Showing posts with label snow. Show all posts
Showing posts with label snow. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Now THAT'S a Tough Ride

Transportation with horses, mules, dogs and bicycle (detail)
Transportation with horses, mules, dogs and bicycle (detail)

Bicycle as part of Alaska Gold Rush. One wonders what it was for.

Transportation with horses, mules, dogs and bicycle
Mail and freight on Valdez Summit

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

As I contemplate the March snow fall here, and getting to and from work . . . . .

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Pre-treating Trails in Arlington VA

Trail along Four Mile Run near where I live

Tonight snowy weather of some sort is promised and Arlington has pre-treated the trails with some sort of fluid. That is what the parallel dark lines are. Pretty nice!

I confess I am not sure how much this pre-treatment helps. I live down the street from a high school in Arlington and they do it on our street assiduously before every storm, but once the snow starts to fall - hmm. Still, it is great to see the county government providing good service for trail users (including but not only cyclists), and they have done a good job with plowing trails too.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Starting Up Bicycle Commute After 2 Feet of Snow

Snow, Washington D.C., car
Snow in Washington DC, January 1922 (from the Library of Congress)

Last weekend two feet of snow (give or take) fell from the sky, closing the government completely for several days, then various kinds of delayed arrival and the like through Friday. I teleworked through Thursday, returning to work on Friday - using Metro.

I am not crazy about using Metro, but I didn't feel like experimenting with the snow on the trails that day.

Yesterday, Saturday, I went about a third of the way to work, to see what conditions are like on the bike trails between my house and the Potomac river where I cross the 14th street bridge into DC.

Plowed trail Arlington County VA
Bicycle trail plowed by Arlington County

The trail for about a half mile from my house to the Four Mile Run Trail was not plowed, but it was mostly clear anyway. The Four Mile Run trail near Shirlington was plowed, continuing on in all the way to the Potomac near the south end of National Airport. Arlington County uses a Gator or something similar; it is difficult for them to stay on the trail consistently, as you can see by the tread marks in the grass where the small plow was off the trail for a while.

Mt Vernon Trail near south end National Airport
Mt Vernon trail near south end of National Airport

Once the trail leaves Arlington County and runs into the Mt Vernon trail, the plowing stops, and the conditions are much more mixed - that is, there is more snow and ice. I can route myself through Crystal City to avoid some of this; I'll see how it goes tomorrow.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Back to Bicycle Commuting

Mount Vernon Trail bridge near National Airport - solid ice

Last week Monday was a holiday and the government (and my job) were closed due to weather. The remainder of the week I went to work by Metro. It was the first week when I worked the "full week" (or as much as was available to work) and didn't ride one single day to work on my bicycle. Ugh.

Today I took my heavy yellow monster and rode to work. The trails in Arlington and roads in DC were fine, but the Mount Vernon Trail was not great. In the morning some of it was slushy, which presents traction issues if you slow down. The temperature fell during the day and most of the way was frozen solid on the way home. I ended up riding more than I would ever do otherwise using the small ring on the front of this old mountain bike, spinning very slowly in the lowest possible gear.

This bike has 1.95 inch wide mountain tires that have studs - amazingly it is possible to ride along at a slow steady pace on conditions like this bridge without difficulty - frozen ruts are the biggest problem.

Since I stopped to take some pictures and stopped somewhere else to talk to a guy and generally was riding pretty slowly, it took me close to an hour and a half to do what should take 45 minutes at most in regular weather.

An odd trade off with tire pressure - I ran with the tires at 50 pounds per square inch, which is somewhat too soft for the miles where the roads or asphalt trails are bare but is certainly too hard for conditions like what is in the photograph. A compromise, but not a great one.

Somewhat embarrassingly I will take Metro again tomorrow, because it will be colder and I think I am up for this every other day but not every day.

Where is spring?!?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Studded Tire Performance in Icy Weather

Photo from several years ago, but bike and tires look same now

I have a 15+ year old heavy ChroMoly Giant mountain bike with studded mountain bike tires - they were sold under the NashBar brand, but were made by Kenda (I think). 1.95 (or really 2) inches wide. There are two rows of studs, kind of alternating in position relative to one another looking across the tire. They are far enough out from the center of the tire that one can significantly influence how many studs may be in contact with the ground by changes in the tire pressure.

