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,



Biking Duluth said...

Do you have those now or did you just order them? Let us know how the work on the pedals.

Anonymous said...

We got hit with snow and ice in Portland, too, plus a nasty east wind. I don't have a regular ATB anymore, just the X, and if something happens I can't toss that on the bus (Xtracycles aren't allowed on Trimet bus racks or on the trains). So I'm bussing it tomorrow. We'll see how it goes, but I expect it to be a short day at Citybikes as well.

Jill Homer said...

Never a dull moment. I've had this happen before, too.

Anonymous said...

For a few bucks I picked up some used track shoes with metal spikes at Goodwill. You could look for some old golf shoes with metal spikes too. I haven't tried mine yet, so I don't know how they do on ice. Any other ideas out there?

2whls3spds said...

YakTrax work pretty well, but not with toe clips (been there tried that)and will wear quickly when on a platform pedal.

I actually have an old pair of light weight hiking boots with studs mounted in the heels and two on the very front. I had the local shoe shop install golf spikes on them. Those were my dedicated winter riding shoes.


Anonymous said...

Personally I love the ice and fixed gear!

Robert H said...

Your old posts about icy riding on a fixed gear inspired me to try it out this morning. I didn't get the memo about the studded tires though. I was on my ass quickly. I never seem to learn anything without messing it up first.

RoadieRyan said...

I have often wondered about cyclist in the midwest who write that they ride "year round" thinking how do they do when the road is a sheet of ice? That was especially on my mind as I slipped and slid by foot the 2.5 blocks to C&P Coffee to work this morning. W. Seattle was an ice rink. Is there any way besides studded tires to ride on ice?

JuliaR said...

Since freezing rain is part of every winter for us, and I walk a lot, I swear by my Yak Trax.

Woot! The word verification was "wings"!!

Kent Peterson said...

The YakTrax worked OK on my icy commute yesterday. The definitely improved the foot-ground interface at the stops but they were just OK in terms of intefacing with my pinned BMX pedals. I don't think they'd work at all with toe clips. The ideas of track or golf shoes or adding toe and heel studs to a dedicated pair of winter boots is a good one.

The YakTrax are terrific for walking and they'll probably see more use when I'm a pedestrian.