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Wednesday, 10 February 2010


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A long time ago I lived in upstate New York, about 2 miles from work, and sometimes I rode my bike. One day I rode it to work, but during the day we had a snowstorm. It put down several inches of wet snow that stuck together like glue.

It was impossible to ride, so I started to walk the bike home. Every 50 feet or so, the wheels collected so much snow that they jammed on the brakes, so I had to stop and clean them off. Also, the handlebars sucked all the heat out of my hands, right through my gloves and the plastic hand grips.

I got so cold by the time I got home that I said to myself that I was never going to ride in the winter again!

What did you take out for dinner?

I was thrilled to get away from the earthquakes (and fires) in Northern California, only to return to my east coast home town last year...now with 4 feet of snow on the ground, and an all-time record for winter accumulation.

I did, however, see a biker yesterday, riding carefully down the center of a poorly plowed boulevard, on thin tires. Wish I had my camera.

I have studded snow tires for my bike, but I had to give up winter riding here in Barrie, Ontario, Canada. Problem is, the car drivers are too damn lazy to clear their windows of ice and snow. Combine that with the narrower roads and winter riding is more of a death wish.

Start practicing Mike – you've only got until the 28th of February.


"...maybe it gave me weird dreams, because how else would that weird sh!# get in my head?"

Mike, Mike, Mike. Humans tend to assume that a causal relationship exists between events that occur close in time. You know that! (g)

Australia's ABC Radio National has a weekly programme called "All in the Mind" which received a glowing review in "Scientific American Mind" several months ago. As for dreams, here's two recent episodes. You can download them as MP3 files (and listen to the lovely Natasha) or read the transcripts.



Regards, Rod S.

I'm stuck in the "Snowmageddon" storm in the DC area. We have 46" of snow on our deck and a 6' drift of snow on our front porch. My kids are sick of my camera being in their faces, there's nothing on TV, my lust for the new Nikon lenses has already worn off, and I've clicked on every TOP advertiser link twice.

I've been mostly riding all winter. I decided in the fall that I would just keep riding until the weather stopped me, and so far it's stopped me a couple of days. We got the same kind of snow and distant-earthquake-rumbling here in Chicago, so I didn't ride today. And my friend Sara who met me at a coffeeshop called me a baby for not doing it. Note that I have a fixed-gear bike and skinny slicks, no fenders and no concessions to the weather at all (Well, fixie is kind of a concession to weather, i like having a backup for when my brakes inevitably fail due to icing). And she's on her beater bad-weather bike. She calls me a baby, other bikers take it for granted that I keep on riding, and everyone else thinks I'm out of my mind. I don't think even she rode when it was blizzarding, but I wouldn't put it past her.

The snow pickup in Chicago's pretty good, I should have ridden today. Beats taking the bus.

In other bad-weather biking related news, one night I went riding in the 5 degree (temperature, not wind chill) night and the aperture blades of my lens bent all out of shape so I had to remove them. I guess that's what makes Zeiss ZM lenses less expensive than Leicas.

And yes, right now, I'm shooting a fixed aperture Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm f1.95.

It's kind of a completely different lens. Should I get a new Planar with my tax return? Hm.

When I lived in Buffalo, we had two earthquakes, each about 2 or 3.

Blizzards? Ha! I was in college for the Blizzard of '77. Buffalo got 8' of snow, in 6 hours. It took a full week to dig out. Google it.

Ok Mike, for perspective on snow & biking check out this guy:

"Blizzards? Ha! I was in college for the Blizzard of '77."

Got you beat. I was in a Ford Bronco on the Interstate when the Blizzard of '77 came the other way. We hit an ice patch, spun, stalled, got slammed 300 yards by an oncoming semi, climbed out of the broken windows with the Bronco on fire, and jumped into a snowbank thinking it was going to blow. No beds at the hospital, so we had to stay for three days at the home of the surgeon who stitched us up until a local farmer in an earth mover finally dug us out and got us on the last flight home before the next snow struck.

The only reason I'm alive is that the Bronco happened to come to rest with its rear end facing toward the semi. If it had stopped spinning facing the other way, I'd have bought it right then.

All true.


"If it had stopped spinning facing the other way, I'd have bought it right then."

Somehow, the laws of physics came out on your side.

Ha, we have three-point Richter quakes all the time... :) And, incidentally, it started snowing the day before yesterday and is supposed to fall till Sunday. Nothing much, four inches or so up to now, but it gladdens the heart. It's winter. Supposedly, it also means the summer will be nice and hot.

BTW, a bit of free association: for the last year or so, whenever I hear "Tuscany", Gogol Bordello's Harem in Tuscany comes to mind... :-)

You ever lived or stayed in The Netherlands?
God! Statians are such car pussies! [tongue in cheek].

Regardless of the amount of snow, snow is always preferable to heavy rain and wind, as to stop you dead when turning a corner.

That is a thing I do not miss from R´dam.

44 degrees C here last week (111 F) downunder in Vic, Australia, but now some very welcome unseasonal summer rain which means many sighs of relief about the fire season. This time last year, worst ever natural disaster in Aus.. 173 killed , 2300 homes destroyed, -we almost never get snow- perhaps two inches- lasts a couple of hours. Any climate change sceptics left?