Three days ago it was snow, not ice, and I had the tires at 55 pounds per square inch. I made pretty good time but the studs were not really necessary. Two days ago the conditions were much more icy for about half the ride, in other words, the part that is NOT MAINTAINED BY THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE (unlike Arlington County, which pretreats its bike trails, God help us). I rode to and from work with the tires inflated only to 40 pounds per square inch and clearly that improved the studly-stickiness of the tires - very little sliding around. On the other hand, on bare pavement, the road resistance is pretty noticeable (and unpleasant). A compromise.

Typical Mount Vernon Trail conditions - thanks for nothing, NPS

This morning I increased the pressure to 50 pounds per square inch since I was hopeful that the trails would be more clear today, but there were still significant areas that were covered from one side of the trail to the other. 50 pounds per square inch was too much to have the same kind of good traction that 40 provides, but I chose to ride along the edges of the trails where there was less bare ice or in a few cases off on the frozen ground along the trail. The improvement in rolling resistance by having more air in the tires made up for a small amount of slow riding in the few really bad spots.

I have now had these studded tires for something like eight years - maybe more. Of course there was at least one year where I didn't use them at all, but I don't ride them much. Originally I thought that if I rode what must be cheap metal studs on lots of bare pavement that I would pound them flat (ruin them) in no time, but in fact they seem to show little wear at all.

Last year I realized that I had lost several on each tire - they are kind of like short thick nails, with a head at the opposite end from what sticks out of the tire. Nashbar sells replacement studs with a tool for installing them and that works fine. I am now riding with a full complement of studs.

I see that there are road tires with studs - the rows of studs are of course much closer to each other. I assume that overall in most urban conditions these would be faster but for now I will stick with the mountain bike approach.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Arlington Trail Snow Removal ROCKS

At long last, parity (if only in Arlington)

Clear roads and clear trails, on the same day. Thanks County government!!

Where Arlington County trail clearing ends

I stopped on my way home to take this photo. This is where Arlington County's trail clearing efforts came to an end - the Mount Vernon Trail maintained by the National Park Service has had nothing done and tomorrow will be an icy mess.

My photo doesn't show it clearly, but it is pretty funny (to me) how Arlington's mini-plow went in a nice little circle clearing the trail before heading back into Arlington.

I suppose the National Park Service will do something when hell freezes over.

Arlington County Plows Bike Trails Early

Arlington Country bike trail along Four Mile Run - plowed at 6:45 am

The DC streets I saw, however, were not plowed at all. Crazy.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Arlington County Pre-Treats Bike Trails

Tomorrow we may have and inch or two of snow, starting around 4-5 am. Maybe.

There had been discussion of more allocation of resources to clear snow from "mixed use" (that is, bike) trails, but I had not realized this could include pre-treatment before the snow. On my way home today, turning off the Mount Vernon Trail onto the trail along Four Mile Run, I noticed the tell-tale lines on the pavement indicating some kind of vehicle had come through and applied some kind of treatment in advance of the snow's arrival.

Looking away from Shirlington, you can see the application of some sort of liquid treatement both coming and going

Apparently this is where the vehicle turned around since a fair amount was spilled.

Looking towards Shirlington, you can see that the narrower trail means just one direction of application

I have no idea how helpful this will be. Find out tomorrow, most likely.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Arlington County (VA) and Trail Plowing

March 9 I sent the following as an email to the Arlington Bike Coordinator; later I submitted a revised version to the County Board on their website.

It appears that over the winter the County decided to switch from salting trails to plowing. (I leave near Rt 7 and Walter Reed and ride down the trail along Walter Reed, then down the trail along Four Mile Run to the Mt Vernon trail and then in to DC that way.)

I am surprised by the timeliness of some of the plowing that happened - in particular, the that runs parallel to Walter Reed between Rt 7 and Arlington Mill Drive was plowed recently very quickly after the snow - this makes a lot of sense since if you are going to plow trails (and not salt), it should happen fast before the snow turns into ice from people walking on it.

