Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Let it snow!

Posted by on January 11th, 2007 at 8:59 am

Last night Portland got doused with fluffy, white snow. It’s been arctic cold around here for a few days. Black ice, wind, and now snow.

Has this weather deterred you or your friends from riding? Yesterday I was at the City of Portland building and I was shocked to see just one bike in the usually overflowing bike racks.

I’m proud to report that Juli braved the conditions to take our four year-old to school this morning! Here’s a photo I snapped of them leaving our house…

What have your experiences been? Are you still riding in the cold, wet, snowy, dark winter? And if so, do you take extra precautions to stay warm and upright?

I say, let it snow…and bring on the Midnight Mystery Ride!

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Mike January 11, 2007 at 9:12 am

    Not deterred at all, Jonathan. The more secure bike racks inside the Portland building were busy as usual.

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  • Val January 11, 2007 at 9:22 am

    Nah, no problem – I may be a bit north (Seattle area), but the same lovely white conditions prevail. Pulled over at a supermarket last night in the middle of the raging blizzard (ha!) to install my studs (which I had strapped on the back of the XtraCycle), and proceeded through the pristine thick powder on the bike trail, and past the hopeless four wheeled shuffleboard pucks that most folks are unfortunate enough to rely on. The 9.6% grade up to my neighborhood was a bit too much for most of them. Fun stuff.

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  • Michelle January 11, 2007 at 9:35 am

    Nice to see someone else biking in all pink.

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  • tonyt January 11, 2007 at 9:55 am

    I remember riding past a stranded car in Cincy years ago during a rager. The woman looked at me riding my bike and exclaimed, “You’re nuts!”

    Yup! But I was still moving.

    And in 2000 there was a crazy ice storm here. It took my housemate 3 hours to drive home (a normally 20 minute drive). It took me maybe 5-10 extra minutes. Oh I loved that!

    Just watch that black ice!

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  • J-On-Bike January 11, 2007 at 10:16 am

    The forecasts were all doom and gloom for the past 2-days but they were so wrong.

    The conditions were really quite rideable. Unfortunately, I usually have to plan out my commute the night before. I’ve been suckered out of 2-days of riding. So wrong.

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  • Jim F January 11, 2007 at 10:42 am

    Where I live is at a bit higher elevation than downtown. As a result, at the early hour I need to be at work, the roads around my house are dangerously iced.

    Nothing fun or cool about coming to a busy intersection, tapping the breaks, and continuing to slide into traffic.

    So, on icy mornings I run to work instead. No big deal.

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  • cecil m January 11, 2007 at 10:52 am

    After falling in November on ice that i didn’t see I am on the bus on days when the ice might be out.

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  • Bryan Axehammer January 11, 2007 at 10:53 am

    I went down to the kickoff of the Portland Old-Time Music Gathering at the Alberta St. Public House and was thrilled to see all those bikes parked up and down the street.

    Although the black ice almost got me on the way home…

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  • janis mcdonald January 11, 2007 at 11:07 am

    I love riding through the neighborhoods with the dust of snow. It has been beautiful.

    Rock on Juli and Eleni!!!

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  • Jeff January 11, 2007 at 11:07 am

    I’ve been riding just as normal. Except, I don’t lean into corners as much and stay mostly perpendicular to the road, as to avoid slipping and falling. I also haven’t been riding as fast.

    It’s kind of nice, instead of racing around everywhere I get to slow down and enjoy the ride 🙂

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  • Wyatt January 11, 2007 at 11:16 am

    switched to my mtb and am doing fine.

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  • Bikeybunnygirl January 11, 2007 at 11:28 am

    I, too, felt fooled by the weather reports and opted to carpool in today with a driver pal. If I had a shorter or more predictable commute, I’d love to ride in this weather … but my daily ride to work is almost nine miles from NE to downtown Milwaukie, and the microclimates between home and work can be surprising. It will be clear at home, but icy by the sixth mile … and at that point in my ride, I’m well off the path from hopping on a bus. Days like today are an exception, though. I do normally ride every day, rain or shine. Now if only I could find a real solution to my hands-freezing problem. I’ve tried every combination of gloves/mittens/smittens I can think of (including wearing two pair in various combos), but on really cold days, I go from numb to so-cold-it-hurts within the first few miles of the ride. Miserable, but I love the ride otherwise. Let me know if anyone has a good recommendation for this.

