, but remember to scan ahead when possible and pick the best line. Slow way down when taking turns. This is where I had the closest calls today. Luckily I was able to unclip in time and get a foot down before the wheels completely slid out from under me!
Be mindful of what’s behind you. There were times today when I looked back and saw a lot of traffic headed my way. I decided it was safer to get off the road and wait for the cars to pass instead of taking a chance with an automobile close encounter.
Give yourself extra time. I ran into a dead end while trying to cross the park. The snow was too deep to ride, so I decided to backtrack to the road. This wasted some time, but was probably wiser than trudging through 200 yards of snow.
Consider studded snow tires. If you’re serious about commuting through the snow and ice, get some studded snow tires. I had some very aggressive knobby tires on today, and they didn’t do much in the ice. I was always looking for a bit of snow to ride in to make sure I had a little traction. I’ll be shopping around for some snow tires soon. Recommendations please!
Overall, my commute was a great experience. It’s fun to have an adventure before work!