My “Snow-mageddon” Commute

Two days ago, I decided to bike to work. I packed everything I needed, bundled up, turned my lights on, and headed out at 4:30. Did I mentioned it had snowed the night before, and that I was riding my mountain bike?Right before leaving work everybody was talking about how it was going to snow; how people with four wheel drive vehicles could pick some of us up. During this past summer, I tried to bike to work almost every day, but during the winter months it’s been a struggle. I kept thinking I didn’t have the right apparel, and that I would be too cold. I don’t have fancy cycling cloves, or all of the winter gear I think most people associate with cycling during the colder months. I haven’t been in to biking really for more than a year, so since I’ve been interested I’ve never had the opportunity to ride in the snow. Living in NC, the options are limited, so that Tuesday, I was determined to ride the eight miles or so to work.

Riding was great. It was cool, but I stayed quite warm. Layers, it’s all about layers. Since mountain bikes have flat bars, it was easy to switch gears, and use the brakes even with my somewhat bulkier than desired gloves. With the snow (and admittedly some ice) the knobby tires rolled smoothly, tearing into the snow just enough for a decent grip. I saw very few cars, five I believe, and most were very cautious and courteous. There were a few that were riding in the dead center of the snow. Riding a bike made me much safer in this instance, because what’s safer than being protected by a big, metal car? Being well out of the way in the first place, since my bike takes up so much less room than a car. I did have to laugh a little though. I thought it was funny that the occasional driver gets mad about bikes slowing them down, and being in the lane and all that…but I’ve never taken up the whole road. Sounds a little double standardy to me. Alas, you can’t win ’em all.

Took me a little while longer than usual to get to work, but I did learn a few things. Having a consistent stroke/rhythm seemed to give me better control and grip for the most part, and somewhat surprising to me, is that it was better to ride over the “fresh”, untouched snow/ice than where the cars had traveled. When I drive a car it’s always easier to ride in the tracks of the previous cars, so I think that’s why I found it surprising. The one time riding in the tracks worked better, was when those tracks were made with snow-chains. Not as surprising to me was that it was easier to “spin” everywhere than to try to ride the “big rings”. I love riding the big rings when cycling on the road, but mountain biking is a different story. I hate hills, and I’ve found that staying within a couple of gears is typically the best route, at least for me. I also learned just how great disk brakes are. Slowing down, even on the ice, was exponentially easier than me trying to brake a few days before on my road bike, with your standard caliper brakes. Not as opposed to disk brakes on road bikes as I had been in the past. Balancing could be difficult depend on the road conditions and when you hit ice, but you learn how to adjust, and I think I built more trust in my handling and balance.

The most important thing of the whole adventure was that I learned I could. That the snow didn’t have to win, and that overall, I felt much safer and comfortable¬†getting to work via bike in the snow than I ever would or will driving a car. It was so quiet, and serene. It was nice to look at. The world changes drastically when you’re on a bike, and it changes even more during the changing of the seasons, and when it snows. Fast enough to get to work in a timely manner, slow enough to really look around and appreciate your surrounds.It doesn’t snow a lot around here, but I’m glad that I decided to try commuting in the snow, and something I would definitely do again.

SIDE-STORY:To make everything funnier, everybody was blown away that I rode to work, like it was a big deal or something. It seriously wasn’t, but it was a lot of fun! The humorous part of this story came right before I got off of¬†work. One of people in management called my boss, and my boss gave him a hard time. I didn’t hear the person on the phone, but this is what I heard:

“Wait, you made him come get you? Don’t you have a vehicle with four wheel drive?” (yes, he does)
[talking on other end]
“I can’t believe you made him come get you. I have an employee who rode to work today…on his bicycle. He rode his mountain bike like 10 miles to work, and you can’t drive your four-wheel-drive vehicle like the two miles to work.”I laughed so hard…and I’m still laughing.

-Korey Deese
snow commuter