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Open thread for snow/ice riding conditions

Posted by on December 17th, 2008 at 9:19 am

Elly leaving for the train-1
Riding on SE Main just before 8th.
(Photo © J. Maus)

I thought it would be helpful to refresh my call for feedback on what the riding conditions are like throughout the Portland metro area this morning.

I’m still undecided if I’ll ride down to the Central Eastside today (from North Portland) because I don’t want to get caught if/when things ice over.

To kick things off, here’s a comment from “shawn” that came in a few minutes ago:

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.

What’s it like out there today?

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Comments
  • Kathleen McDade December 17, 2008 at 9:25 am

    I did not ride, but did observe – NE 122nd main lanes are pretty good, but bike lanes not cleared at all — mostly full of snow/ice/gravel. Cars traveling at normal speeds (35-ish). Advise use of sidewalks if clear, or #71 bus.

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  • Adam December 17, 2008 at 9:25 am

    I survived the last few days without crashing but I’m glad to have a few days off now. Don’t know that I would want to have to ride in what’s supposedly coming.

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  • StevenJ December 17, 2008 at 9:36 am

    To each his/her own, but it’s hard not to say “get a helmet on!” when riders (note the plural) go by without one.

    Inches away from cars on black ice . . . are they worried about bad hair? do they want the cold air going through their hair? are helmets that uncool?

    Just sayin’

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  • Jeff P December 17, 2008 at 9:44 am

    Raleigh Hills Area [7.5 miles] – up over the hill at Gabriel Park to BvrtnHillsdale thru Hillsdale; Terwilliger; Downtown to 1st Ave at Hawthorne Bridge W.

    Hardtail; soft compound mud tires; 2.10 rr @ 45 psi; 1.95 front @ 50 psi.

    Surface streets are trackable off line; watch for ‘drifts’ created by plows and cars [especially in left hand curves]; main streets are clear into bike lane edges because cars can’t tell where they are supposed to drive. Terwilliger is fine [lots of maintenance due to hospital access]. Downtown is mostly clear except for some hills that the cars have glazed smooth [find the gravel track].

    Pedal smoothly; watch your braking; don’t lean the bike in the turns; enjoy!

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  • TessPrime December 17, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Lots of hard packed ice around Reed College/Woodstock, but I spent the time and small amount money on 3/8″ screws and did a DIY studded bike tire. They hook up like velcro on the ice and snow and aren’t terrible on bare pavement. I did about 80 screws or so per tire and it took, maybe, two hours. I lined the inside with a few layers of duct tape, and I can’t WAIT for more snow.

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  • Tony P December 17, 2008 at 9:56 am

    I haven’t left the “office” yet today, but I’ve had good luck with my mtb and very low tire pressure. Try 15-20 psi. I’m thinking about brewing up some studded tires.

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  • cyclist December 17, 2008 at 9:59 am

    Has anybody been on the Springwater the last few days? I’ve been avoiding it because I’ve figured it’s pretty nasty, but I’d love to hear otherwise.

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  • Dave December 17, 2008 at 10:00 am

    This morning was the worst conditions I’ve seen so far (coming from SE) – it’s warmed up enough that the ice really is getting slick, and that south wind is a killer coming over the river. I actually gave up on side streets today and just took Division most of the way down, since it was mostly clear and graveled.

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  • encephalopath December 17, 2008 at 10:00 am

    N Vancouver to downtown was the same as the previous two days: some icy spots but enough gravel to give decent traction on a mountain bike.

    Bus stops are a bit more sketchy. Buses clear the gravel from the bike lane exposing the ice they’ve been packing down for days.

    Today the wind was more of a problem then anything. It’s warmer so I dressed light. There was no wind in NE at my house when I left. Then about as I approched the freeway I start getting wind and some 25 mph gusts. Wish I’d put the cold weather gear on.

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  • K'Tesh December 17, 2008 at 10:17 am

    This AM there was a light dusting of fresh snow on things out by the Beaverton Transit Center. The buses are still having a lot of trouble maintaining their scheduals. With the additional riders, plus the delays, things are really crowded.

