Down and Dirty Snow Ride

Sometimes snow is a magical winter wonderland, and sometimes snow is simply bad weather. When I need to get to work and 7 inches of snow have fallen in the last 24 hours – that is bad weather.

I wanted to ride the wonderlandy Lakefront Trail this morning, but even if it were plowed that early – and there’s no way of knowing – the side streets that lead there were impassible.

I almost turned around immediately after setting out, until I saw that the major street I take was perfectly clear. For most of the trip, I was able to ride in the bike lane like normal.

The next semi-major street was mostly clear, but the bike lane was trashed. I refuse to ride in slush – it’s slippery even with studs and you never know what it’s hiding – so I rode in the main lane and let cars go around me.

Oops, look at the time. I need to stop fiddling around with my camera and get to work.

The entire parking lot was shoveled except for my no-parking parking spot. Oma got stuck and I had to pick up one of her wheels to pull her to the gate. Thank goodness for internal brakes and chaincases, because Oma would have been effed up by the time I pulled her out for the ride home.

Turns out the Lakefront Trail was plowed, at least when Mr. Dottie rode it later in the day. Here’s a gem from his Blackberry camera. Dottie jealous!

Anyone else having down and dirty snow rides? What are your tricks and tips?

Update: Oooh, watch this very positive story about Chicago winter cycling from our local news station.

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26 thoughts on “Down and Dirty Snow Ride

  1. Steven Vance says:

    I posted a video of my short ride yesterday to Walgreens (yes, I wanted ice cream that bad).

    I ride with very skinny and slick tires that cut through the snow and slush. Also, have a low center of gravity helps. You should also know when to stand up (standing up moves your center of gravity).

    In the beginning of the video you can see, though, I’m having trouble riding straight with one hand holding the camera.

  2. Dottie says:

    @Steven Vance – Cool video! As an icecream lover, I understand :) I didn’t venture out on my bike yesterday, so I’m impressed. I avoid super fresh snowfall.

  3. Miss Sarah says:

    EWWW. That brown snow. Don and I are calling it cookie dough. It’s AWFUL.

    The mountain bike. It’s fantastic! The riding position is so aggressive, which isn’t usually my style but it IS sort of fun:)


  4. Dweendaddy says:

    I’m with you, Dottie: if the bike lane is slush, and the car lane is clear, I am claiming the lane, as I did this morning. And nobody even honked (or cursed) at me!

  5. Great new site! One quick question: Can you set your RSS feed to feature your entire posts? For me, at least, that makes it much easier to keep up with the site.

    All the best,


  6. Vee says:

    Dottie, You make me want to get a job so I can commute too! Even in the snow, so I can be as cool as you.

  7. E A says:

    I’ve heard folks calling that stuff “chocolate mousse” — it’s good in every way but to ride in! ;-)@Miss Sarah

  8. E A says:

    I had a similar “look at the time” moment on yesterday morning’s commute! And I caught that news clip last night – just by chance – AWESOME!

  9. anna says:

    Similar (bike lane) conditions here, although the streets are plowed ok. There’ll be some pictures from Vienna soon on my blog too…

  10. Jeff says:

    I don’t usually ride for a day or so after a snow; before the streets are cleaned a bit, riding isn’t much faster than walking (especially if you take into account the time required to wipe the major crud off the bike when you get home).

    Re. taking the lane, I do it whenever the bike lane is unsafe or obstructed by any hazard – parked cars, piles of broken glass, slippery slush, drunken Cubs fans in Wrigleyville – the same way I avoid hazards when driving a car.

  11. Dottie says:

    @Jeff – lol at Cubs fans in Wrigley :)

    Your new Flying Pigeon and accompanying write-up are awesome!

  12. Jeff says:

    @Dottie – I’m out on the Flying Pigeon today, in fact. There’s not too much slush on my main routes – Clark,Broadway,Halsted – so the stirrup brakes almost work!

