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My icy commute: How was yours?

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on December 15th, 2008 at 10:52 am

snowy bike lane on Interstate-2
Stay away from shiny spots.
Going south on N. Interstate Ave.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Now that was a bit scary.

I just arrived at our office in the Central Eastside after a challenging and harrowing ride from North Portland. I consider myself a pretty skilled rider, but with many streets covered in a sheet of ice, there's really no chance of staying upright.

I was doing fine until about the Rose Garden; then I had a major slide-out. Luckily, I managed to keep myself and my bike within the bike lane (there were cars just a few feet away). After my fall, I got up, and then fell right back on my rear end!

The rest of the way to work, I either walked or rode cautiously on the sidewalk.

I only saw two other riders -- and one, riding down SE Salmon was flying over his handlebars.

While riding, I thought of a few ice biking tips that you might find useful:

  • Use the widest tires possible, and consider lowering the air pressure a bit for better traction.
  • Begin to think about stopping long before the intersection.
  • Don't (!) rely on your brakes. I found dragging my foot on the ground to be more reliable.
  • Keep equal and constant pressure on your pedals -- don't accelerate suddenly.
  • Try to keep your body weight centered over your wheels.
  • Ride as smoothly as possible. Gently lean into turns instead of turning your bars.
  • On roads, ride in the parking lane if possible (less ice).
  • When possible, ride on the sidewalk.
  • When in doubt, walk or just stay home.

The freezing temps are expected to be here all week. I would really advise caution and consider not riding on the ice at all if you can avoid it.

Did you ride today? How was your ice-biking experience? Share your tips/mishaps/adventures below...

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Comments
  • Hart December 15, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Keeping one foot dangling whenever possible helps a lot. Dragging to a stop is definitely the way to go.

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  • Anonymous December 15, 2008 at 11:03 am

    I fell a couple of times last year on one icy morning. It was enough to convince me that it is not worth a broken bone and long recouperation.

    I rode around the neighborhood for fun but drove to work. This was the fifth day this year I have driven to work, so not too bad. Given the hype, there were very few people out on the roads and PDOT had done an excellent job. I did notice that plowing activity shunted snow into the bike lanes.

    Be careful out there.

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  • Curtis R December 15, 2008 at 11:05 am

    I haven't been bike commuting much since my son came along 6 years ago, but I used to use studded bike tires and chains ("Pitbull" brand) and found them to work very well. In fact, one day I only fell when I stopped and put my foot down.

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  • Mark P. December 15, 2008 at 11:08 am

    I think the longer wheelbase on the X helped. What didn't help was the light rear wheel, I had to pedal softly! Luckily, my commute doesn't involve any hills.

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  • Dan December 15, 2008 at 11:11 am

    I slipped and fell pretty close to my house. After that I put the bike back in the garage and walked to the bus stop.

    I had fun riding around on Sunday in the snow, but the ice this morning is pretty dangerous.

    I really wanted to bike today, but I decided it just wasn't worth the risk.

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  • Tim December 15, 2008 at 11:13 am

    I made some chains for my bicycle last winter and rode through all sorts of missouri winter conditions without any problems.

    I even seeked out some ice and purposely tried to slip a tire....could not.

    Email me at greenteammow@yahoo.com if anyone wants some pics and instructions.

    This only works if you have disc brakes....my plans anyway.

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  • Paul Manson December 15, 2008 at 11:13 am

    I ended up taking SE Stark most of the way into work since the tire ruts were well sanded or even clear of ice. Traffic was pretty light too. Riding the side streets was the trickiest.

    Going home maybe a little more interesting, the sun and wind might make the side streets worse.

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  • Elly Blue December 15, 2008 at 11:18 am

    If you've got to go out in the snow, I highly recommend checking out the riding techniques section at http://www.icebike.com

    I'm riding a Brompton folding bike on loan from Clever Cycles -- more on that later -- it performed amazingly well on the ice, thanks to its low center of gravity and upright riding posture that keeps most of the weight on the back wheel.

    Despite this the 4 mile ride in to work this morning took every ounce of focus and concentration I could muster -- and about 45 minutes. It was physically and mentally exhausting! I only fell once, turning of course.

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  • Bent Bloke December 15, 2008 at 11:20 am

    I telecommuted today. My recumbent has slicks, and the route is hilly. Plus the wind in Outer SE is howling, and with the 19° temp this morning, that's a recipe for frostbite.

    I'll bus in the rest of the week.

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  • Bent Bloke December 15, 2008 at 11:20 am

    Oh, and all I want for xmas is a fairing! ;o)

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  • a.O December 15, 2008 at 11:21 am

    I think the best tip for riding on ice is: Don't.

    I suffered the indignity of a bus ride this morning and will do so again this evening. Nothing wrong with the bus, but for those of us who are so used to our own commuting self-reliance, it's a little like having your wings clipped. Still, better safe than sorry.

