Looking Forward, Keep Your Eyes on the Ice

I had great plans and ambition yesterday morning to take on the snow, well more ice than snow, that pelted our city over the last few days and ride to the other side of town on Dirt Rag official business. I dug out my studded Kenda Klondike tires, mounted them to my wheels, and gave my Surly Cross-Check a “quick” once over. Commuting in the salty slush is murder on the chain and drive components, and mine was in need of a serious lube concoction. I’m kind of lazy about maintaining my commuter and the night before it sounded awful. The chain was skipping gears like a delinquent cuts classes at high school. (I know nothing about that).surly.jpg

I dripped some degreaser on the chain, wiped it with an old shirt, and lubed the links. I spun the rear wheel, realized I forgot to true it again, and held the same rag against the rim for a brake surface cleaning. I really wasn’t in the mood for thoroughness, but I may even have wiped the pulley wheels and the chain rings. It’s nasty out anyway.

Suited up and set to go I clipped in and rolled slowly on to the sheet of ice that’s my street. Once I made it to a main road the pavement was only wet. Piles of slushy-frozenness lined the lane and I began to wonder why I even bothered with these sluggish studded tires that grip the pavement and sound like Velcro being ripped apart as they roll. Then I thought about how much lighter and quicker my other tires will feel when I put them back on, so I let it go and grinded on.

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Half way to my destination I cut down a few back streets to get to the cycling path that leads to a pedestrian bridge, which would put me on the other side of the river. I remembered conversations around the office of how the city never plows the bridge and prepared for it to be snow covered. As soon as I turned off the road though I realized that the bike trail cutting through the park, short neighborhood section, rail-to-trail, and the pedestrian bridge were all covered in 2-inches of ice. The city did plow it this year, they just didn’t treat this mile and a half with salt afterward. One hundred carbon studs per tire. Perfect! Let’s see what they can do. (I only used them once last year).

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I’ll have to say that I wasn’t being as cautious as I should have been, until I nearly wiped out. Thereafter, I checked my speed and went light on the drop bars. It was kind of fun in a way, to learn how to ride without the bike shooting out from under me. I had to let the bike dance where it wanted to, to roll over the frozen boot prints and random shapes locked in ice. Going up the ramp to get on the bridge wasn’t bad, but 90° turning had me guiding the bike with my weight.

Once on the bridge I saw the only other two people out crossing the bridge on foot, and with difficulty. The ice just shined as a gusty wind rolled down the river and over the ice. Slow and steady got me to the other side and I had still managed not to fall. A series of two U-turns comprises the exit ramp and I thought this is going to suck. I managed to navigate them as well and made it back home taking the same route without falling. I guess studded tires to work.

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