Monday, January 22, 2007

Snow Riding

About 20 minutes before I headed out this morning I noticed my front tire was flat again. I'd recently repaired the tube and never noticed a problem during my last ride. So I figured it was just another slow leak and reinflated the tire. Just as I was about to hit the road I saw it was flat again. I considered myself lucky that I hadn't ridden on it only to face fixing a flat on a soggy roadside.

Since my "snow tires" are fatter than my summer tires, I take a bit of a risk using the same tubes. Most of my tubes are sized for 18-25mm tires whereas the tire I'm riding on is 32cc. My rear tube is a thick puncture resistant tube so I think I'm pretty safe on that one. The front is another story.

After a delay of 10 minutes I began my morning journey. Temps were in the mid 20s, winds were light from the northwest, and the roads were slightly slushy. With little traffic on Green Bay, I had no problem riding in the lanes that had been better plowed. Biking through Wilmette I noticed it was getting lighter due to the combination of the late start and the lengthening days. The late start made more of an impact the further I biked because there were more cars on the roads than I was normally accustomed to on my morning commute. I was delayed turning from Broadway to Ardmore because I couldn't ease over to make a left turn and had to wait for a light. This caused me to just miss the long light on the crossing at Sheriden Road.

There was no effort to clear the Lakefront Trail of snow over the weekend unlike the Monday morning a few weeks ago. The Chicago Park District must have taken the night off after the Bears' championship victory to celebrate. No worries (a hackneyed yet apt expression in this case). The surface was slick and slushy but provided a relatively safe way for me to practice biking in the snow. I maintained a speed between 16 and 17 mph but had to slow for the sharper turns.

From Fullerton to North Avenue there was noticeably more snow on the path. This made biking a bit trickier but the trail was still passable at a brisk speed. Two other bicyclers were taking a more cautious approach. Once I passed the North Avenue Beach pedestrian bridge, the path returned to light slush.

Approaching the Oak Street curve I feared I'd have to detour at Michigan Avenue. But I saw a number of other bike tracks continuing south and decided to risk it. At the curve I passed a bicyclist heading northbound. The stretch from Oak to Ohio was snow covered with 1"-3" drifts about every fifty feet. At first I traversed the drifts with caution because my rear wheel would slide down the bank toward the lake. But once I got the hang of it I increased my speed and started plowing right through the drifts as fast as I could. I was still sliding to the side but it was almost like maneuvering on skis. I was sorry to get back on the slushy pavement.

At the beginning of the ride I was feeling sluggish thinking I was getting the flu from my disease carrying kids. But by this time I was invigorated. While stopped at Grand Avenue I saw that my bike was encrusted in snow as if I'd biked from the Yukon in a blizzard. I wished I'd had a camera. I rode the rest of the way to work feeling like some sort of all weather biking bad ass.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1751.1 miles
Price of gas: $2.38

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