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  • bahueh December 15, 2008 at 11:23 am

    riding should be better on Wednesday if we get more snow....

    then there is the little forecast prospect of a FOOT of snow this weekend?

    crazy if it arrives...

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  • bhance December 15, 2008 at 11:24 am

    I ate it once on the way in, but not too bad. Saw a single rider - on the esplanade - but hardly another soul in sight. Peaceful and quiet :)

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  • sauce December 15, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Fat Franks and a coaster brake on my cruiser have been rolling over the and snow without any problems.

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  • Mitch Conner December 15, 2008 at 11:27 am

    I tried this morning and ended up on my ass. I'm bruised but fine. I was riding a fixed gear using my homemade chains. Still, I went down quick and hard. Not worth it until the ice isn't a issue in the mornings.

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  • Karrla December 15, 2008 at 11:31 am

    Had a Blast. Reading icebike.com last night gave me the encouragement and a few tips, like avoiding using the front brake.

    My 5 miles commute including the Hawthorne bridge was slow, but fun. Much better than driving or riding the bus.

    Ride: Rocky Mountain full suspension, low air in the tires, and zip ties over the wheels (they acted and sounded like tire chains :).

    Ride home: might include a bit more walking... and/or the bus.

    embrace "Arctic Blast 2008"

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  • GLV December 15, 2008 at 11:32 am

    "I suffered the indignity of a bus ride this morning "

    Cavorting with the proles, you poor thing.

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  • Joe December 15, 2008 at 11:35 am

    I got caught on some black ice, it wanted my skin.. haha i'm going to drop the tire
    pressure, having a foot out helps.

    crazy day in the saddle for sure..

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  • Zaphod December 15, 2008 at 11:40 am

    I'm contemplating an elective journey out of my telecommuting spot to a cafe. I'm debating between the mountain bike, the cross bike and the Xtracycle. I took the kid on an Xtracycle adventure (ok... just to the grocery store but still) in yesterday's snowwy conditions. I delicately rolled along, staying on snow and avoiding shiny ice. It was really stable and easy but conditions are probably far more dire today. I fear that there's no hiding from the ice. I have decent bike handling skills but no expertise saves you from sheet ice.

    The question is which bike is optimal?

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  • PdxMark December 15, 2008 at 11:45 am

    With just a 4.5 mile commute, it wasn't bad at all. The back streets were a glaze of ice, so I skipped those in favor of the main roads with their cinders/sand and more-broken snow/ice appearance.

    It was maybe the first time that i thought my upright Breezer city bike was functionally better than my fixie for a commute ride. The wide 26" tires were a help, but so was a new technique I copied from a riders I saw yesterday. During any descent on ice or approach to a stop, I simply put both feet down just above, or sliding along the ground as safety outriggers. It would be hard to do with the fixie pedals coming around, but with the Nexus hub on the Breezer I felt quite comfortable even on pretty-well glazed-ice descents.

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  • Dave December 15, 2008 at 11:50 am

    I almost bussed it this morning, but I'm actually glad I rode. I used my cross bike with mud 2's at 35psi, and only started slipping a couple times in 6 miles. Just like in a car - do everything slower than normal, stay calm, and know your limits.

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  • Kronda December 15, 2008 at 11:51 am

    @Zaphod #19:

    I have the exact same array of choices (I hadn't considered the folding bike, but maybe that's a good option too). I hope you'll comment again if/once you decide and let us know how it went. School's closed so I don't *have* to go out, but was thinking of a test ride around the block or to the store just to check things out and take a homework break.

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  • Jeremy R. December 15, 2008 at 11:52 am

    After watching the many mishaps this weekend from my apt. window of cyclists going down and struggling, I decided to rely on my ultimate all-terrain vehicle: Me. I threw on my trusty trail running shoes and had a nice jog commute into work. It was a pleasant jog, and I didn't go down once. For best traction, I stayed on the crunchy and/or untraveled snow.
    Best of luck.

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  • Dave December 15, 2008 at 11:57 am

    "The question is which bike is optimal?"

    My theory is that a narrow cross tire will do better than a wide mtb tire, as you'll be distributing your weight over a smaller area and encouraging the tire to bite into the snow/ice more.

    From what I understand, winter rally cars do something similar - they have very narrow tires with huge studs, so they can dig way down into the surface to find purchase.

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  • theandy December 15, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    the karate monster with aired down exiwolfs has done remarkably well in the snow and even on the ice. i can credit much of my survival to my crosscrusade skillz.

    tonite however i am throwing my pos pearlizumi gloves into a bonfire. absolute garbage once temps fall below, say, 55 and sunny.

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  • Anonymous December 15, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    I had to drive yesterday to check on my grandfather, and I witnessed something very scary.