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  • Jeff January 11, 2007 at 11:42 am

    Val – are those studded tires, or studs that go over your tires? I’m wary of riding in snow/ice, but studs sound cool.

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  • Richard Wilson January 11, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    Took a quick spin in the midst of the evening flurry to get some fresh air and take break from new baby… Was surprised how slick the road surface was while walking, but how well the bike tires gripped by comparison – but i was riding pretty slowly. We don’t really get enough of this weather to merit studded tires, but back east many cyclists switch to those during winter months and keep on cycling. They look fun!

    Bunnygirl – try thick merino wool gloves like defeet makes with windblock glove covers over the top – very comfy and they don’t get so hot and sweaty once you’re going like some of the more heavily insulated “winter” gloves. The wool doesn’t get stinky like synthetics if you do sweat a bit.

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  • sheldon January 11, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    I love riding on days like today. Less traffic due to school closures and drivers are more cautious.

    Hey BikeyBunny, I would try poagies. There are oversized neoprene gloves kayakers use to fit around their paddles when the water is cold, but you can try to fit them around your handlebars. I have several kayaking/riding friends who do this when commuting in the winter.

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  • Bikey Mama carie January 11, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    Great to see dedicated parents!!
    Juli is a great example for me-
    rock on.

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  • PFin January 11, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    Manzella Gloves are a fave of mine (City Bikes).

    For those who choose not to ride in hazardous conditions, I would advise taking one’s bike down to the park to practice “demounting in motion.” I am psyched about riding in snow, studless. Like skiing and riding a horse at the same time.

    Yek Zemesh!

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  • Dabby January 11, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    I must tell you this, nothing says traction like a 14 pound, 1989 Cannondale track bike…
    It is pre ruined ( due to a car hitting me this summer) so I had no worries about hurting the bike.
    After leaving poker, I crossed from N portland to my neighborhood out by 82nd and Prescott.
    There was not a single incident until mere blocks from my house.
    I went down on the black ice in the Safeway parking lot, and once again on the turn into my driveway.
    I still hurt from hitting my knee, but my point is this……
    The ability to modulate your braking, using your legs and knees, and the fixed hub, is incredible, and safer than a road or Mt. Bike, especially on the ice.
    I was riding on 20mm Hutchinson Quartz road tires, 6 months old, and had no fear.
    If I had it to do over again, I would have let a little air out of the tires, as I had 125 psi in them, maybe bringing them down to 90 psi…….Helps a little taking corners.
    What was I wearing?
    Carhart pants, the double front ones. A sweet vintage Italian wool jersey, a where’s Waldo looking performance wool jersey, a “PUMA” sweatshirt, My $1.99 Seirra Designs raincoat ( gotta love the REI member sale) rain coat, and a pair of fine italian loafers…. (read “Sidi’s”), and thermax liner ( thin) gloves with the beer grippers.
    Tonight is the 5th and final “Cash Money Series”
    race, and I am locked in 3rd at this point, no matter what.
    Hopefully the weather gets bad again, so I can do it right, and win the Series altogether.
    See you at 7:00, at the Ash Street saloon, 2nd and SW Ash street!
    I will be the one gloating……… Loudly…

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  • Dabby January 11, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    Actaully, it is the Manzella thermax liners that I wear daily also………the ones with the blue dots……
    These are what I have worn for years.

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  • Heath January 11, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    It’s pictures like these that give the Portland biking community a bad name.

    Look, needlessly risking your own life is one thing. Risking a kid’s is another. Riding your bike on a city street with 2-10 tons of steel hurtling toward you is pretty risky business. I don’t care if you’ve got 20-penny nails sticking out of two wheels, a 3 ton H2 sliding sideways will still ruin your life.

    Now, throw a kid into the equation. With all due respect, this should be criminal.