    BTW, your site is great. It’s one I read EVERY day!

  13. philippe says:

    Lac Daumesnil, Paris, last thursday.

  14. philippe says:

    Originally Posted By philippeLac Daumesnil, Paris, last thursday.


  15. Dirty, iced-over snow reminds me of the feeling after a big party – when the excitement is over and only the piles of dirty dishes and the stains on the carpet remain. Sigh. And yuk. But still, we have to deal with it!

  16. Dottie says:

    @philippe – Beautiful photo. Sorry your hyperlinked comment got caught in the spam filter.

  17. The down and dirty story is fantastic, as is your determination, even with all that nasty black snow staring you down. Very impressive, and the new site is outstanding!

  18. Sean says:

    On our way to school a la Madesn in -20c in Calgary –

    I have found that when the roads are snow covered motorists seem to be more patient and leave more space between us – so – bring on the snow!

  19. cole says:

    i just did 3 days of post about winter riding on our blog

  20. cycler says:

    That was a nice story in the local news-

    I’m never sure if drivers in this weather think I’m nuts or admire my guts. I sometimes overhear pedestrians saying “she must be crazy” or “she must be freezing” although I can almost guarantee that I’m warmer as a bicyclist than as a pedestrian.
    I like the article’s focus not on how hard it is, but how much fun it is, and how it’s great to be able to get out and get some exercise, and maybe even some play , during the winter months.

  21. John Donahue says:

    Hi Dottie –
    I really enjoy the blog and all the effort Trish and you put into sharing your biking life.
    I made arrangements, on lay-away, to get a Oma too from Chicago Dutch Bike, but I’m probably a bit taller than either one of you, 6’4″, but really love the Oma shape and style.
    I’m curious though, and this is mechanical, now that you have had yours for more than a year, and especially with winter riding, have you had any issues with shifting or the internal gears; and even with the enclosed chain, do you lube the chain at any interval? I also wondered about the tires, and how often you check and/or add air? I would appreciate any insights or opinions you husband has with the Oma too.
    Lastly, I saw sometimes, depending on need you will leave the bike secured at a CTA station bike station; have you had any worries or problems with damage or vandalism?
    Thanks for your time; Take care and stay safe.

  22. Dave says:

    We rarely get snow in Portland, so the city is not really equipped to handle it very well, nor are the citizens.

    A couple weeks ago, on a day where it was supposed to be cold and dumping rain all day (as is typical for our winter), it started snowing at about 2.30pm, after everyone was already at work, and didn’t stop until about 8pm.

    By the time I left work at 4, there were about 3 inches on the ground, traffic was a complete disaster, not moving at all, cars getting stuck and abandoned by the side of the road or in the middle of the road in some cases, etc.

    However, my 4.5 mile commute across Portland on my Raleigh took me about 10 minutes longer than usual, and I actually had fun at it, while people on freeways not going much further than that were sitting for 5 hours, until long after I was home, cooked and ate dinner, etc :) Couldn’t help but feel a little proud of that. It just made it very clear that a bicycle, or your own two feet are so much more adaptable than a system based solely on the automobile. People were walking 4-5 miles across the city in less time than it took people to drive.

    @John Donahue: I don’t own a WorkCycles bike, but I do have an old Raleigh with a Sturmey Archer internally geared hub and full chaincase. The bike is 57 years old, and the internally geared hub shifts just fine still. The chain does need lubing, but very very rarely. Probably even a few times per year is enough. Maybe a little more often if left out in cold, dry air a lot. I just lube it when I notice it squeaking a bit. With the full chaincase, it doesn’t really get wet or snowy, so it doesn’t wash the grease off the chain, and it also doesn’t get gritty and dirty.

  23. […] fluffy snow creates a winter wonderland and bike paths are perfectly plowed.  Other days the snow is dirty and nasty and in the bike lane.  At the extremes, you may set out on your bike and then give up due to […]

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