The different this past week was very noticeable between the trails I use in Arlington and the Mt Vernon Trail, which was untreated and unplowed. The main thing was that the trails that were plowed become clear and useable by a regular bike quickly and the Mt Vernon trail was only rideable until Thursday either by riding very carefully or by having a bike with studded tires (which I have).

Plowing isn't a perfect solution - Tuesday in particular some trails had been plowed before my morning ride but the result was that the asphalt (with the 15 degree weather) was coated with a thin sheet of ice instead of a thicker layer of ice and snow so that a regular bike would not have traction - it would have been impossible to ride without studded tires. But by that afternoon the situation was already better, and Wednesday morning the Arlington trails were rideable (with care) while the Mt Vernon trail was not. Still, I think plowing is better than treating with salt etc.

The plowing is good. Thank you.
Plowed trail near my house - makes a big difference!

This kind of systematic effort to clear trails used by cyclists (and others, of course) following snow storms is new this year in Arlington, and there was enough snowy weather for some experimentation. The first round was to use salt/road treatment type applications on the trails, which isn't great if you want to walk a dog using the trail and also is hard on the bicycle and the surrounding environment since the salt/chemicals aren't confined to the trail (asphalt). Plowing is a lot better, and the County shifted to that, which is great.

Better still would be to have a little less snow.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Walking the 14th St Bridge (on the Way to Work)

14th St Bridge, March 19 2014
Doesn't look too bad . . .

I used my "ice & snow" bike and was reminded it is better with ice and less good with some snow conditions. Most of the ride the asphalt trails were much more clear than I expected and with my studded tires I chugged along steadily. But the 14th St Bridge pedestrian/bicycle area was 3-4 inches of mush (not slush, but mush) that was hard to maintain forward motion with given the 2 inch wide tires and a desire not to spin the wheels (which could pull out studs, maybe) and the sort of wild steering required.

Anyway I ended up walking more than half the way since it was a more consistent level of effort and probably about the same speed as the stop-and-go approach with riding in my lowest gear.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Limits of Cold Weather Commuting

As in, my limits. Well, my limits and the limits of my cycling equipment.

My ice commuter, for better or worse

Today was the second day I rode back and forth the ten miles between my house and Capitol Hill with the trails pretty icy and in reasonably cold weather, particularly in the morning. In my years of commuting in more or less all weather, it is fairly unusual to have sustained cold such that the trail conditions didn't change that much between two days. In a few places some salt had cleared areas, but it was not like the second day was a huge improvement. (Mostly the trails are not treated.)

This morning it was cold, for here at least, at around 12-14 F - around -10 C. It was colder than yesterday and since it took me over an hour to get to work, my fingers were starting to get cold on one hand - but overall my cold weather biking clothes work OK at least down to this temp. But I need to keep moving, spinning, to maintain my warmth.

The bigger problem is with my bike and my fitness (my "fitness" in the broader sense of being physically ready for such an endeavor). The bike is an old Giant that I have only ridden in the last few years when I want to take advantage of the studded tires I have mounted on it, and that's it. The bike could use some adjustments. The rear brakes in particular don't work well in these conditions and of course when it is slick the front brake can't be used (much) without instantly causing a crash so the poor rear brake performance isn't helpful at all. (I should fix that!) The 1.95 inch wide tires with the studs are lovely for traction when the surface is mostly flat/smooth but if there is accumulated snow or snow+ice they have a terrific amount of road (or I guess snow) resistance - the width isn't helpful.

But it does work. Two days running I rode back and forth on a lot of slick surfaces and didn't fall once. And I got back and forth.

The Gravelly Point area of the Mount Vernon Trail; another riding north as I head south

I don't see too many other riders on the trail on a day like this. Today I saw two riders coming the other way on my ride home (total) - one was a commuter and the other fellow just seemed to be out enjoying the fun to be had. The photo above shows the commuter I saw, chugging along. He did not, I think, have studded tires - he was riding a cyclocross sort of 700 size tire bike and was hugging the right edge of the trail. I am familiar with this approach - basically you stay away from where other riders have been riding and especially stay away from icy sections. The narrow tires cut through the snow OK and you have traction but it very tiring to maintain this kind of straight-ish line.