    Even without the kid, riding on ice on two wheels just isn’t be smart. And don’t say you’re only risking your own safety. You get in a wreck rolling down Burnside, and we’ll see if you’re the only one affected.

    In my opinion, bikers in this town are too often viewed as reckless idealogues. Please, please do your part to change this. Prudence is key. People will be more inclined begin bike-commuting when they perceive it as a safe alternative to driving. Riding on city streets covered in black ice is NOT helping anybody.

    At least from the picture it appears she’s on a sidewalk. I do hope she stayed there.

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  • Dabby January 11, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    Heath heath heath heath heath,
    I learned long ago that there is one thing you do not do.
    That is to tell a mom how to take care of her children.
    No matter how much you want to, it is not your business………
    Also, a bicycle has more traction than a car on the black ice.
    You can actually feel the road.
    The trailer has 2 stable wheels. This forms a three point stance between the bike and the trailer.
    A three point stance is a stable platform.
    The pic is taken on the sidewalk, in front of her own house.
    It does not even elude to riding on the street, and I am quite certain that that school is 4 blocks away, without crossing a major street.
    I am sure of one thing though….
    “You” should not ride your bike on the ice.
    “You” should there fore not even leave the house, because driving a 3,000 pound virtually uncontrollable machine, or worse, paying to ride a 50,000 pound bus, on black ice could also be construed as a very wreckless and uncaring thing, based on your above professed personal logic on the issue.
    I say get on your bike and ride it, everyday, no matter what the weather, bad attitude, or for any other supposed “bad” reason…
    Just ride it, and get over it…

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  • tonyt January 11, 2007 at 2:56 pm


    Get over yourself man. Really. It’s not that dangerous out there. Take it slow and it’s really easy.

    Sheesh. Criminal? I’m gonna stop before I violate my own rules on civility.

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  • Martha January 11, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    Hey Heath, what’s really crimnal is all those parents out there who never let their kids experience the joys of getting around by bike or on foot. Some children are taught to be passive — let Mom strap you into the car and sit still while the world passes by: you’re not strong enough to get there on your own power. Then there are those drivers who don’t bother to change their driving to suit the conditions — they’re the ones exhibiting criminal behavior.

    Kudos to Jonathan and Juli (and all those other parents-on-bikes) who are helping their kids learn true independence. Those kids who get to rely on their own two legs (or their parents’ legs at first) to get around will grow up to be strong, healthy, and happy people. They’re learning right from the start that they CAN do it themselves. I’m guessing that Juli is experienced enough to know how to ride safely and how to choose a good snow route.

    The thing that gives the bike community a bad reputation is ignorance on the part of those who haven’t yet learned the joys of cycling. Try it — you just might like it, Heath.

    Yeah, the roads are slippery.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis January 11, 2007 at 3:32 pm

    This is a particularly interesting discussion for me, because I happen to know Heath. I heard his opinion today and encouraged him to post it. I’m neither endorsing or repudiating his opinion — I’m staying out of this one.

    But the responses fascinate me. Dabby says, “get on your bike and ride it.” tonyt says, “It’s not that dangerous out there. Take it slow and it’s really easy.” And Martha says, “Try it [cycling] — you just might like it, Heath.”

    All seem to presume Heath is not a regular cyclist and that Heath consequentially overstates the risk. Nothing could be further from the truth: Heath is a regular bike commuter who rides in the rain and in the dark. Like me, he won’t ride when the temp is below freezing, as I’m sure you’ve guessed.

    In November, Heath was almost killed while commuting (in a near miss) by a car that did not see him.

    You may think Heath is wrong on this and, again, I’m not debating the merits of his argument. But he is a regular cyclist and he does know the risk of cycling. And, if I might add, he is genuine in his desire to see that everyone stays safe.

    So perhaps — and this is something I’d dearly love to see in each discussion, as well as something that is, IMHO, oftn lacking — future commenters can focus on the issue of safety when black ice is on the roads and not on Heath or whether he needs to “get over it,” “get over [him]self,” or how often Heath rides.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis January 11, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    And, on another personal note, for what it’s worth, this is why I don’t participate in the discussion more. It’s my considered opinion that the modal response to comments seems to be ad hominem attacks that lower the quality of discussion and distract from the important issue.