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  • toddistic December 17, 2008 at 10:18 am

    rode in from Ainsworth @ 28th to downtown via Vancouver, Broadway. Same conditions as yesterday it seemed. I took the lane most of the way but made sure to get over into the bike lane when a car was approaching. I think this tells the drivers I interacted with that I was trying to be courteous. I have a gatorskin on the front at 100psi and a 35mm cyclocross tire on the back at 70psi. Of course, an even pedal stroke makes a world of difference. The key for me was to give myself 30 minutes extra so I do not have the mentality of “in a hurry”. My normal commute takes 25 minutes, today it took me about 35 minutes. Only cold part of my body was my feet. Of course as I’m writing this it just started to snow a little heavier so tonight should be interesting.

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  • Dave December 17, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Tonight will suck. Every indication is that we’ll get several inches, followed by rain/freezing rain late this afternoon, just in time to glaze everything over for the trip home. I’m planning on bumming a ride if it looks as bad as I think it will.

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  • bhance December 17, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Eastside of the esplanade today had only two other bike tracks in the snow … but it’s way better then trying the roads, for sure.

    Didn’t see another soul the whole way in – biking, walking or otherwise.

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  • thsprgrm December 17, 2008 at 11:03 am

    I nominate today for worst ride of the year day. Coming from SE, there was a snow/ice coming down around 9:45AM that was going into my eyes. It truly felt like my eyes were being sandblasted. The ice/slickness wasn’t much of a factor.

    There was someone on the Hawthorne bridge taking photos too.

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  • Spork December 17, 2008 at 11:08 am

    I rode the Springwater from 19th by the Goodwill bins to Tideman Johnson yesterday. Pretty nasty compared to streets in lower SE and Sellwood. Even had big fat 35C tires with low pressure and it was still sketchy.

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  • a.O December 17, 2008 at 11:15 am

    It’s 11:15 right now and with an otherwise clear view from my office all the way to Mt Hood, I can barely see across the river. Snow is going every direction outside my window, including up, but seems to be predominantly moving sideways to the north. Wow.

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  • Jessy December 17, 2008 at 11:22 am

    My ride was almost exactly the same as toddistic’s (#11).

    I just took the lane the whole way, because the bike lane is full of gravel & ice. There weren’t too many cars on the road, and the ones that were went slow & carefully. I was totally warm except for my feet, even though I was wearing my SmartWool socks!

    I saw 2 other bikes this morning, both on the Broadway Bridge.

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  • Mitch Conner December 17, 2008 at 11:22 am

    TessPrime I did the same thing with the DIY studs on the front. It works great.

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  • Mitch Conner December 17, 2008 at 11:24 am

    cyclist, Springwater going into the city isn’t too bad. You just need to aim for the dry patches. I hardly slowed down on it this morning. The connections (i.e. Oaks) might be a little rough though.

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  • spencer December 17, 2008 at 11:24 am

    low tire pressure is key. i run a 2.25 inch tire at 30 psi. its like velcro

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  • Mike December 17, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Excellent points from above. This is not easy cycling. I grew up riding this stuff delivering newspapers. I’m not going to say it’s easy. It isn’t. If you do choose to ride, be confident in your abilities, not arrogant.
    1. Don’t be in a hurry. Bad stuff happens when you try to rush. Ice covered roads can smell the ego of someone going too fast and will gladly take you down.
    2. The conditions aren’t all that different from a very muddy cross race. Think about your turns well in advance. Sudden moves are not your friend.
    3. If there’s ever a time of year to ride defensively, this is it. Instead of dealing with drivers who don’t see us, we also have observant drivers who now cannot stop. Assume they can’t.
    4. Layer up. Hats, scarf, 2 gloves, booties. You’re not going as fast so there’s less heat generated. Plus a little extra padding doesn’t hurt.
    5. Interestingly, bike-only paths have been the worst. The 1″ bike tire ruts have frozen over creating an uneven ice patch. I’ve been staying on the main roads when I can.
    6. Crappy roads with an uneven surface, like SE Division Pl., have been tough to travel on.