    I was on SE Division, traveling east, and a Cyclist was coming at me westbound. He was on the right hand part of his lane, and about 10 feet behind him was a subaru. He took a sharp and quick left turn in the direct path of the subaru. His bike slid out from under him and he fell straight down in the path of the subaru! I thought for sure he was going to get squished but luckily the subaru was able to swerve (Though he nearly had to go up on the sidewalk) and the cyclist was able to jump up and get out of the way. It was the closest, scariest thing I had seen in a long time.

    If you are going ride, please, PLEASE be careful and be smart.

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  • Chad December 15, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Left the fixie at home and took out the ol' Schwinn Suburban with extra weight in the panniers and had no trouble what-so-ever...of course I have the advantage of being from Minnesota where the streets are like this four to five months out of the year.

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  • Icarus falling December 15, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Actually, to contradict the ice riding info here;

    Riding on narrower, road tires is the way to go on ice and snow.

    I ride 23 to 25's, and deflate them a little.

    In my many years of on road experience, this has always proven to be the way to go.

    Less tire on the road equals more grip, strangely.

    And a fixed gear drive train is very fun, and very effective, on the ice and snow, for that matter.

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  • Coyote December 15, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    Wide tires and long wheelbases give you more time correct a slide or get a foot down. Narrow tires and high pressures do have more traction, but when they slide you go down fast.

    Foot dragging for stopping works well, just remember when your foot is on the ground you are taking weight off the tires and reducing traction even more.

    Stay off the front brake.

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  • Kevin December 15, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Last night I rode from inner SE to NW 23rd and back. I only fell once on a turn on the way home. I chose my Kona hardtail instead of the fixie or xtracycle. I would think the MTB would be better for a few reasons. The frame geometry usually puts you back on the rear wheel for better traction, the wider tires have a wider contact patch for more friction and I can plow through just about anything! I found that staying towards the curb with built up snow and gravel gave me the most confindence.

    Dave @ 23: wouldn't skinnier tires only work if you have studs? With so much ice there isn't much for a skinny tire to drive into. Maybe we should undertake a science experiment?

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  • Carice December 15, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    I'm not so scared of falling myself- I'm not moving that fast, and I have a good helmet, but I don't ride in icy snow, I am too afraid that someone driving a huge steel clad vehicle will hit ice and slide into me. It's public transportation for me when it's icy outside!

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  • Kevin December 15, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Icarus: I think I am going to try that today!

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  • Roger December 15, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    I rode in from Vancouver to downtown this morning without incident. No slipping or falling, but it was pretty scary out there. I am taking the Max to the Expo tonight, the roads weren't bad in Vancouver or Hayden Island so my commute home shouldn't be too bad.

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  • ben December 15, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Try using studded tires. Illegal for cars great for you.

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  • Val December 15, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    So, I know y'all don't want to hear it again, but as I said last year (and the year before): STUDS. Yep, they work, and my Sunday commute of 19 miles each way with several miles of 8 - 10% grade proved it (once again) to my satisfaction - not one wipout. Not really necessary for snow, but on the solid ice, there's nothing like 'em. Let the whining about price, weight, and convenience commence.

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  • Schrauf December 15, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    My studded Schwalbe Marathon Winters have been useful recently, but I wish the studs were a little larger. They do bite in fairly well, however.

    The thick sheet ice we have on the residential strees on the South Hill of Spokane is about the worst I have ridden. Even my Subaru could not make it up several steep hills without studs or chains. Having said that, the ice on my bike commute this morning at eight degrees probably provided more traction than what you have in Portland right now at 25 degrees. And ice at 32 degrees is about as bad as it gets.

    On the other thread I saw the comment about putting multiple zip ties around each tire. Brilliant! Won't help for sideways washouts, but will do wonders for straight line stopping.

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  • Josh December 15, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    I took the car option in to work today. But yesterday I took my new recumbent trike out for a spin with the help of some zip ties around the rear tire.

    http://flickr.com/photos/occipital/

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  • Adam December 15, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Riding in today on my single speed road bike went just fine. I live near Gresham and only have about a four mile ride. I normally ride along Powell for the vast majority of my ride. Today I did the same but took advantage that there was hardly anyone driving around this morning. I took the lane of traffic when clear to get to clean asphalt. Whenever I saw a car coming from behind I cautiously moved over towards the bike lane where it was icy. Fortunately no slides or spills for me this morning. Now if only I can survive the ride home! Maybe we can get some sort of main arterial bike lane maintenace going as well see how this is supposed to be a Platinum city.

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  • Schrauf December 15, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Click my name for pictures of the Schwalbe Marathon Winters on my winter bike. Unfortunately $75 a pop. At least they should last several winters.

    http://nw-meanderings.blogspot.com/2008/11/shiny-new-studs.html

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  • Cablenut December 15, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    did you use the ice-biking tires...the ones with studs?

    I am considering going to pick up a pair today. Hrrrrm.

