Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Problem of the Icy Commute

Last night the Puget Sound area got hit with sub-freezing temps and a bit of snow, something that doesn't happen too often around here. After listening to the dire forecast, I'd taken the bus to work. Standing around getting cold waiting for the bus, I remembered that I tend to get much colder waiting for a bus than I ever do when I ride places. Christine worries less about me when I'm on the bus and while I mostly have my own tractional issues resolved, I share her concerns about large SUVs slipping around on our shared roadways.

But Sunday is a lighter traffic day and this Sunday was darn close to a zero traffic day, at least at the time I was headed for work. And I have the ultimate ice-riding machine, a fixed gear bicycle equipped with carbide-studded tires. Special Ed is really special when he's shod with studded tires. Sure-footed as a sherpa we roll out of Issaquah, along the southern edge of Cougar Mountain, across the frosted trail over the Bellevue Slough, over the bridge, Mercer Island and the floating bridge.

It's on the west end of the floating bridge where I hit a bit of a problem. It's a sharp turn and a steep climb. I move cautiously through the turn so I don't have much momentum and I'm not really punching the climb. And things look slick as lizard spit here, so I decide to hop off the bike and walk the steep half block.

Big mistake. Special Ed has carbide studs to hold him on the hill, but the second my Keens hit the ice, gravity seems intent on having it's way with me. I think Charlie Chaplin should play me in the silent movie version of this incident. Luckily, I manage to keep a grip on the bike, if not my dignity, and using the bike as an ice axe, I claw my way up the hill. Remounting my bike, I recall Peter White's caution about riding with studded tires "remember, your feet aren't studded!"

The rest of the commute is lovely, but when I get to the shop, the second problem becomes apparent. Most folks have too much sense to come out to the bike shop on a cold, icy day. We do $40 worth of business (and $30 of that was my colleague Donald buying some stuff), before we decide to call it a day.

On the way home, I stop off and buy a pair of these:

Keep 'em rolling,

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