Defying the Weather, Riding in the Snow, and Worse

A few years ago, I’d ride in any weather, a lot like that scene in Forrest Gump, in the storm, where I’d challenge the winds and rain to throw more at me. The defiance comes from learning how to ride in the Tri-Cities, where the wind blows in all directions all the time and my intense dislike for trainers. The defiance was tempered a few years ago, when I suddenly slipped in the snow and slid down a hill into a parked car and another time when the visibility was so bad, I rode right off the bike path into the Puget Sound.

So, as predictable as seeing a cyclist riding in shorts with bare knees, no matter how cold it is, I bet someone is out riding today, in Seattle, in the snow.

I’ve ridden in it all, not so much anymore, but though I’d ask what are your limits? What will you ride and not ride?



27 Comments

I invested in studded tires this fall, in preparation for future commutes to work on roads that might not yet be plowed. I was also hoping that our lake would freeze over as much as it did last year by this time, but tha’ts not going to happen, given the continued daily warmth.

I got out there last night for a good bit on my single-speed cyclocross bike.  I ran into a poor guy trying to descend Juanita on slick 25’s and he still had to make it back to Seattle. 

Ben,

Please follow up when the lake freezes and let us know how the studs work.

Andrew,

Wait a minute, a fixie in the snow?

I ride all winter on my road bike here in DC unless there’s ice on the trails or active precipitation.  Unfortunately, road bike tires are definitely less forgiving (and I don’t have room in my home for a mountain bike) I’ve experienced commutes when I thought the trails were clear & then discovered they weren’t.  One time, I had to walk my bike for three miles through the snow, in cleats!  Never again.  :)

Single Speed - not fixed gear!  That would be nuts.  It’s a cobbled together single speeder, but the treaded 35s are great for snow. 

Where were you at when you rode into the Sound? I can see someone doing that on the Merytl Edwards trail where it turns 90 degrees by the ship yard.

fixed gives you better traction on ice than freewheel.

i’m in minneapolis and go all year round. i like skinny road tires better for the heavy snow that we get here (a foot at a time sometimes) than knobby ones because they slice right through like butter.

i only bring my daughter out when it’s warmer than 40s and sunny or 50s.

Jenny,

I said, never again as well, right about the time I landed in the water! Just like a car, snow isn’t the problem, it’ the ice. And Ryan, I woudn’t have thought a fixie as better in the snow at all. When I slid down the hill, it was because I hit ice.

My ride in this morning was pretty interesting, as always brief, just a bomb down Denny off of Capitol Hill. Not hardly any ice to worry about. I was saying to some people today that I’d be happy to have a reason to invest in some studded tires, but Seattle doesn’t seem to really ever get hit with much snow or ice downtown. If it does, I’ll still be happily surprised, studded tires or no. I still, and will, roll the fixie as it is the daily ride, if it ever gets bad enough, maybe some cross tires rather than the slicks. It’s only November, so we’ll have to wait and see.

M

We don’t have anything like the hills here in Minneapolis that you have in Seattle. If I hit ice, I’m not going into Puget Sound from half a mile away. Even if I was on a hill, there are plenty of four-foot snow drifts to slow me down

Right, you’ve got the flats - this comment thread reminded me of our Interbike coverage on the Moots Snoots ultramarathon snow bike — hooah!

In the Tri-Cites, it was an absolute blast to ride the irrigation canal roads and farms on mountain bikes after a fresh snow with night lights even.

Chris,

I was coming around the corner from harbor ave to beach, on alki, where the old bathhouse is, and stayed right on the path to the beach, and into the water, not the path that continues down the road.

I used to have a single-speed/fixed Sycip cross bike, and a 38mm Ritchey Mount Cross gave great traction in snow and ice on Queen Anne Hill.  Now if the snow sticks in Seattle, I put cross tires on my Davidson road bike and run the pressure low.  I don’t know how slicks would do with the hills here.  Last year I rode my S&S Sycip track bike on the packed and refrozen snow of a Cincinnati bike path with a 28mm slick up front (clearance issues) and a 32mm cross tire in back.  I could move forward but I couldn’t keep it straight on the iced ruts. Strangely, several Seattle messenger companies closed for the day on account of ice (administrator decision).  Back in DC, the companies paid messengers a 60% commission rather than 50 on snow days.  Seems most messengers there switched to MTBs for snow days. All those metal plates used in road construction are diabolical when iced.