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  • Steve December 15, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    honestly, there is no shame in not biking (or NOT DRIVING) when the road is a sheet of ice. these type of conditions scream FATALITY WAITING TO HAPPEN. we do have a great transit system here in Portland, use it! consider it a mass transit vacation, read a book and relax as you are taken to your destination without risking your life.

    I speak specifically of the aforementioned likelihood that a car might run you over after you take an unexpected spill. Be careful out there, folks.

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  • xor bitwise December 15, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    i just now (approx 12:55p) was listening to "all classical" (89.9) radio, and the two women talking between songs (i think one was the dj and maybe the other was news/weather? i wasnt really listening to their voices) caught my attention.

    they were talking about the weather and the drive to work and said something to the effect of:

    "i saw some very dedicated bike commuters this morning.

    wow.

    people are tough here, wow."

    so i thought it was a nice little shout-out to those of you who braved it on two wheels this morning.

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  • chuck December 15, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    the lady and I went out for a late night ride last night. just got done moving, and too icy out last night to try to trek downtown for zoobomb, so we just messed around a little bit in our new neighborhood. she took out her mini, and I brought out my 24" bmx cruiser. I had a blast with ice-assisted power slides, including a full 180 with both feet planted, astride my bike.

    today's commute wasn't that bad. took the lane where there was gravel on irving, traffic was moving slow and infrequent enough that I didn't encounter a car going the same direction as me. the holy rollers I have on the 24" are holding up pretty well. surprisingly enough, out here by the airport there's not too much ice or snow on the streets. no buildings in the area means more direct sunlight to melt it. hopefully it doesn't get too crazy once the sun goes down. my ride home might be significantly more treacherous.

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  • Andrea December 15, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    I had a two good falls on my ride to work. One was my fault (rounded the corner at a bad angle and a bit too quickly). The second was because the wind blew me over on an icy road (a passing car slowed to ask me if I was all right - thanks!). I wish I had some time lapse on the bruise that's been slowly getting more blue on my knee! I'm thinking about the bus for the ride home.

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  • travis December 15, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    my bike is not feelin the ice. i work at 6:30am and decided to just drive. i felt bad (not morally, just bad from not getting a morning ride in), until i was able to help my bike commuting co-workers with rides home for them and their bikes....

    much respect to all who braved it on 2 wheels. i wish i had a mountain bike! be safe out there!

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  • foul weather biker December 15, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    I'm riding my mountain bike today... I found it's helpful to think of the ice as really, really slick mud. The bike reacts in a similar way (the fall is just more painful...).

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  • Coyote December 15, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    #4 sheet metal screws driven from the inside out through the tread lugs make a fine DIY studded tire. I used pan head screws and covered the heads with good quality duct tape. You will need to figure out how long a screw to get depending on the tire. You want about an eighth sticking out of the tire. I used cheap mountain bike tires from Bi-Mart and about 50 screws. I probably had $15 in the whole project.

    I never bothered with a back studded tire, but the front gave a real confidence boost in conditions like these. I gave my last one away to the neighbor kid last winter. He got where he could do a 360 with his feet up.

    Beware of studs like these. The are wicked sharp and could easily cut somebody up in a wreck.

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  • John Lascurettes December 15, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Fell once at MLK and Knott. Otherwise, rode in at about 4-8mph the whole way in to downtown (5.5mi). I did that on slicks.

    I ordered some studded tires from biketiresdirect.com (local shop with one day shipping, or even a pick-up option). They've got a low end model for only $25/tire.

    Also saw last year's bikeportland tip on using zip ties. Might do that to get home tonight. http://bikeportland.org/2007/01/17/ziptie-your-tire-for-better-traction/

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  • McAngryPants December 15, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    'spect to all that rode today. I gots skinny tires and...um...oh yeah, I HATE FALLING ON ICE. I trudged on trimet with the rest of the plebs. ugh. JUST put on my new set of Armadillos.

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  • andy December 15, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    All TriMet this week! It's a good opportunity to replace my bottom bracket and do some other maintenance work on my bike, anyway.

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  • TessPrime December 15, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    I rocked my Fisher 29er singlespeed both Sunday and Monday. The long tire footprint makes all the difference, I think. Granted, my commute is less than 3 miles and almost completely flat. I doubt anything hilly would be fun. But no crashes yet!

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  • toddistic December 15, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    while work was called off today (kinda disappointed, I looked forward to the challenege), i did go to the grocery store. i had picked up a pair of michelin mud2 cyclocross tires and they work well, that with a fixed gear drive train and i felt fairly secure. love the snow!

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  • Travis Wittwer December 15, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    Oddly, I found the slight ride to the grocery store this afternoon with my kids to be better on bike than on foot. No school today in PDX so we are hanging out, but we needed some milk for cocoa. To the store we go. I bundled them up in the box of the bakfiets, put the canopy on and we pretty much coasted our way there, using much of the two feet sliding on the ground technique and the drag the feet to stop. The reason we went this way is that there would be less complaining when covered than in the biting wind, plus it was easier than pulling a wagon.

