Friday, December 17, 2010

Commuting in the Snow

Snowed yesterday here in Washington DC during the day; took me about 75 minutes I would guess to get home in Arlington (about ten miles). I was riding my Traitor Ruben bike that is a steel road bike with disk brakes. Riding in the dark is slow, even with a headlight.

This morning I rode in, having reduced the tire pressure to around 60 psi and swapping in regular pedals instead of clipless, and it went pretty good although I guess it took me around an hour - so, ten miles per hour avg. Actually, not so bad.

Snow and Bike on Gravelly Pt

Usually here the ground isn't frozen solid and I need to stay on the bike trails, which get to be a mess with snow, ice and ruts. Today the ground is frozen solid so I went across the field for fun - a little more pedal energy required but easy to steer in a straight line.

Me and bike in snow

Much of the rest of the way I road on the streets, which are nicely cleared. I try to stay out of heavy traffic - only one angry beep from a motorist.

Someone in Shirlington runs a small snow plow down the bike trail along Arlington Mill Road as far as Walter Reed, clearing about four-tenths of a mile of bike trail. What a nice thing to do!

Return home addendum - the ride home started around sunset but was mostly in the dark. It was a good ride, although tiring. I managed to maintain a pretty good pace. The trails were clearer of snow than in the morning so I skipped riding on the streets - also, in the dark at night the local commuters have much less interest in sharing "their" roads and I don't want to get clonked.

Most of the people riding in the snow were using mountain bikes - while intuitively it would seem like a big mountain bike tire would give better traction in the snow, you are also pushing the big front tire through the snow, which on balance seems like more work. The 25 mm tires I am using have almost no tread; it's the lowered inflation pressure that gives traction (I think). Anyway, it isn't tread!

The worst part this time is that the road salt used ends up all over the bike if any riding is done on the roads (which I did) and the stuff is just annoying to get off, but clearly should come off since it can't do any of the parts or the finish any good (aside from looking bad).


  1. I've got to hand it to you, I lived in Maryland
    for five years and did a great deal of commuting
    during the spring, summer and fall ... but in
    wintertime!? In my younger days I use to ride
    year round in Western New York ... but not as
    a commuter. Of course, the only real concern
    is motorists. I did get screamed at once by a
    man, saying my parents should not let me ride
    my bike in the snow. I just laughed at him as
    I explained I was in my late 20s at the time!
    Keep those posts coming!!!

  2. Thanks! Lately the cold weather combined with high winds has been more unpleasant than riding in this snow was. I find it simpler not to make Yes/No decisions about whether to bike commute based on weather but to assume I'll go by bike unless it is obviously beyond my physical ability.