    Be safe everyone. I hope you all get to where you’re going in one piece – whether it’s by bike, bus, car, whatever.

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  • Karrla December 17, 2008 at 11:40 am

    Enjoyed my ride in again this morning, after yesterday’s time-consuming bus commute. I decided bike/walk is better than waiting and waiting only to be passed by full buses.

    It was a lot icier this morning (SE commute to downtown), so it went a lot slower. No slips. Main roads were clear.
    The full suspension mt.bike and fat tires (low air) really makes the ride enjoyable. Wish I had studs. Thinking my hiking boots will assist me tonight ;)

    Enjoying the challenge of “Arctic Blast 2008!”

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  • toddistic December 17, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Jessy @ 17, my feet were cold too despite my smartwool socks! LOL

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  • Chris December 17, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    I believe that being well lit and visible is probably equally important to traction since drivers need to have time to think about us on the roads. I feel very visible at night with my bike wheel lights from FlexPro.
    http://flexyourrex.com/cms/announcements/night-lights-for-bikes/
    They light up the ground under me so I can see what surfaces I’m on without pointing my front blinky at the ground.

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  • Dan Kaufman December 17, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    This disco-trike has been working great during this bout of bad conditions. Yesterday I rode downtown and saw only one other cyclist a one jogger on the Springwater.

    I like riding the trike better than any other option (bicycling, walking, or motoring). Only drawback was on the first day of snow when the wet snow would freeze under my front fender if I stopped but that’s easily fixed.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) December 17, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    great to hear about the Disco Trike Dan!

    The other day, Jed from SoupCycle stopped by our office and said he’s been doing fine making deliveries on his trike.

    i just got back from a ride around the Piedmont n’hood in North Portland.. it’s really wet out there. so far no ice but plenty of wind whipping the snow right into my face.

    tonight’s commute will be very interesting.

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  • Kathleen McDade December 17, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Came home on NE 122nd; most of the snow/ice is gone, including in bike lanes. Street very, very wet — will be slick if it freezes.

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  • seth December 17, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    The roads have gotten a lot better in the past few hours as the snow and ice melts. I rode from Woodstock to Tabor, and there was a lot of packed ice and snow, but it was good by the side of the roads. Tabor was perfect – hardly anybody on the trails, great traction. Roads were significantly less icy on the way home, more wet than slick. Was on MTB with 2.25″ tires 25 psi front and 30 psi rear. Sweet day to ride! If he temps drop tonight, however, tomorrow AM could be interesting…

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  • bean December 17, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    Yesterday I did the ride from Nopo to Multnomah Village. Barbur blvd is tricky and I took the lane when I could, traffic permitting, but was forced to take the snowy icey bike lane at times. The waterfront was great fun.
    I felt good on my cross bike with cross tires, 50 psi. Gimme some barriers and it would be just like Cross Crusade!

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  • mmann December 17, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    After two days off the bike I had to get out this morning, and I had a great experience. Headed east at about 9:30 from near 82nd & Burnside on a 80′s Miyata mtb with 1.5 street tires; tread but not knobbies. Not much traffic so pretty much took the lane out Burnside to 181st, then cut south to Yamhill. Rode the gravel path along Max tracks to downtown Gresham, looped east and hit Springwater at Telford. Springwater was a little rutted so I lowered the pressure to where I could almost bottom out pressing w/both thumbs and that helped w/ bumps and traction. At the construction detour I went out Powell and at 162nd up and over Powell Butte – Sleet, wind, fun! Rest of the way out Springwater to 192nd was uneventful and pavement getting wet.

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  • beth h December 17, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    I rode to Citybikes Annex yesterday (Tues 12-16) from the Woodlawn neighborhood. it was bright and sunny and cold, and I was glad to get out a move a bit. I shose to ride my upright city bike with 700 x 32 tires, in case things got so bad later that I had to take it home on the bus.