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  • encephalopath December 15, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    I rode the mountain bike in today from Piedmont. It wasn't too bad.

    Ride where it's crunchy or graveled. And like Jonathan says, be very careful and slow on anything shiny.

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  • Meghan December 15, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    These are the days on which I give thanks for TriMet. I have had a couple wicked crashes in my biking career -- wicked enough to know that biking on ice is just not for me, anyway. When things start to melt, I'll be back on the bike(and on the lookout for nasty gravel patches; that's how I crashed last time!)

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  • P Finn December 15, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Lessons learned from the '04 storm:

    26x1 90 psi in front w/ shock
    26x2 40 psi in back

    both slicks

    presumably zip-tying the rear would help get started easier, but once momentum is achieved the front tire cuts through while the back tire just kind of "floats" back and forth. This setup worked very well for a 100-block slight elevation gain/drop commute; esp. when, after a couple of days, the main streets were turned into an icy washboard that the front shock gobbled up. Crashed only once in 6 days of crap.

    Have fun be safe and smart

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  • Grimm December 15, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Today was def challenging, I stayed up right the entire 4.5 miles. I had to stop halfway for coffee because my fingers we so cold I could barely grasp the brake. Use back brake first. Lower tire pressure is good.

    A couple tips:
    -If the road has a high arch (aka crown) ride in the center to avoid sliding out due to balancing on your side walls.

    -Car have chewed up the main road, but on the flip side, you have to deal with traffic to ride on them.

    -If it look treacherous feel free to use the sidewalk or walk.

    Finally if any of you DIY people want to make studded tires check this out:
    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?t=494562

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  • Zaphod December 15, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Ride report at Kronda's request (#22)

    I decided to take the cross bike but quickly realized it didn't have pedals installed so went for the ready-to-roll Xtra. It performed flawlessly on some very shiny sketch sections of the urban grid. The wheelbase plus good tires (a semi slick kenda urban tread pattern) really made for a stable platform.

    I used a few techniques worth mentioning.
    -Dragging one foot while braking with both brakes allowed tires to slide and not eat it. Without this tripod approach, any sliding becomes an opportunity to eat it on hard ice.

    -Searching for traction - With little traffic, I'd look for dry bits, snowy bits... anything but the shiny bits. Some places were solid with ice though.

    -Test often - I'd hit my rear brake quickly to assess traction. I'd also drag the foot as another test.

    -Route finding - I skipped the short section of Sandy & 7th and opted for more slippery yet quiet grid streets. While traction was probably perfect on the busier route, I just wanted a quiet ride void of road spray, noise and traffic. Also I avoided hills. A hill + ice could spell disaster.

    - Attitude - The most important was to really take it easy and go slow with a focused mind and unstressed attitude. If I were feeling rushed or wanting to go fast, I'd have surely eaten it with such little traction. I waited for big gaps in traffic.

    Good luck out there!

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  • dgc December 15, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Got all dolled up for my usual beginning-at-4:10 am 20 mile round tripper, rode about 2 miles and went back home. The wind here in Hillsboro was howling, creating white-out conditions, almost blowing the bike out from under me. The Vittoria Randoneur 32cc wide tires were working great at 75 lbs - it was the wind that forced me to give up.

    I've broken enough bones and bent enough ligaments/tendons in my first 50 years to know when it's time NOT to take chances!

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  • shawn. December 15, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    After being stuck inside for almost a week during the infamous snow/ice storm of Jan '04, I was determined to never let it happen to me again. I got a studded tire ($25) and a cyclocross tire ($35) from Bike Tires Direct up by the airport. (At that price a studded tire didn't feel like such an investment!) Using advice given to me by Buffalo Dave, I put the studs on the front and cyclocross on the rear.

    I rode a total of 13 miles yesterday from just north of Tabor to downtown and back, without incident! I slightly fish-tailed a couple times (over grooves of snow in the road), but no falls. The studs definitely work. My rear wheel slipped a little going up a few of the steeper, icier hills, but that's about it. And what a work-out riding in snow and ice can be!

    This morning's ride to work was good as well. The studs worked well on the icy streets. I figured that my travel time would be around double than it normally would, but the crappy road conditions only added about 5 extra minutes to the commute.

    Have stayed pretty durn warm, except in the extremities. Despite having a mitten over a winter cycling glove, my hands still got cold. Took a few "warming up" breaks yesterday, so not such a big deal. But if I had to ride 10 miles in a straight shot it would be a problem.

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  • Lester December 15, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    No snow or ice on my 4 mile ride through Hazel Dell this morning, after going to all the trouble of getting down to Bad Monkey Saturday to grab a headset spacer for my Mt. Bike build.

    Maybe Wednesday, Thursday or Friday will bring some fun snow/ice riding my way.

