Friday Commute

As I started my ride I was awestruck by the beauty around me. The snowy landscape was gleaming from the light of a full moon making it the brightest morning I’ve experienced so far this winter. Two deer crossed the road underneath the moon night and I drew in a deep, contented breath, knowing this was going to be a peaceful, beautiful bike ride through the snow.

Until it wasn’t.

I had just descended the hill coming out of town, when my bike decided to revolt.

My bike and I have come to a mutual agreement about subzero rides. As long as I keep pedaling constantly, my bike will be nice to me. But if I coast at all, my bike does have the right to let the chain slip, which I then have to adjust before moving on.

But this morning my bike was having none of our little contract. The chain was slipping over and off of the gears, while I was pedaling. Not cool.

I readjusted the chain, and started pedaling. Success only lasted for three pedal strokes, however. After going through this process multiple times and having more trouble and less success each time, I realized that I was going to have to attempt getting to work without the help of my bike. (My dad’s hypothesis is that trapped moisture somehow prevented the freewheel from working in the cold.)

Maybe I could lower the seat and use the bike as a scooter? Nope, the seat would not budge. Then I discovered that while sitting on the saddle I could kick the snow bank on the edge of the road with my right foot and propel myself forward.

This proved effective as well as strenuous. I took breaks from bike-scooter-ing by jogging alongside my bike. It felt like a bizarre workout; push my bike along until my leg was on fire, then run until I was out of breath, repeat.

At almost the five mile mark, I checked the time. There was no way I could make it to work on time at this pace, or even make it before the restaurant opened. It was time to call in a rescue vehicle. Stink. Figuring that my dad (who had kindly come and installed new derailleur pulleys as well as serviced my front brakes the night before) wanted to wake up early on a Friday morning, I dialed his number. In fifteen seconds flat our conversation was over and he was on the way. (Isn’t he the best?)

In the interest of staying warm and with the thought that there was a chance I could still magically make it to work without the need for rescue, I continued my scooter/jog routine.

I was disappointed with my inability to make it to work on my own, but the irony of the situation began to amuse me.

-When I started using my bike as a form of transportation a few years ago, most days I rode while secretly hopeing that someone would offer me a ride. If the weather was the least bit nasty (rain or wind, horrors!) I would be glad to use it as an excuse not to bike. But here I was in out in -16F, desperately trying to make it to work somehow.

-I was apprehensive about many aspects of year-round biking when winter began. The cold was not one of them, I knew I could handle subzero temps no problem. But the cold has turned out to be my bike’s arch nemesis.

-I was able to complete every commute in November, December, January and February. The first week of March is a different story.

-My dad and I were talking last night and he made the comment, “This could be the last time we get below zero temperatures this winter.” I expressed that I would miss them and that I was glad I had learned how to bike successfully in them. Oops.

All these things flashed through my mind and I had to laugh at the extreme irony of my morning. But when I looked to the sky, I realized the moon had been laughing at me the entire time.

Half way to work (5 miles)
3:20 am to 4:40 am

-16F, 8 mph Southwest wind

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava, headband
Torso: thermal shirt, soft shell jacket, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves with liners
Legs: 2 pairs of yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Who knew bike-scooter-ing is actually a really good way to stay warm?

From work (10 miles)
3:20 pm to 4:20 pm

18F, 17 mph Southwest wind, 23 mph gusts
I wore
Head: headband
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Sure, my face got a little cold, but it feels like spring!


The giant white dog makes a cameo!

14 thoughts on “Friday Commute

  1. I’m dying to get on my bike and ride but {{{{alas}}}} another foot of snow fell on Thursday. The Multi Use Path does not get cleared of snow which leaves busy US Rt 6 as the only way to get to town from the east end. It’s at the point where the police pick up people walking for safety and riding a bike is pointless because of the ruts and ice.
    I will get my revenge next week while riding my bike in Panama. Shorts, maybe no shirt and lathered in SPF 30.


  2. LOL – the thought of you “bike-scooter-ing” half way to work. Thank goodness for Dad’s! What a Dad wouldn’t do for his daughter. You are a lucky girl.

    This problem you are having doesn’t make sense. Other much more complicated pieces of mechanical equipment function perfectly in the cold weather. Have you checked with a bike shop? Are you using oil they would recommend for those temperatures? Do you clean your chain regularly? It will collect a lot of debris in those riding conditions.

    Good luck with it.


    • I haven’t gone to a bike shop, my dad has been the one helping me out. He knows a lot about bikes, but yeah, it would probably be a good idea to check with some pros 🙂

      Strangely enough, I have been religious about cleaning and re-lubing my chain. But it must be some kind of maintenance issue that is triggered by the cold.
      In hindsight, I should have spent more time learning about maintaining my bike (and bike mechanics in general) before this winter hit. I mostly focused on reading up on my side of winter biking and neglected learning how to keep my bike running well through the winter.


      • I’d say you are doing pretty well. Winter, particularly your kind of winter, is hard on a bike. I suspect you will be looking at a complete tune-up – BB, hubs, brakes, chain and cassette – when the spring rolls around.At least, that is what I would do so the bike is in good shape for the warmer weather.


      • My poor little bike, all covered inside and out with salt and sand! She definitely will need a thorough going over.

        I really appreciate you and Dan taking the time to help me out with troubleshooting and helpful advice. You guys are all kinds of awesome!


  3. I was contemplating this on my way to my night job tonight. I’m with Pedalworks. I’m thinking you need to thoroughly clean your chain and try some different lube. Do you use a “wet” lube or wax like stuff? That’s about the only thing that could cause this unless your chain itself is nearly shot and the cold exacerbates the problem. -Dan


    • I have experimented with wet and wax lubes, but I didn’t notice a difference between the two. I stuck with using wax lube because I have tons of it.

      My dad said my chain is wearing out pretty quickly, so that could be the problem.


  4. Pingback: One perfect failure of a test ride. | Bike Like Crazy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s