    Man, I really like talking about bikes. I’m a true believer in them as transportation and recreation. The bikeportland site is really cool. But the discussion is pretty brutal sometimes. I just don’t understand why people can’t have a reasonable discussion and not attack each other. It drives good people away. Something about the anonymity brings out the worst in people.

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  • Jonathan Maus January 11, 2007 at 3:57 pm


    I couldn’t agree with you more and I plead with everyone to carefully weigh your tone and choice of words when directing opinions at other commenters.

    Driving people like you away from the discussion is a big deal to me and I’m sure you are not the only one who feels like this.

    I’m not just talking about this thread either. I have noticed an increased amount of negativity and harsh responses to opinion. I’m not sure why but it is very disheartening to me when people just can’t seem to resist personal attacks or judgemental innuendo.

    All that being said, I am very wary of even bringing this up because the last thing I want people to do is feel like they have to be careful about their comments.

    I should probably post about this…but please folks, try and keep things as constructive as possible.

    I am of the persuasion that it is possible to have an effective dialogue without resorting to meanness. Maybe I’m wrong, but I hope not.


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  • Dabby January 11, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    Well, I never assumed anything.
    I posted a comment directly reflecting nothing but what he said in his post. In my comment, I never inferred he did not ride a bike, I simply pointed out that he should “just ride it” (it being the bike he certainly owns, or he would not be posting on a bicycle site)
    And my point was right on, even after rereading it.

    Everyday, of every week, one of us here is “almost” killed by a car, in an accident. I have been almost killed about 2,000 times.
    Whether actual contact between, or close enough to make you thankful you are alive, it happens to all of us. I have been almost killed falling down the stairs in my house, just this winter.
    While I would never belittle anyones close calls with death, or even a simple wreck, it does not change the simple fact that: His comment was poorly presented, and warranted comment.
    Had he flat out said “I ride my bike all the time”, followed by the same post?
    I would have posted the same response…..

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  • tonyt January 11, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Hey AO,

    I made no assumption about Heath not being a regular cyclist. I DID deduce from his argument that he does not ride in said conditions and urged him to get over his fears, or at least rein them in well enough that he project them onto other people.

    And regarding the quality of the discussion, it was all going pretty well and nicely until Heath’s darn near hysterical tirade that was pretty insulting to Jonathan and Juli as parents. I suggest you have a talk with Heath and suggest that HE turn down the dial.

    There were no personal attacks unless you think that me telling him to get over himself was an attack.

    Regarding almost getting killed? Been there, done that. It’s no excuse for him to not have the courtesy – on Jonathan’s site mind you – to engage in discussion in a more civil manner.

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  • tonyt January 11, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    sorry, should have said “rein them in well enough that he NOT project them onto other people.”

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  • beth January 11, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    I LOVE riding in this weather!

    As a grad student in Philadelphia several years ago, I enjoyed riding through Rittenhouse Square in fresh snow (the thick, fluffy stuff), and watched as drivers stared at me with disbelieving expressions on their faces. Heading over to Kelly Drive, which was closed to cars every Sunday morning for a few hours, I found a handful of kindred spirits bundled up in, well, lots of lycra. They looked slightly askance at me in my wool tights, army shorts anf big wool sweater and gloves, then saw the flush on my cheeks and my happy expression; and welcomed me to join them. We had great fun riding to Manayunk for hot chocolate and back again.

    Back in Portland, I add rain wear to the woolies and use some poly liner gloves under the wool ones. I also wear thick wool socks, BMX shoes (thick soles mean the cold doesn’t get through as quickly when I have to put my foot down at lights) and cover my toe-clips with covers that help shelter my toes from the wind and wet.
    Under my helmet I wear a wool Deller cap (LOVE this!) and a wool ear band over that. On the coldest days I swap in a regular watch cap and my old-school Bell Shell helmet (the only thing that fits over the cap), and Thinsolate-lined winter gloves.

