Making friends with winter’s most dangerous creature.

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Gary, from PedalWORKS was kind enough to nominate me for the 5 day story challenge. He wants to hear more about my experience cycling in cold and snow and because he has cool bikes, he gets what he wants. So here we go.

Last year, around this time I was preparing for my first ever attempt to bike through winter. Not only was I gathering the gear that would keep me safe and warm through the winter, I was gathering information in how to use that gear to keep me safe and warm through the winter. But try as I might, my safety plan had a few gaps in it. The biggest, scariest blank area was how to deal with snow plows.

Snow plows are no joke. They are massive machines weighing somewhere around thirty tons with the power to clear whatever stands in their way. It is common for snow plows take down mailboxes and damage fences, street signs and whatever happens to be in their path. And I was about to willingly place myself in their path.

Online, I couldn’t find any helpful information. The general consensus seemed to be that snow plows were the most dangerous thing about winter biking and your best bet was to make sure you stayed out of their way. But how, exactly? I pictured myself trying to drag my bike up onto a towering snow bank as huge snow plows barreled toward me at lightning speed. Scary stuff.

It got even more scary. My family and friends, in a desperate attempt to get me off of my bike and into a car for the winter, were constantly warning me how I was going to die if I carried out my foolish plan. And the number one way they predicted I would die, was, you guessed it, by snow plow. They made convincing arguments, and though I tried my best not to show it, I was scared stiff.

Then winter arrived. On the very night we got our first serious snowfall I finally found a helpful nugget of information. When you hear a snow plow coming, you cross to the other side of the road. Wow, I should have thought of that. But what if a snow plow sneaks up on me?

Haha. Snow plows don’t sneak. Ever. Scraping the road clean, they create a roar of frightening intensity. Hearing them was never a problem. Since I live in a rural area, traffic is light and I always was able to cross the road and wait on the opposite shoulder long before the snow plow’s rumbling arrival.

It didn’t take me long to recognize the awesomeness of snow plows. I would be biking to work, constantly evaluating where I should position myself on the road. The far right of the shoulder was safest from cars, but also had the deepest snow and was littered with chunks of ice and other debris. The left half of the shoulder had slightly less snow, but also closer proximity to cars. Then, of course, I could follow the rut created by cars, the easiest and fastest path, but did I really trust them to see me? It all came down to how good the visibility was.

So there I would be, out biking, in the dark of night, trying to maintain the optimum position when I would pull over to the side of the road to let a snow plow pass. I would return to find the road and shoulder completely clear. Awesome. No more evaluation necessary.

There was one glitch, however. My ears became a little too honed for the distant noise of a plow at work. Especially in the dark and especially when I hadn’t slept well, I would hear phantom snow plows that never materialized. I must admit, it kept me on edge. I would keep glancing behind me to see only open, lonely road.

As winter progressed so did my skills and winter biking savvy. I enjoyed biking in snow from the start, but as I gained confidence, I started to relax and notice more of what was going on around me, instead of focusing solely on the essentials. One of the things I noticed was that after I pulled off on the opposite shoulder, the guys in the passing snow plow would sometimes wave. So I started waving back.

Within a few weeks, they were all waving and grinning at me. One day I was walking home in the cold, dressed in the same coat and pants I use for biking. Two guys, high up in an orange snow plow, recognized me and gave me a friendly wave. I waved back, a huge smile on my face.

I had the privilege of making friends with my greatest winter fear, the snow plow.

In lieu of nominating someone everyday of this challenge, I am inviting anyone to post about a weird or funny bike ride that for some reason hasn’t made it on your blog yet. I would love to read them. Let me know about it and I will link you in my successive story challenge posts.

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22 thoughts on “Making friends with winter’s most dangerous creature.

  1. This is definitely the most interesting, funny, weird story I’ve ever heard on a bike ride. I’m afraid that any story I would have, is boring in comparison to yours.

    I never thought of biking out in snow (simply because, we don’t have any where I live in California). If I ever find myself out in snow, having to worry about snow plows, I’ll keep your blog in mind. 🙂

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  2. This is awesome! I too am scared of snowplows. I once had one run into my car and plow it off the road (while I was in it) so I am especially scared of dealing with them on the bike. Thank you for the great idea! This story makes me excited about winter, and I’ll get to work on a story of my own 🙂

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  3. The plows in western NY State are enormous. I’d be scared too. I recall a snowstorm in Albany where they tried to use graders to plow the snow. Three of them got stuck in our neighborhood.

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  4. I still despise the cold, but I can do that I have to get another bike for winter riding. 24C tires aren’t going to cut it. Then again with the new job, I’m not going to be commuting like I was. Most definitely missing that. Good write, Bri

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  5. Well done! Making friends with your biggest winter cycling fear is a gem! The snow plow sounds genuinely dangerous and I admire you for following through on your quest to ride through winter despite what everyone else was saying. This is an inspiring post Bri.

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  6. I haven’t been on much lately so u have had to catch up on your blogs.

    I am totally jelous of the snow you get! I have seen snow twice here in 3 years! And it’s never been deeper than an inch 😦

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  7. Ha. You know, there are these sidewalk plough-things that I’ve seen in places like Montreal that are pretty terrifying. I’ve heard pedestrians have been hit by them but can’t find any sources. Might as well just ride a bike.

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