Riding through the storm: Photos, tips, links, and inspiration

Snowy commute-6

A scene on SE Madison in January 2009.
(Photos © J. Maus)

There’s snow in the forecast! Weather pros think is very likely to begin tonight (just before the evening commute). With that in mind, I wanted to remind folks that using a bicycle when it’s snowing or when snow is on the roads is a completely viable way to get around — just as viable as using transit or driving a car.

As we’ve documented in years past, plenty of Portlanders have no trouble riding on snowy roads. Here are some photos in case you think that everyone hangs their bikes up when the snow comes down…

Snow scenes-7

Snow scenes from 12-17

Snowy ride around North Portland-16

Snowy ride around North Portland-1

Snowy commute-20

First snow of the season-8

Snow Day!

A snowy commute-3.jpg

Snow Day!

Snow Day!

Remember last year? The TV news was calling it the “worst commute in 20 years!!” and PBOT and TriMet were reeling from countless fender benders and roadways full of abandoned cars. It was “snowpocalypse”! Yet, from what I heard and observed, people who went by bike seemed to do just fine.

Of course, no matter how you get around, snow and ice make traveling more hazardous. If you do choose to go by bike, here are some tips.

  • 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.

For more excellent tips from other readers, see the comments to past stories here, here, and here. Also check out the “Home of the Winter Cyclist” IceBike.com.

For more info on biking in the snow in Portland, read our past snow coverage. For more inspiration, browse our photo gallery of snow images and watch what happens when it snows in Utrecht, a place where bicycling is respected and is considered a viable and vital means of transportation — even when it snows…

— For updates on local road conditions, check PublicAlerts.org and follow @PBOTinfo on Twitter.

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Kronda
11 years ago
kevin
kevin
11 years ago

Thanks for the tips! As a veteran snow rider (New York, Indiana, Alaska), I’ve got one bit of contrary advice. unless the snow is really deep (deeper than you’ll ever see here!), skinnier tires are better, as they cut through the snow to the pavement, while wider, low pressure tires will tend to float on the surface of the snow.

charley
charley
11 years ago

I’d add- avoid the Interstate Hill! It can get pretty slick, and what with the light at the bottom being red almost all the time, it would be impossible to stop at the bottom.

joel
11 years ago

ill be surprised if anything sticks, or, if it does, if itll even be enough to really affect cycling. MAYBE a dusting. ill be happy to be proven wrong, but i aint expecting much out of this storm, snow-wise.

Todd Boulanger
Todd Boulanger
11 years ago

Yes riding in the snow is the best way to get around for the first few days so long as the other modes are snarled. But this heaven / haven ends once the plows push the snow into the bike lanes / curb ramps and then traffic speeds up. Drivers then seem to forget the conditions.

My snow riding between Vancouver and Portland was great except for the snow drifts on the I-5 bridge walkways. It took 20 minutes to push my bike across it. I wonder if I can in such situations ride on I-5? (Perhaps this is a good time for BikePortland to contact ODOT for an article on it’s maintenance plans for it’s off street facilities…per ADA, etc.)

John Lascurettes
11 years ago

I wanted to remind folks that using a bicycle when it’s snowing or when snow is on the roads is a completely viable way to get around — just as viable as using transit or driving a car.

Correction: it’s more viable than using transit or a car. I passed motorized vehicles my whole way home last year when it snowed during the evening commute. And I was riding on slicks.

Joe
Joe
11 years ago

Also protect yourself its cold with that wind and wet
kicking in. ouch..

PDXbiker
PDXbiker
11 years ago

For moderate snow I just switch to a wider knobby tread tire. For ice or iced over snow I hang up the bike.

Nick V
11 years ago

Keep those fingers and toes-ee’s warm. A good pair of socks, water-proof shoe covers, and lobster-claw gloves usually do the trick for me.

ac
ac
11 years ago

Todd Boulanger
Yes riding in the snow is the best way to get around for the first few days so long as the other modes are snarled. But this heaven / haven ends once the plows push the snow into the bike lanes / curb ramps and then traffic speeds up. Drivers then seem to forget the conditions.

Plows??!?
Wouldn’t that be nice!

spare_wheel
spare_wheel
11 years ago

“For ice or iced over snow I hang up the bike.”

larger slicks handle ice very well if you lower tire pressure, ride slowly, and avoid steep grades.

