February 9, 2013 § 2 Comments
When I first graduated from college and moved to Santa Cruz, CA I had a problem that many first year non-profit employees working on a presidential election do: I had a trillion things to do that all seemed important and terrible time management skills. This meant that I worked all the time – when I say all the time, I mean the get on my bike at 6:30AM to go to work, leave the office at 11:30PM, kind of all the time. The kind where I would pull eight hour days on weekends and, for awhile, didn’t know what to do with myself for the rest of the hours of the day.
At the time, my girlfriend and most of my friends were still living in Davis, CA – a two and half hour drive away – and most of my free time was spent visiting them. Still full of wanderlust I directed all of my curiosity for the outdoors to Jill Homer and Elden/the Fat Cyclist and a couple of other pro and amateur enthusiast’s blogs. Jill is a total badass – at the time she was training for the human powered Iditarod* and blogging about all the badass snow biking she was doing.
SNOW BIKING! What a crazy idea. I kept up with her training, successes and tribulations, and ate up the awesome views of the Alaskan wilderness like I was there.
Of course, I don’t actually know anything about snow biking, so when I woke up this morning and decided that I was going to bike to Eastern Mountain Sports to get those previously mentioned performance toe-socks (for running in Vibrams in winter), I started with the usual: Google.
Google recommended: Get wide studded tires. Disk breaks are better. Put chains on when necessary.
Really useful Google – I want to leave in 20 minutes and I’m saving all my money for beer. I figured, how hard could it be? I’m not trying to tame the Alaskan wilderness here, I’m just trying to navigate the New Jersey suburbs. So I put on my winter biking get-up, clipped my tail light to my jacket, and rolled my Fuji Touring bike outside.
My street was barely plowed and the sidewalks were worse. With a here goes nothin’ Nemo attitude, here’s what I learned:
1. You don’t control the bike. You share control with the snow/ice/slush. Instead of leaning forward and pedaling like a maniac, I leaned back, guided the front tire and let it slide and catch if there was too much snow or an ice patch.
2. Go slow. I was lucky enough to not fall on this trek, but I was pretty cautious (snow is scary). It was slick and slidy enough at slower speeds, going too fast just made me misjudge what was actually on the ground and thus increased my likelihood of reacting inappropriately to the terrain.
3. Walk if necessary. Snow plows do their jobs for cars not bikes. On side streets especially there were piles of snow and sheets of ice all over. There was no way my little touring tires could handle it.
When I walked into EMS, the cashier looked at me jaw agape an said “You BIKED here??”
Yes, ma’am I did, point me to your fancy socks please! Steve at the shoe section turned out to be well versed in Vibram accessories and later on I ran into a friend of a friend who also worked there who said, “You picked a hell of a day to start overcoming your fear of winter.”
It retrospect, yeah I probably did, but it did feel awesome all around. It further reinforces my theory that although better gear and lots of experience can allow you to take bigger risks while being safer when it comes to outdoor adventures, as long as you’re smart about it and able to overcome the general nervousness that comes along with doing something new/potentially dangerous, you can have just as much fun in the end either way.
So what are you waiting for?! Go out there and tackle Nemo while you still can!
Bike in the aftermath.
* Global warming is a bitch. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/06/sports/warm-weather-forces-changes-ahead-of-iditarod-race.html