Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tricks of the trade: Winter, the way I see it

By now, most of the people still riding their bikes for transportation in the northern 3/4 of the USA are what we call "year rounders" -- The cream of the funny farm, so to speak.

I'm not planning on continuing my full round trip during the winter months, and I've already started to slack off a bit as evidenced by my continued use of the bus during what some (including myself) would consider to be okay riding weather. As it get colder, though, and as snow and ice starts to form here in Kansas City, I'll look increasingly more hardcore to my peers. While this works fine for impressing people, I have to admit that I continue to ride a few miles to the bus each morning, even in the snow because it still makes sense.

Now it's time to explain:

Below freezing, the lead-acid battery in my car loses its potency as the chemical reaction slows down because of the temperature. I don't have the luxury of a garage. This means my car may not start. On the flip side, I stay indoors. My bike may or may not. Regardless, the engine starts every morning.

When it's cold out, so is my car. I can either sit in a freezing cold car and shiver for the first 15 minutes, bundle up really, really thick, and take some layers off once the car warms up (dangerous to do while driving), or let the car idle in the driveway, burning fuel for 15 minutes. On my bike, I can dress up in thinner layers because my body will heat up shortly after I start riding.

When it's been snowing or sleeting outside, I have to spend 10 minutes scraping my windows and cleaning off my car (while it's idling and using fuel, of course). This requires me to stand outside in the cold weather. Or, I can just hop on my bike and ride away.

On snow and ice, my car doesn't do so well, plus it could use a new set of tires. My SUV has four wheel drive with high and low settings as well as automatically switching on if I start to lose traction. It works most of the time, but it's not invincible. Other cars on the road can lose traction and cause traffic jams. Snow drifts taller than 18" can high-center it, and 4WD vehicles can still get stuck in the snow. My bicycle's knobby tires are surefooted on snow and on ice. When the road is blocked, it will happily navigate between vehicles or take to a narrow sidewalk with ease. If the snow is too deep even for a big SUV to tackle, I can still walk through or around it on my feet, carrying my vehicle with me.

Simply put, for short distances in the winter time, a well-outfitted person on a properly equipped bicycle is still the most robust way to get around. That said, you aren't likely to see me going on too many epic winter adventure rides this season, but we'll see.

1 comment:

A Midnight Rider said...

You have convinced me. Bike is your best choice.

I'll be the tenor in the choir.*>)

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