And on a tandem, too:

proof

 

I’ve been out every snow day except Sunday on my fixed gear.  It really is the right thing to have in this weather, you get a much better feel for the traction.

I haven’t been willing to ride the side streets in my neighborhood (Greenwood) they’re so icy I can barely even walk them.  But I’ve had no problem riding main streets, and drivers have been pretty uncomplaining when I take whatever space is ice-free on the road.  The Burke was absolutely harrowing, and I’m not sure why I even tried it.

Brandon! Tandem, now we need to see the xtracycles out. Where’s Aaron?

I don’t ride my bike here in Nova Scotia if there’s enough ice on the road that cars are unable to control themselves - I have no problem with it myself with studded tyres, but most drivers around here don’t have them. I only missed one day last year that I recall, when I saw a driver try to stop at the intersection at the end of my street and fail, sliding across the road and bouncing off the curb on the other side!

We’ve yet to have our first snowfall of the season, though, so I’m still running CX semi-slicks.

When riding to work, I only ride on dry days.  For fun, I may try a snow ride this year.

I was out on my Xtracycle in the snow. It’s my commuting bike, and I didn’t feel like changing my routine. I don’t have photographic evidence like Brandon, but I did post about it on my own site.

I actually felt more stable on the bike than on foot in some cases.

Little late to comment on this, but I put studded tires on my xtracycle his winter, and it was fine, even on wet ice.  The only time I had trouble was when it got slushy and muddy, and I had a lot of rear wheel spin plowing through it.  Studded tire traction on ice is definitely not 100%; front brakes were a clear no-no, and I could break the rear end loose pretty much whenever I thought it would be fun.  The studs leave nifty scratches in the ice when you do that.

I never took it out on a lake.  I saw some ice with people skating on it, and in theory I should be safer than them, but I didn’t grow up in the frozen north and don’t really know the ice rules, and I kept thinking of the Darwin awards.  So I didn’t.

I don’t think it would be easy to pull an XtraCycle out of the lake!

Man, its so hard to ride in the winter, all that slushy snow and different grooves the cars make on the snow make it so hard to control, i wouldn’t recommend riding in the winter if you don’t have a mtn bike and studded tires

I too ride through the winters in Denver CO, but last year I had a couple of nasty falls. Ice, potholes and a narrow section of road was responsible for one fall and deep slush (very nasty stuff) caused the other. I am trying to research tire solutions for my Road Bike, but find that most tires out there with aggressive tread are too tall for my rear triangle. Am I alone in this? Does anyone have any recommendations on tires (probably 700 X 30 or less) that would see me right? The only ones I have seen that might work are Conti Contacts (700 X 28). Any advice appreciated.

I’ve got two snow rigs.  One is geared, with 700x38 Schwalbe Snow Studs and I can ride anywhere anytime—including the side streets—snow, ice, whatever.
The other is fixed, with 26x2.0 mtb tires and no brakes.  It’s a blast in the snow but strtaight ice is sketchy—for that you really want the studs.  If you really want to ride every day you should get studded tires even here in Seattle.  The cheapest way to go is an old mtb frame, fixed gear (I like 39:20).
Cheers

Agreed and check the current posts for more on riding in the snow

[Snow Tag](/tag/snow)

Interested about why the people who think fixed would be bad news in the snow feel that way (suicidal?)

Fixed gear is what Northern Europeans use in the winter traditionally as it allows better control and improves bike handling skills outside the racing season.

Until last year pretty much all the fixed wheels in this area not used just for going around our local velodrome where owned by tweed and wool wearing old guys who used to race between the Percy Stallard and Hugh Porter eras.

@ Steve Parkes

Well that’s interesting and I guess we just thought, “that’s insane.” So you’re saying, the Euros ride fixed in the snow?

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