    Riding in was a good exercise in reading the road and picking my line; there were still plenty of icy patches and some were unavoidable, and near Lloyd Center I slipped on one and went down hard. I got up again and made it to work; but I was sore enough that when I decided to stay after dark, I took the bus most of the way home.

    Today I woke up VERY stiff and sore from my fall, and decided to stay home. Perhaps I won’t choose to be as intrepid next time.

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  • Ed December 17, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Riding everyday from close in to downtown and things are actually better than they look. Today was more slick than any other day so far, I lost the front wheel for a second but recovered. It is safer than driving a car just keep a steady strain on the chain and watch the stops and starts. Since I grew up in Alaska this reminds of home.

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  • Frank December 17, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    I’ve ridden for past 3 days from Council Crest downtown and back up on my Mt. Bike with regular knobbies at about 20 psi. Well-used roads are great for descent, sidewalks along Vista great for climb. Side roads suck. No crashes, little traffic, and lots of fun!

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  • Joe December 17, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    low psi is killing me, but in a good way!
    i bet after this winter training,,i’ll be
    flying come JAN 09:)

    becareful all!

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  • joel December 17, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    rode the cargo bike again today. 1.5″s, semi-slick (schwalbe marathons). still keep forgetting to let pressure out, so im still running about 80psi.

    in the usual route, n van to broadway. no problems.

    rode around downtown a fair bit, over on the short-mid eastside for a while, out into industrial nw, and the rest of the residential nw. didnt encounter anything all that bad, riding all day.

    rode home through the pearl, and then back over broadway and out n williams.

    id consider today the easiest of the week so far. again, i saw ONE rider on my rider home, and maybe 5 on my way in. through the patches of slush on the rides in and back home, i could see the tracks of maybe 5-10 bikes.

    lots of the accumulated icy stuff seemed to be melting into slush, especially near the end of the day, when the temp got above freezing and things turned to just plain rain. not even freezing rain. then everything pretty much turned into a rainy day.

    generally, ive been unimpressed by weekdays 1-3 of this years winter apocalypse. ive spent most of 30+ hours on the road, on 2 bikes. no falls, no slips, no problems. also no real snow buildup, which means no fun.

    my advice? no sudden movements, accelerations, or braking. dont get out of the saddle. push a bigger gear than you usually might where ever you can – low gears make you more likely to spin out. i dont think studded tires are necessary, at least not in the areas ive ridden, but then, ride the tires youre most comfortable on – same goes for the bike – ride the one youre most comfortable with, the one you know best.

    tomorrow should be interesting, though, if it ever decides to drop back below freezing, which its supposed to, i guess. has the potential to be the worst of it, if all that surface water freezes. that, of course, should not be fun. be careful out there.

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  • Tom December 17, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    Came in from Aloha this evening (around 5:30ish) it was primarily slush on the West-side. Took the lane whenever I could as the bike lanes are just full of crap. Had one episode where it got a little interesting, but pulled it out without hitting the ground. Off the MAX it was bare and wet all the way to NW23rd. Hardly say anyone out though. Less cars, less people, the MAX was practically deserted – I thought my timing was all off, but I was right on time. It took a little longer than normal, but it was a load of fun. The most fun was when my co-workers asked if I rode in…

    Am not looking forward to the morning though with temps. supposed to be dropping, it’s going to be crusty ice all over.

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  • Duncan December 19, 2008 at 9:35 am

    I have made my decision that I am not riding on city streets until this ice goes. Not knocking others but my health insurance is pretty minimal and i dont need a 5k$ bill this holiday. This week of no biking has been hard, so yesterday while the roads were clear I took the bog and cross bike to exit 18. I figured no cars, no leash for the dog It would be fun.

    It wasnt fun- it was a freaking blast! except for the slurry of sand and ice that kept clogging my gears in places. The dog ran, I pedaled like a tweaking hamster on a wheel, made the first tracks all over the woods… and it felt good.

    Love the burn- love it.

    Biking

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  • Duncan December 19, 2008 at 9:36 am

    bog=dog

    and my vote for an edit feature.

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