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  • Braden December 15, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Rode the half mile to work last night on my Specialized Hardrock w/disk brakes. Uphill was an issue due to the rear tire slipping but downhill was nice and smooth! Fat knobby tires worked great!

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  • Ruben December 15, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    It took three spills in my first 1.5 miles down SE Lincoln/Harrison for me to concede to the bus. First motorized vehicle commute in nearly 11 months. My cross bike just kept slipping right out from under me. My second fall included nearly a block of sliding down the Harrison hill.

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  • Natty December 15, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    What ... I've been riding on ice & snow for a month already this year ... and another 4 to go ;)

    Another note on those mornings with black-ice or a light {wet} covering of snow ... stay off the painted lines and road markings ... they tend to play along with the ice & snow.

    Once you get 2-3" of hardpack down on the streets, you can probably do without the studded tyres.

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  • SkidMark December 15, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Didn't have any problems Zoobombing last night :) I don't think there were any serious injuries during the Macaframa Alleycat either.

    This is where a fixed gear comes in mighty handy, with the right tires of course. You can control your speed completely by pedaling/resisting and you can stop without relying on a handbrake. You know exactly when your wheel starts sliding, not when it's about to go out from under you.

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  • Jordan December 15, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    To SkidMark:
    I'm surprised to hear you say that about fixed-gears. I thought it would be miserable and frightening but it makes sense what you said.

    Earlier this year I bought a 'cross bike and have been waiting for snow and ice to test it out. Yesterday was great. I had no problems on ice until I hit piles of snow which wacked out my wheels. Using the front brake is definitely a bad idea.

    Keep safe everyone!

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  • Mike December 15, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    After a very easy spin to the grocery store last night, this morning's commute proved a little more eventful.

    I let my front tire kick out from underneath me at 28th and Ankeny.

    Whoopsiedaisy.

    Luckily for my safety there was no traffic, but on the other hand that also meant that my baseball-slide-style easy landing went without any applause.

    After today's further slickening of the roads I'm thinking about strapping pillows to both hips in anticipation of the inevitable on the ride home this evening.

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  • Jason December 15, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Max Train, shoe chains, beer, indoor trainer

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  • April December 15, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Rode in the snow last night and it was slow going but fine. Rode my older Raleigh so I could put my feet down, plus it has wider tires...

    But this morning, like a moron, I took the Ladd's Addition route, which was solid freaking ice. A woman passed me and then turned left. I tried to stop, and down I went. Ow. My poor left knee!

    I did get to work, although I walked part of the Hawthorne Bridge because of the wind. I'm leaving my bike locked up at work and taking the damn bus home. Ugh.

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  • jim December 15, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Who wants a car free city now huh?

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  • Shoemaker December 15, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    I was out riding my Xtracycle last night with passenger and slim tires and it was OK. On my own, there was no brake happening on the rear wheel at all.

    This morning I took a mountain bike into work. It was a bit scary. I had an appointment down town so road from SE over the Hawthorne. The approach to the bridge was pretty clear. Sandy snow on the road, mostly clear pavement on the bike path. The exit in to town was an ice chute. Down town was a mix of clear and really icy streets.

    Returning east over the Hawthorne I thanked the road crew guy who was shoveling clear the ped and bike route. Ice chute again on the east end of the bridge. That was made more interesting by the lady in the minivan who made a right without stopping right in front of me. She probably couldn't have stopped anyway.

    Actually things started to look scary as the early morning caution of the drivers gave way to the more typical speeds along 7th in the late afternoon. Plenty of locked wheels when the lights changed.

    It was interesting to see the Franz big rig that slid backwards and made a minor jack-knife down the hill on 7th even with chains. The worst ice by far was Ankeny from 12th to 28th.

    That was fun while it lasted. I'll be happy to take myself out of the holiday road mix and walk or bus it for the rest of the week.

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  • a.O December 15, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    I'll take a jim free bikeportland as a consolation.

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  • dutch December 15, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    biking is a bit more of a pain in the butt, but just go slow and appreciate how beautiful it is outside with whats basically become a ghost-city covered in snow.

    Snowbomb last night was about as much fun as you could possible have on a bike. There was a pretty strong crowd doing runs all night. God bless the MAX running 24/7!

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  • joel December 15, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    rode the cargo bike in from ne killingsworth/mlk to downtown (vancouver>flint>broadway), and then spent the day riding around downtown (surprisingly little standby time, but we were on a reduced crew), then rode back the same way just now. no problems whatsoever. the wind was kind of annoying, though not as strong as i had been expecting it to gust. riding schwalbe marathons, 1.5" wide. forgot to reduce tire pressure, but it wasnt an issue. only sliding that really happened was controllable, or deliberate :)

    im expecting the roads to be a bit cleaner tomorrow, and then hoping for more snow, cause itll make the riding that much better.

