This is not what biking in the snow in Portland is like:
(image taken from http://www.icebike.org/, where the cyclists are actually hardcore:)
Regardless, we did get a little taste of snow biking this morning, when the snowpocalypse predicted for Portland dumped, if not quite seven inches, at least a few flakes on the ground. As the flakes got fatter, I bullied–er, convinced–James that it would be wussy to take the bus to work (“come on, it’s not that bad. The ground’s not even frozen! It’s no big deal! I’ll bike with you!”).
When he decided to indeed take his bike (“we know, though, whose fault it is if I die”), we both hopped on our snow-bound steeds and made our way downtown. As I suspected, it wasn’t that bad. The hardest thing was the huge, falling flakes that made it hard to keep our eyes open–I saw one dude with ski goggles on, which I think was the way to go.
Anyway, in typical Portland upcoming-spring fashion, once it hit about noon, the sun came out and everything melted. But now, the snow is back, in nice fluffy flakes floating past my living room window and (re)coating the rhododendron out front. So just to encourage a little more snowfall (can anyone say Friday snow day??:), here are some thoughts for biking in snow or ice–keeping in mind, of course, that “snow or ice” in Portland means something way different than snow or ice in, say, Chicago.
Slow down. And plan ahead. It takes longer to stop, and if you try to make any sudden changes, you’re likely to skid.
Plan your turns. Don’t make any sudden jerks of your wheel. It’s likely to slide out from under you if you do.
Keep your butt in the saddle. If you need to stand up on your pedals, your gear is too high. Your back wheel will just spin uselessly on the ground.
Wear snow goggles. heh. I can’t actually recommend this for real since I’ve never done it. But it sure looked handy!
Look for the best path. Sometimes, it’s best to bike in tire tracks, since they’ve already melted the snow a little. But if it’s icy, tire tracks are usually pretty slick and it’s best to slog through the snow next to them. It sort of depends. Find what works and stick with it.
For those of you who live in climates where the snow and ice is for real, I recommend IceBike for real tips. They’ve even broken down their riding techniques into different categories: black ice, deep snow, and hardpack. Since I don’t even know what hardpack is, I figure they’re way more hardcore than me:)
That’s what it looked like at our house once things started melting. Hard to tell from the sky that it would turn sunny later, isn’t it? And hard now, as I look out my window, to remember that it was sunny just a few hours ago. Ah, Portland:)