My approach with the wide mountain bike tires is to stick to the middle where the snow is pounded flat and where there is compacted snow on ice and try to skirt as much of the clear ice as I can. The studded tires will allow some riding on clear ice, but you can't brake or steer (much). And sometimes you hit a bump and the bike simple slides. The studs aren't a perfect solution.

It's an adventure (or something like one, for me) but I'm glad to have the weekend now to rest up. I don't know if I could do more than two days running of this. I was unhappy this morning to pass a guy walking his bike on the Mount Vernon Trail near the airport, on one of the bridges - he had a very nice bike, but apparently was having no luck staying upright. He didn't look like he was dressed as warmly as me, and walking . . . I didn't have anything to help him with this problem, so I just kept going.

A snow-bike patent for a set of attachments from 1900 - but my problem was ice, alas

I have a sort of cyclocross bike that is presently out of commission with disk brakes - I should get some studded tires for that thing when they are on sale so I have a bike to ride in this kind of weather with working brakes and have narrower tires to cut through snow. For next year. Yeah.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Modern Snow Bike

K-Trak Snow Bike System

In my two previous posts, here and here I have looked at 100+ year old ideas for how to get around on a bicycle in the snow and ice. Aside from the simple approach of using studded tires on a bicycle (which works for most urban snow) there is also the above snow bike inspired by a snowmobile.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Converting Bikes to Snow/Ice Use - Patents

Snow Bike Patent - 1900
Snow Bike Patent, 1900

"The invention contemplates the employment of a bicycle of any preferred style, in combination with supporting sleds or runners and means for imparting motion thereto." and . . . "The rotary motion of said shaft is converted . . . to a reciprocating motion upon the part of the push-bars, which are alternately projected and retracted, engaging the snow or ice at each stroke, and so propelling the vehicle."

Apparently the idea was to propel the bicycle as though it was someone's crazy version of a cross country skier, in which the poles do all the work.

Snow Bike Tire Design Detail 1900
Snow Bike Patent, 1900 - augmented wheels

To make this work, rather elaborate changes are made to the tires, fixing a set of teeth to the outside edge of the tire. Uhm, wouldn't it have been easier to run the chain down directly to do this??

The "ice velocipede" below looks more sensible, although since it preceded the above by six years, apparently it hadn't caught on.

Ice Velocipede Patent 1894
Ice Velocipede 1894

The object of the invention is to provide a new and improved snow and ice velocipede, which is simple and durable in construction, and arranged to enable the rider to travel over the snow and ice at a high rate of speed. and The invention consists principally of single front and rear runners supporting the frame, and connected thereto by horizontal pivots and a propelling chain mounted to travel along the rear runner and driven from the crank or pedal shaft through the medium of a sprocket wheel mounted on the pivot connecting the said runner with the frame. (Crazy way to write.) and The propelling chain is provided with spikes or blades adapted to pass into the snow or ice, so as to propel the vehicle forward. Aha! Well, it might work. But again, we don't see these around . . .

Bike Snow Shoes Patent 1896
Snow Shoe Attachment for Bicycles

This is the simplest of the bunch, although it seems likely to have traction problems.

Traction "Vehicle" (Bicycle Patent, 1895)
Traction Vehicle

This isn't actually a patent for a snow bike (snow isn't mentioned in the patent) but rather a tracked bicycle that could, presumably, have been used on snow as well as on other difficult terrains. (Also it seems to be a purpose build device rather than a conversion.) Could this be used for cyclocross? Again, we don't see these around today, do we. Presumably the energy required to get this to move at all was a bit of a problem.

Keep in mind these are 110+ year old patents - what is interesting is that there are plenty of patents from the last 20 years that aren't that different. Go to Google's patent search and simply search on "bicycle snow" and see what I mean.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cracked Rim & Brake "Dirt"

Riding in snow and ice even with studded tires can be challenging - also if one has any sense, it is important to clean up the bike fairly soon after to get the road salt mix residue off the bike. Wheel spokes in particular are vulnerable to the corrosive effects of that stuff; I am embarrassed (I guess) to admit that one year I rode in some bad weather and then parked the bike in my shed and forgot to clean it - much later I discovered the road glop had eaten its way into several spokes enough that when I gave them a wiggle, they snapped! Lesson learned. Ouch.