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  • encephalopath December 15, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    The ride home was easier (except for that bit in the Esplanade going up from the Steel bridge... glaze ice everywhere).

    Lots of gravel in the bike lane and very little auto traffic so you could leave the bike lane and ride on a clean(ish) tire track.

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  • Jim F December 15, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    I'm almost inspired enough from reading the comments above to try a ride in tomorrow on the ice. Well, except for the fact that it is so freakin' cold. Too cold for my 30 minute ride. I will be taking the bus again.

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  • Anonymous December 15, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    On the hills, I've been walking instead of biking - I have chains for my shoes, but not yet for the bike. For flatter trips, the mountain bike has been great- seat low, feet as rudders, low tire pressure.
    The real bummer is that it takes so long to get around. But not long enough for me to resort to digging out the subie!

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  • Daniel F. December 15, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    "Who wants a car free city now huh?"

    Ice is an equal-opportunity hazard for chain/stud-free tires on bikes and cars alike. All afternoon I've been watching cars start up the hill by my house only to slide back down (and it's not even a steep hill).

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  • Mark Allyn December 15, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    The Nokian studded tires that I bought three years ago once again paid off very well.

    Both last night's Peacock Lane ride (I was the one with the lights) as well as today's commute were completed with no falls.

    My commute today was from SE 42nd & Lincoln to Goose Hollow; the MAX to Hillsboro Airport; and bike to Intel.

    All was slick ice on Lincoln & Harrison to Ladd. The Nokians made a real profound difference. I only slipped once when I tried to stand and pedal hard. I caught it in time and did not fall.

    I tried jamming on the back brake while going slow just to see what would happen. I did manage to skid, but only on the slickest ice and the tire regripped the ice once I let off the brake.

    At no time did I come close to falling.

    I gently applied both brakes going down hill with more emphasis on the front wheel.

    The reverse commute back this afternoon was not much different except that I had the cold wind at my face.

    For my hands, I made some home made mittons using Suprix fabric (similar to gore tex) on the outside and two layers of upholstery fabric on the inside. You notice, I said mittons. Gloves are not suitable for this type of cold. My fingers need each other to stay warm.

    The trip was about fifteen to twenty minutes longer than normal as I take things slow and carefull in these conditions.

    I fully intend to continue unless things get really bad (below zero temps or three feet of snow)

    Luv

    Cleara

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  • true December 15, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    I didn't have to go to work, but to go get beer I walked. I have no ice bike skills.

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  • Faux Porteur December 15, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    I had a good time riding my Xtracycle with 2.15" tires deflated to 30ish PSI. I rode real slow and kept my hand off the front brake altogether. I find that its important to keep my balance completely centered over the left/right axis. I could go into a well-controlled-skid by locking up the rear brake. If the back end started to swing around I just released the brake momentarily and the back end would right itself. The most difficult part of my ride is when I had to start from a dead stop at a light/stop-sign. The key is to start SLOWLY, add just enough pedal pressure to get you going, then slowly add more. I've noticed that people in cars are doing the opposite, when their drive wheels are spinning out, they just hit the gas harder causing their wheels to spin out more, then when one wheel finally does get some traction, they spin in a circle, and quite often crash into a parked car. The insurance companies/body shops must love these winter-storm-events.

    Slightly OT but, I was crossing SE Stark @ 9th Avenue today at 11am and saw a car that had EXTENSIVE front end damage. Cops were on the scene so it must've happened just a bit before I saw it. The thing that gets me is, how were they going fast enough to cause that amount of damage? I would guess they would've had to be going at least 30MPH at the time of impact. There is a light at MLK and a light where Stark crosses Sandy. Stark still had nice coating of ice at the time. What driver would think its appropriate to accellerate to 30mph+ on a road coated in ice when they had no chains on? I slowed my normal commuting pace from 15-20mph to 6-10mph, why can't people in cars do the same? I even saw someone driving an SUV through Ladds while yapping on a cellphone.

    Patience.

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  • Caroline December 15, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    6:30am out in my snow pants, balaclava, and 26x2.0's. Misjudged a swervy off-camber downhill but corrected by carrying on straight into someone's yard on their lawn, which brought me to a safe stop. 7:30pm laid it down on Mason St. testing my brakes on the way home, my handlebar end scraping along the ice like glass on diamond. Overall tinkly dry cold icy wonderland but even after growing up in Alaska I think this is pretty darn bad. It seemed like most the motorists I watched pass (I'd pull aside for each one because there weren't that many) were unappreciative of the FACT that the roads were coated with one inch of smooth, solid ice. When you're on a bike, you're acutely aware of it. Very fun and terrorizing at the same time. I'll do it again!

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  • John Lascurettes December 15, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    The zip tie snow tires (see #48) definitely made a difference for me, even on ice. Still looking forward to putting on the studded tires I picked up for the rest of the week.

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  • jim December 15, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    "been watching cars start up the hill by my house only to slide back down (and it's not even a steep hill)."