    Winter riding is a treat and a delight. My partner thinks I’m nuts but she knows better than to interfere. I’m just plain happier when I can ride my bike.

    In spite of all my precautions, Mother Nature very occasionally beats me up. Today I’m home wth a bad sore throat, sucking down hot herbal tea and dreaming of my next winter ride. (..::sigh::..)
    Happy pedalling!

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  • Jonathan Maus January 11, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    just to add to my comment above…my thoughts are meant in a general sense of what has been going on lately…not just specifically with this post.

    Tony, you make a good point about Heath’s tone being a bit harsh in it’s own way.

    But sigh, let’s not start re-hashing nuances of people’s tone and who said what about whom…let’s just move on and keep the good discussion going!

    thanks everyone for being a part of the site and for sharing your thoughts.

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  • Dabby January 11, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    By the way,
    I am not being negative here, and my comments, while sometimes harsh, are generally on the money, just not what some want to hear. But on the question of annoniminity:
    “Something about the anonymity brings out the worst in people.”

    Is “Attornatus_Oregonensis” your real name?

    I post under a nickname that everyone knows me by.
    People do not know my real name. They question whether it is my real name even when I tell them.
    I hide from no one.
    What about you?

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  • Val January 11, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    Jeff: What I am using is a set of home made studs using old MTB street sytle tires and sheet metal screws carefully chosen for the proper length. Commercial studded tires are also available, in 26″ and 700c sizes, if you don’t feel like staying up all night putting screws in. Both varieties give you equal or better traction on ice than rubber on pavement (if you do the home made ones right, that is – the key seems to be many studs, not too long). It’s a wonderful feeling. Studs rule.

    Heath: Not to disrespect your own experiences, I would have to say that, with proper awareness and preparation, transporting self and children by bicycle in these conditions is no more dangerous than doing the same in a car, and probably less so. One of the more insidious enemies of the bicycle as transportation is the false sense of security that cars give. The fact is that even when you are surrounded by the steel cage, you are still taking a tremendous risk, and are risking much more damage to other road users than anyone on a bicycle. It seems unusual to us here where we rarely experience it, but in many other parts of the world, people cycle through snowy winters and think nothing of it. As you say, the sliding cars are the main hazard, and while more extreme avoidance tactics are recommended in slick conditions, you must admit that it is always the case that the cars are the main hazard. No one should try to get around in winter conditions using the same attitudes, speeds, and tactics that they do in summer conditions, no matter what type of conveyance they use. Riding safely and competently in any conditions should not be any more criminal than driving safely and competently in the same conditions. Insisting that someone is incompetent and unsafe based on one picture of them riding in conditions that you do not feel safe in is a bit shortsighted. I feel sure that if there had been any mishaps on the trip, Jonathan would have related them, and the proof is in the pudding (or the riding). Stay safe!

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  • Heath January 11, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    I should have been more civil. I don’t visit this site much. I’m sure sorry – particularly to Jonathan and his wife. With all due respect though, I stand by what I said.

    Look, I think bikes are THE way to go. But cars aren’t going away any time soon. Neither are careless drivers. Icy conditions are too often deadly conditions, even when surrounded by a steel cage with airbags.

    I know first hand that biking is a risky proposition. (And yes, Dabby, you did belittle me, again.) Riding on ice is simply more risky. I guess I just think that riding on roads in the ice, particularly with a kid in tow, is an unreasonable risk. To the extent it affects the kid, or other people, I think that risk is just plain wrong.

    Maybe I overestimate the risk, but on the bus headed up Barber last night we came across two different car wrecks.

    On a side note, great site Jonathan. I’ve lurked here more than once.

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  • Jonathan Maus January 11, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    good to hear from you Heath,

    First, about Dabby. His writing style is tricky to interpret…but he’s really a good guy. Trust me (I know him outside of this site).

    I definitely hear what you’re saying about the safety of riding on ice. No dispute there. One thing to remember is that this recent weather was very different from one part of the city to the next. SW hills saw much different conditions than up here in North Portland. I could tell by the weather that there wouldn’t be too much (if any) black ice on the roads.

