Friday, December 27, 2013

Things I like about winter cycling

There are many cyclists who do not wish to ride their bikes in winter, blaming weather and road conditions as inadequate for bicycles. It's easy to find several good reasons why cycling in winter may be a bad idea, but I still think that winter is a great time to ride a bike. Here is why - form a commuting cyclist's perspective:
1) Drivers become more careful and slow down significantly. If you afraid to ride on some roads in the summer because you feel like all drivers are speeding, try cycling there in winter, after a fresh snowfall. Suddenly, all drivers become very polite, observant, cautious and traffic slows down significantly - all good for us, cyclists.

2) If you still feel uneasy about cycling on a road shared with cars, the Christmas season may be the best time to give it a try. The time from December 25th to January 2nd is a time many companies close and kids have no school. As a result, the road traffic gets significantly lighter. Combined with what I mentioned above, about winter road conditions means that you will see few cars on the road at the end of the year.
3) Roads get narrower. Sometimes this is not a good thing. But since everyday I ride my bike on a busy multilane street with no bike lanes, I noticed that only in winter I can enjoy my own, wide bike lane. Once the first big snowfall comes, plows push the snow away to the side piling it up at the curb. This narrows down the rightmost lane significantly, to the point where there is not enough space for cars to fit in this lane. It's simply too narrow. However, for my bike this is just perfect. Now I have my own lane where cars wouldn't go. Another advantage of winter blizzards.
4) If you are trying to get somewhere but for some reason you can't drive your car, ride your bike. It may be a much better idea than walking. Bikeyface showed us why:
Use roads, not sidewalks (Source:
5) Winter scenery can be beautiful. Well, mostly we get a wet, muddy, slushy winter. But sometimes those winter mornings are full of fresh snow, frosted trees, blue sky and some mild sunshine. It's better to experience this on a bike, than from the inside of a car.

Why do you like to ride your bike in winter?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Who's afraid of the big, bad snow?

Ah, winter is here! We got the usual amount of snow just before Christmas - about 6-10 in (15-25cm), which means that suddenly all drivers in New England became much more polite. Everyone drives slowly. So slowly that if you happen to drive your car it would take you much more time to get anywhere, only because the car in front of you discovered the new snail speed gear - even though the road is pitch black because it got salted just an hour ago with more salt than found in the Dead Sea.
Salty streets (Source:
Anyway, with roads plowed and salted and all drivers being extra careful and driving sloooowly, I would think that this presents a perfect opportunity to ride a bike, instead of driving. Unfortunately, as I found out at the beginning of this week, it's not that simple. There is still a small problem. Literally. The huge banks of snow of both sides of the road mean that our roads shrunk quite a bit. The place that was reserved for bicycles - a nice, wide shoulder that I used daily, is now gone. With less space on the road my bike is no longer faster than cars! Those slow cars in front of me keep blocking me and very often I have no space to their right to pass them. So sometimes if they get stuck in traffic, so do I.
Other than that, I am still thinking that it's often easier to bike in winter than to drive. Especially if you don't have a garage and you have to spend a half an hour every morning on scraping the ice off the windshield.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The season of 10W/30

Not much going on recently. Christmas shopping, sending cards, preparations - the usual. Yesterday we were hit by just a first (miserable, so far) wave of winter. It started snowing a little but because this week temperatures oscillate around 32F, everything turned into a muddy slush pretty quickly. In fact, this is the worst type of winter weather, I think. Well, I don't even call it a winter. If it's not in the negative (degrees Celsius, of course), it isn't winter!
The reason why I dislike the zero degree (or 32F, if you prefer) winter weather is that you don't know what to expect. If the forecast says it's going to snow, it will probably rain instead. The rain may just wet the roads or freeze quickly and black ice is not something I would like to ride my bike on. Plus, riding in mud is not the way I would like to make my commute more interesting.
Nevertheless, the 10W/30 season has just begun and temperature will surely drop pretty quickly. Which means that many bikers will leave their bikes in the basement until March. And there is not much that would ever change this situation. Because "how many non-cycling Americans are going to ride to work on a bicycle in 33 degree temperatures with mist, sleet, and snow blowing in their faces in late February?"
Can't do without it. (Source:

Not many. Fortunately, Boston's winter isn't really that bad for winter cycling. It does get cold sometimes (around 0F or -18C) but this kind of cold doesn't scare me. Right clothing takes care of it. The precipitation is definitely much more unpleasant plus there are those few days when we get a huge blizzard with 3 feet of snow. But these days are rare enough that buying a dedicated snow fat bike probably doesn't make sense. Other than that, the winter streets of Massachusetts are perfectly usable by bike as well. Just use a cheap one. You wouldn't want your custom steel Rivendell to develop a beautiful orange rust all over the place after just one winter season. The winter streets of Boston get salted more than a cod fillet.