    You should videotape the cars sliding. they are fun to watch on youtube. Who knows maybe I'll get my 15 minutes of fame

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  • David December 15, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    Do they not at least try to clear the snow and ice from the road ? It's dangerous not to.

    The gritters have been busy here so we have no snow and ice on our roads and cycle paths. However, the amount of salt spread around is a danger to bicycle components.

    On Sunday it was -2 C ( 28 F ). I went on an 50 mile ride around the countryside with slick tyres and didn't slip once.

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  • zilfondel December 16, 2008 at 12:08 am

    I was kind of thinking about getting those ice/snow studded bicycle tires, but just decided to take the bus when the weather gets icy like this.

    I mean, I really don't want to get some broken bones. I've almost fallen... walking down the sidewalk.

    And a lot of cars have even less control!

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  • Mike Fish December 16, 2008 at 12:11 am

    I walked to work and back, but it took for freaking ever, and, unfortunately, I don't think the bus would be much faster since I have a transfer.

    I did do a 5-mi round trip at night tonight, and that actually went fine. I deflated the tires significantly, and I think that helped a lot, as well as just going really slowly, braking well ahead of the intersections, and not making any sudden movements. I stuck to the back streets even though they were icier just because I didn't want to have any car interactions. I did end up biking east on Weidler from 15th to 24th. There weren't many cars and the bike lane was iced over, but the lanes were clear, so I rode to the right of one of the lanes and even though there was a whole entire lane on the left, THREE cars passed me without moving an inch in that 9 blocks! I should've just taken the whole freaking lane.

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  • PJ December 16, 2008 at 7:06 am

    My one fellow bike commuting colleague commiserated yesterday on having to find alternate means of transport. Both too worried about ice and cars. This ended my 6 months of biking everyday to work streak and it looks like it will be a few more days 'til I'm back on the saddle (maybe I am too cautious but the ski season is starting so I'd like to stay in one piece for awhile)... the worst part is missing your morning endorphin rush from the ride - second only to the first cup of coffee. I'll be a bear with a sore head in a few days!!!!

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  • Joe December 16, 2008 at 8:37 am

    Tuesday report from Wilsonville, ice all over. careful if you ride or walk, today at I-5 and wilsonville truck even watched it turn to walk and still drove in front of me.. pointing to his head!, crazy people! question of the day why are some
    auto drivers just clueless? fun ride/walk into day.

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  • Joe December 16, 2008 at 8:39 am

    ohhh if i may add the roads would not be half is bad if all these cars would pack it down so badly! turning some areas into pure black ice...

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  • toddistic December 16, 2008 at 9:44 am

    rode in today without incident. managed to fit my michelan cyclocross mud2 on my rear of my track frame. a little ice, nothing insane, left a bit early and didnt and saw maybe two people on bikes (could have been due to my early depature).

    todd

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  • mle December 16, 2008 at 10:12 am

    #84 "Do they not at least try to clear the snow and ice from the road ? It's dangerous not to"

    Portland rarely gets this kind of weather, so I'm not sure the City has many (if any) snow plows. I've never seen a plow, but they do have trucks for spreading sand and I've seen an attachment on the back of dump trucks to spread sand.

    Me, I rode around quite a bit on Sunday, all on the sidewalk; the crunchy varied surface made for better traction and I appreciate a curb between me and the slipping cars. Its slow and takes concentration, but no falls so far!

    I really hate it when it starts to melt - water on ice sucks.
    I bought myself a book of Trimet tickets on Friday, so transit is an easy choice too.

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  • Snow and Ice « Cerochellet December 16, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    [...] been reading “My icy commute: How was yours?” and not only is the article itself quite helpful but the reader comments are too. They [...]

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  • shawn. December 17, 2008 at 9:00 am

    I'd have to say that today's ride in was the worst one yet this week. Everything icy with a (very) thin coating of new powder from this morning's snow meant my rear wheel slid a few times. Plus it was a difficult start from a couple intersections as the rear wheel couldn't get traction to push forward.

    And after several days of courteous drivers, this morn I had my first jerkface, who startled me when she beeped at me. Yeah, so what if I was "taking up the road"? It was one block, on a very narrow, very not-major side street. Get over yourself, lady.

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  • Duncan December 17, 2008 at 9:09 am

    my bikes (pedal and motored) are all garaged for the duration.

    Too slippery for bikes, not enough to ski on. This weather blows.

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  • Ashley December 17, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    I rode on main road to class while the sun was out. I made it with no trouble at all. (3 miles) Unfortunately when I left after sundown, the ground was a solid sheet of ice. I tried taking side roads (i.e. less cans to slide out around) but I think it would have been better to go back on main roads. I ate it on Ankeny and walked most of the way home, but it was so beautiful outside I didn't care.

    I think I'm going to make some studded tires to get through the rest of the week(s).

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