    Glad this post got you out of lurker mode…hope to hear more of you in the future.

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  • Carl January 11, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    I don’t want to come off as the macho you-call-this-cold? New Englander but…
    Studded tires? (you’ve got to be kidding)
    Arctic gear?

    Yes, the precipitation was frozen and I’m not saying I was wearing shorts or going as fast as I do on dry pavement, but it’s definitely not that bad out. One thing that surprised me was the number of bicyclists I saw WALKING their bikes on Ankeny and the Burnside bridge. Do what you’ve got to do…but it seemed kind of an extreme reaction to this morning’s lovely dusting.

    I hope the city gets a pounding sometimes soon. There’s nothing like skiing to work. I can dream, right?

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  • Heath January 11, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    To finish that paragraph, coming back down Barber this morning, I saw three bikes navigating that same ice patch with cars doing 40 only a couple feet away. Man, I sure hope everybody stays safe.

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  • Dabby January 11, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    “the proof is in the pudding”

    I just wanted to say this comment actually made me get up, go to the fridge, and eat some pudding.
    I love pudding!


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  • Christopher January 11, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    There’s a Pudding River in Oregon! A couple weeks back, when we were getting all that rain, they were warning that the Pudding River was going to flood.

    Yummy! I want to be there when the streets are flooded with pudding!

    OK, you may all continue with your pertinent on-topic comments now. Thank you.

    mmmmmm, pudding. . .

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  • Donna January 11, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    As a Michigander by birth, I’m with Carl on the weather. No big deal if you assume there might be black ice and ride accordingly. I just let a little air out of my tires, went slower, and practiced mindfulness. It was kinda fun.

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  • TomasCoSauce January 11, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    Also from Michigan…Portland winters are puny! “ooh, a little ice! end of the world! we all doomed!”


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  • Aaron January 11, 2007 at 10:03 pm

    I’m not afraid of 25 degree weather. I had hit black ice a month ago, but this cold snap isn’t bad. In fact I saw the tem at 26 and I was disapointed that it wasn’t below my record of 19 deg (Portland winter of 2003).

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  • Tasha January 12, 2007 at 9:12 am

    Having broken my arm in winter conditions last January, I profess to just being a big scaredy cat in this weather! So, I’m off to wait in the cold weather for the bus, wishing I was brave enough to brave the ice on my beloved bike.

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  • gabrielamadeus January 12, 2007 at 9:21 am

    I went to school in duluth, MN. I rode all year around. Through deep snow and thick ice almost everyday during the winter. It’s not a big deal! If you don’t feel comfortable, fine, but I encourage you to push your limits.

    The steep creeks in Duluth would freeze thick all winter long and for fun I used to go and ride down them on the ice, yes I would fall every 15 feet, but I was laughing uncontrollably the whole time.

    As a kid I decided to make my own studded tires. Unfortunatly the screws I used were too long, and after a mile of riding I had nearly completely sawed off the rear triangle. Ooops.

    I wish we had more snow!

    (but only for one month a year)

    For inspiration, this guy goes 85mph in the snow:

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  • Val January 12, 2007 at 9:40 am

    Carl: No, I’m not kidding about the studs (I never kid) – where I am the cars and inadequate road scrapers have left a marvellous layer of sheer ice up to 2″ thick. Studs are the perfect thing for this surface, especially when descending (or ascending) the 9-11% grades that separate my work from my home. Many of my cohorts are doing fine without the studs, and in most situations they may be overkill, but I actually need them, and would love them even if I didn’t. The extra traction just makes everything so much nicer, and it’s not really that much trouble to change tires when necessary.

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  • tonyt January 12, 2007 at 10:15 am

    Being from Ohio, where I cut my winter riding and daily commuting teeth, I’d agree with Carl. Try 20 below with the windchill. The benefit is that the ice and snow isn’t so slick when it’s that cold.

    Some of my favorite memories are of riding late at night, right after getting slammed by a snowstorm. We’d ride right down the middle of the street. Soooo quiet and no cars anywhere. Now THAT was awesome.

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