Cracked Rim
Crack discovered while cleaning the rim

So I took the old mountain bike (a Giant Boulder SE, more than ten years old) that I rode in the snow and cleaned it up and while cleaning the rear wheel I found that the rim had a crack in it. Aggh! What I actually had found, as revealed in a helpful comment (below) is an artifact of the manufacturing process that I had not noticed before. Oops.

Cracked Rim
Not surprisingly the crack goes through to inside of rim

Fortunately I have another mountain bike around that I can borrow a wheel from, but I will have to buy a new wheel.

Dirty Cracked Rim
In gloppy weather, brakes make a mess of rims

I didn't need to clean the other side of the wheel now! You can see just how much of the brakes end up on the rims in sloppy weather. I suppose I could buy better brake pads, too.

Anyway, this provides something of an answer to the question of why one gets something better if you spend more on a bike. This is a perfectly OK entry level Giant mountain bike but aside from being fairly heavy none of the components are terribly good (although none are terrible, either). In short I am not particularly surprised to have a cracked wheel on a bike like this. The question arises, at least in my mind, of whether I now take back this comment about low cost bikes and their quality quotient. After some ten minutes of contemplation (intermittently) I guess I would have to say no. I don't.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Snow Ride Home - Outrunning a Cervélo

Snow Bike
Snow-enabled old mountain bike with studded tires in front of house

There was a rather indefinite forecast that there might be snow this afternoon - so I rode this rather heavy old bike with studded mountain bike tires that are about two inches in diameter. If there is ice and snow, they are good to have, but this morning it was mostly clear, so the bike felt like a burden. However a couple of years ago I fell during a snow storm ride so I am trying to be more cautious.

Coming home I was glad to have this bike with its studded tires. The icy spots visible this morning were now covered in snow so it was harder to avoid them but with these tires it isn't necessary. I trundled along at a steady if slow pace. The most annoying aspect was the strong wind from the SW (or thereabouts) along the river.

Just on the DC side of the 14th St Bridge there was a rider in his sorta winter racing/training kit on a Cervélo who let me go ahead of him. Really, a Cervélo in the snow? So this will be the one time I completely drop a character on a bike like that. And while riding a heavy crap-cycle - that uh happens to have the right tires. So maybe not so crappy.

Snow Ride
Made it home! Let the weekend begin ~

Thursday, January 24, 2013

At Work After First Snow Ride of Year

Presumably not too old for this yet

But it did take a full hour. Same spinning, but bike going a lot slower.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Winter Cycling 2012 - Moscow & Seattle

A fellow living on Phinney Ridge in Seattle has posted the video above showing a ride in their recent heavy snow. It is in real time and his camera is bolted to his handlebars; the video is pretty bumpy. It demonstrates that as long as you don't have ice but just slush or snow that isn't too deep, a person can get around by bike. However I know from experience it's pretty tiring and ideally you maintain some speed/momentum in order to push through the stuff.

I used to live in this part of Seattle - at about 1 minute 20 seconds an apartment building appears on the right that we lived in. Beyond the stop light that can be seen at that point is the Woodlawn Park Zoo.

This video is more fun to watch than the Seattle snow video - it is not in real time but sped up four times, also he says he used some feature of YouTube to "stabilize" the images (so not so bumpy). He rides from Krasnye Vorota, somewhat northeast of the Kremlin, to Novokuznetskaia, which looks to be somewhere between four and five kilometers. Unlike Seattle, there are plenty of cars and pedestrians that he shares the road (and the sidewalks) with. Of course part of it is that it is not in real time, but he's got more courage than I have. At about 2 minutes 30 seconds he crosses a bridge over the Moscow river - he rides (as he does most, but not all the time) in road and not on the bridge pedestrian area, which seems pretty risky.

Even with fenders (and the bike isn't shown, so who knows) you would get filthy riding in these conditions - Moscow is famous for the chemical mix used on the streets in winter which contributes a dirty brown "oatmeal" consistency slush. People must be astonished to see someone riding in Moscow in winter.