Wow, that's some story Mike, the one about the '77 Blizzard!
You probably know that in The Netherlands we have more bicycles than people. In a small, flat, crowded country they are very practical. It helps that we usually don't have much snow. This winter however has produced more snow than we've had in 30 years, resulting in less than ideal cycling circumstances: http://www.flickr.com/photos/meertens/4221715184/sizes/o/
Best, Nick, The Netherlands

We recently had about eight inches of snow here in rural England, and things pretty well came to a halt for three days. We don't 'do' snow very well, which makes one wonder why Captains Franklin and Scott didn't think twice and set out to discover some tropical bits instead. Mind, they didn't take bikes.

What you need is a Surly Pugsley.

Actually, riding on fresh snow on standard tyres is relatively easy. It's when it packs down or turns to slush it gets trickier.

That's some Blizzard story, btw.

I'm with you, Mike - biking is definitely a warm weather activity. I got a new bike 2 weeks before Christmas, and it probably has all of 4-5 miles on it 2 months later. I got it for the enjoyment of riding, and riding in winter weather and temperatures is not enjoyable to me.

I cycle all year, every year because I don't drive. It's not as hard as you think.

Laughed out loud at the article (I'm with you on the idea of riding a bike in winter, though I used to do it with delight as a kid) but was amazed by the story of the Bronco in '77. I hope you get that story to a more prominent location one day, if it's not too emotionally painful to go into detail. I guess a lot of your readers don't even get to see the comments.

I live in Ottawa, grew up in Montreal. When large snowfalls hit areas that are unprepared for them, it is very difficult of course. But just so you know, this stuff is routine to us.

I see people who commute to work on bicycles year-round. As difficult as riding in slushy piles of snow is, doing so into a headwind at 15 below is something else entirely.

On the wet coast of Canada, i.e., Vancouver - very little snow on the local mountains. The cherry trees are blossoming and the crocuses are coming out. Quite a change from last year when we had snow in the city for 6 weeks!
Oh yes, the 2010 Olympics start tomorrow. Watch your TVs carefully to see the straw on the sides of the mogul runs at Cypress mountain. VANOC has been trucking in snow from Manning Park to add to the base at Cypress.
Whistler on the other hand has a lot of snow and those events will have a more "natural" looking background.

"I'm with you, Mike - biking is definitely a warm weather activity"

There are several nations of people (Netherlands, China, Denmark) who would heartily disagree with you. If Americans saw cycling as transportation instead of a hobby or sport, it would be a non-issue.

I commute year-round in Portland, OR (and we get snow on occasion) and as Paul said, it's really not that big of a deal. In fact, when the weather turns sour here, cyclists seem to be the ONLY ones moving :)

I ride all year round up here in Ottawa. It's not that bad if you have an easy and convenient route. The other benefit to living in a city that always gets a lot of snow is that the city and the drivers are much better equipped to deal with the white stuff. Nearly all drivers swap out the all-seasons for winter tires, and we have snowplows and dump trucks that take the snow out of the downtown core and off to a giant dump (that they use to power some sort of air conditioner system in the summers). If the drivers and your city can deal effectively with the snow, it's much easier.

BTW, like James Lui, I ride a fixed gear with skinny tires that cut through the snow and make better contact with the ground.

When it comes to riding on snow and ice I prefer a unicycle.

I was 22 before I got a drivers license. Before that I biked or walked. My normal routes in highschool were 2 to 5.5 miles a day.

I stopped riding when it got cold (generally before we got snow). I found walking in the cold weather considerably more comfortable than biking. Triple that for when it snowed.

I don't think of it as getting cold in the Netherlands particularly; or even Denmark. They're both low and near the ocean, which moderates such things a lot. The average low in Denmark is above freezing nearly all year, according to some quick online checks.

Biking in the winter? Gets done all the time up here in AK. For a quick primer, see http://alaskabikeblog.blogspot.com/

So, here's my 'earthquakes and photography' story. Many years ago I was working in a custom lab in San Francisco, the now long-gone Ziba's at the corner of 2nd and Howard. I was loading C-41 film into a big dip-and-dunk Hostert processor. Absolute darkness, of course. I heard a big commotion in the hall outside. After I finished loading I ducked out through the light trap and asked what was going on. "Didn't you feel it?" Uh, No...

I had missed an earthquake in the darkness. Astonishing how much of our perception is tied to vision.

Blizzard of '78 in Boston, biked in to Mass General Hospital (about 10 miles) to give blood, then biked home. Young and stupid. Now living in DC with a very sore back and not leaving home.

If you want to see some classic pics and hear the emergency radio broadcasts during the Bizzard of '77then go to my website and have a listen and look:http://www.whitedeath.com

Erno Rossi

The storm was great for me, I got to spend some quiet time editing the past few weeks of snaps and I put the ole D300 on timer and let it watch us get pounded. With the addition of video output from Lightroom it added up to a neat lil video:


In Chicago I resolved to bike all winter. This resolution lasted one winter. Among my memories: Riding in Lincoln Park in a snow storm. A police vehicle drove up behind my buddy and me. An officer shouted through the loudspeaker, "YOU ARE TAKING YOUR LIFE IN HANDS". Good times.

Ah, folks: You should try Southcentral coastal Alaska. Not only snow for about five months and big earthquakes but erupting volcanoes, big bears, etc. Still, the scenery and slightly slower pace compared to my old home in Cambridge/Boston and DC is nice and the photo opportunities are stunning if you avoid the touristy stuff. This year, though, our winter is MUCH milder than the East Coast or the Midwest. Fairly warm and hardly any snow thanks to El Nino coming on shore here.

good point and a nice story leading to it.

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