John Lascurettes
11 years ago
Reply to  spare_wheel

Studded tires are excellent on ice and can be picked up as low as $25 per wheel from Bike Tires Direct. But you really only need them when there’s actual ice (i.e., 3 days each year).

K'Tesh
K'Tesh
11 years ago
jv
jv
11 years ago

I look forward to the varied winter weather – but I fear that the temps will not be low enough for long enough this next few days to really make this snow that “epic”. I found riding in snow last year to be great, and some of the best riding was actually in the tracks of cars that had gone before. Another tip that I would give is to lower your seat by just an inch or two, so that it is easier to touch the ground with your feet. And brush all the snow off your bike before you bring it inside, otherwise you will leave a big dirty puddle on the floor!

Michael M.
11 years ago

Snowflakes stuck to my glasses, then froze. I can manage okay without them (that is, I’m not functionally blind without vision correction), so I took them off. But it was not a problem I’d foreseen (so to speak).

Paul Hanrahan
Paul Hanrahan
11 years ago

Interesting video in that most all of the riders wear dark clothes, not my first choice in these dark days

Jack
Jack
11 years ago

No day like a snow day to leave the bike at home and get out the uni. Trade in a little bit of speed for a whole heap of traction.

Tony H
Tony H
11 years ago

Looking forward to using my new snow tires!

Steve B
Steve B
11 years ago

I love the smug photo of the bike over I-5. I get a fun feeling in my stomach to know I’m up above, pedalin in the breeze, while folks are stuck in traffic in their warm cars. It’s also nice to have the priveledge to bike, I guess many folks commuting home to points North don’t have many other options.

Don’t forget that Trimet is a great resource in storms. If you haven’t ridden in awhile, this is a great time to enjoy a system that concerned drivers should be using in winter weather rather than their own vehicles.

Dabby
Dabby
11 years ago

Skinny tires are the way to go. Maybe 3/4 inflated if the conditionds are really bad.
Continental Grand Prix’z (the german made ones)..

Don’t let them convince you of anything else.

Amos
11 years ago

Want to test out your new-found snow riding skills tonight? http://bit.ly/gkEu4z

Todd Boulanger
Todd Boulanger
11 years ago

And as for brakes…for winter rinding I love my dutch bike with its drum brake and coaster rear. We will see if this winter will require the ziptie tire ‘chains’.

Anna
Anna
11 years ago

snow is fine but bridges will ice up before the roads do, and it isn’t fun, (speaking from experience), just be careful….

Don Y.
Don Y.
11 years ago

Just rode in from Canby to Clackamas this morning. The streets and roads in and around Canby were sheets of ice. I have just put my studded snow tires in anticipation for this weather.What a huge difference! I rode thru patches of ice that I couldn’t stand on and had no issues whatsoever. If one hasn’t tried studded tires they are a must have to winter ice riding. In my thirty years of commuting year around, I have never come close to feeling this secure riding on ice. In the past I would have walked a lot of the stretches I rode today.

TonyT
tonyt
11 years ago

Totally disagree with the tip that reads;

“Gently lean into turns instead of turning your bars.”

Leaning into a turn in icy conditions leaves you hanging out in the air over the road. If the bike slips, down you go, like right now.

If you keep the bike upright, shift your weight slightly to the inside and turn your bars, the bike remains under you so if the bike slips to the outside of the turn, you move with it, maintaining your position over the bike.

Freeman
11 years ago

http://www.icebike.org/Equipment/tires.htm (instructions for DIY on bottom of page)

Zvi
11 years ago

Great information. If only it were a bit warmer in Montreal! It is one thing to ride occasionally in some snow, and quite another to ride when it is MINUS FORTY and everything is covered in ice. Actually, the coldest days are bright and sunny. It is when the temperature goes up that we get problems with freezing rain and ice.

Zvi
11 years ago

I recently saw a short documentary film called ‘Le jour du velo’ (The Day of the Bike) which featured a number of “normal” people who rode their bikes year round in Montreal. One of the purposes of the film was to demystify winter riding. Here is the trailer (in French): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYsBSfO2gNo

chris
11 years ago

What hardy types you have in Portland. Here in Ottawa we are slowing changing the mindset of our city politicians to clear the snow off bike lanes in winter. It’s tough trying to change the “car first” attitude.