The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

Snowy cycling in Portland! (photos)

Posted by on December 6th, 2013 at 10:03 am

Snow scenes in Portland-6

At N Skidmore and Mississippi, two riders revel in the snowy conditions.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

By my recollection, it’s been almost two years since we had real snow on the ground here in Portland, so when I woke up this morning and saw the white stuff accumulating on N Michigan Avenue in the Piedmont Neighborhood I was more than a little excited.

My snow riding set-up.
(Photo: Juli Maus)

Over the years I’ve found that riding in the snow is one of life’s finer pleasures. There’s a sense of adventure, camaraderie with other riders (and everyone on the streets for that matter), and best of all, people tend to drive with the sense of caution and courtesy I wish for everyday.

Watching the news or official advisories, you might think no one rides their bike on snowy mornings like we had today. Remember back during the 2009 “snowpocalypse” how everyone was saying we had the “worst commute in 20 years”? I couldn’t help but gloat after my cycling commute was peaceful, quick, and painless.

And once again this morning the ride from north Portland to downtown was quite pleasant. I saw a lot of smiles in the bike lane as people rolled through the streets without much trouble. Meanwhile, people in cars were backed up bumper-to-bumper all over the place and the local news has been warning people to stay off the streets.

This morning I ran into Shannon Skerritt, a well-known local bike racer and manager of the Bike Gallery store in Hollywood. He was riding a cyclocross bike and enjoying every minute of it. I also saw a guy hopping off curbs with this mountain bike, and a few thumbs up from others who passed by on two wheels.

Check out a few more photos below…

Snow scenes in Portland-1

Snow scenes in Portland-3

N Michigan Avenue just north of Alberta.
Snow scenes in Portland-4

Having some fun with it at the corner of N Michigan and Skidmore.
Snow scenes in Portland-5

Snow scenes in Portland-7

Snow scenes in Portland-9

Snow scenes in Portland-10

Snow scenes in Portland-11

Snow scenes in Portland-12

Snow scenes in Portland-13

Shannon Skerritt.
Snow scenes in Portland-15

Snow scenes in Portland-17

Snow scenes in Portland-18

Snow scenes in Portland-21

My bike is lonely at the racks on SW 4th Ave between Stark and Oak (photo taken from my office window).

Did you ride this morning? What was your experience?

β€” Want to see more photos and coverage of snowy cycling in Portland? Check out the “snow” tag in our photo gallery and story archive.

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 β€” Jonathan

  • Mike Quigley December 6, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Ouch! All that bike riding next to cars on slick roads. Scary.

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    • Bill Walters December 6, 2013 at 10:16 am

      But is it arrogant? WWCHD? (That is, what would the “lifestyle columnist” do?)

      OK, switching off snark mode. Sorry.

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      • Alan 1.0 December 6, 2013 at 10:20 am

        Thanks, Bill, someone had to say it, I sure as H was thinking it:

        They’re not scared. They’re arrogant.

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    • Paul in the 'couve December 6, 2013 at 10:33 am

      Oops… Demonstrating super human skills, doing wheelies and tricks – definitely very arrogant. Will probably turn thousands away from cycling and keep them in their cars and drivers will hate cyclists all the more because we are just out having fun not mindlessly trudging our way to our soul sucking job.

      Also, parking your bike in the street in order to take a picture and prove your fortitude to the world – certainly very arrogant. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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  • boriskat December 6, 2013 at 10:06 am

    I would’ve eaten shit before I got to the end of my street. Bus for me. πŸ™

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    • jeff December 6, 2013 at 10:31 am

      I watched some girl do just that on Clinton, riding with her hands off hte bars, in the snow, no helmet. I’m not really sure what she thought was going to happen, but she looked pretty dazed when she got up. Just plain dumb.

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      • dan December 6, 2013 at 11:50 am

        Yikes, well, the painful lessons are the ones you remember the best. No doubt she’ll have a better grip on things next time she rides on snow. (And maybe even a non-arrogant helmet.)

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    • Kirk December 6, 2013 at 11:03 am

      I ate shit when I approached a stop sign going 3 mph. The guy behind me on a bike made sure I was alright (as Jonathan mentioned – there is a beautiful increase in camaraderie on a day like today). We all smiled when it was obvious the slow speeds caused no damage to my body/bike. I got up right away with no pain, and continued on with the lovely experience making sure to go only 2 mph at all the remaining stop signs / signals πŸ˜‰

      Looooovely day for a bike ride. πŸ™‚

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      • Dan Morrison December 6, 2013 at 12:01 pm

        I gave every cyclist a tip of my hat. My bike, a single speed with 28c gator skins, is no bike for this weather. If I had a burlier bike with some knobs or studs and didn’t have to climb the Zoo-bomb to work and drop it home, I’d be riding. Sadly, all those conspire to keep me in my car – and I should have taken trimet.

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        • Scott December 6, 2013 at 1:29 pm

          I rode my track bike with 700×23 race slicks on it. I had less traction problems today, than on the frosty days earlier this week.

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      • JV December 6, 2013 at 2:38 pm

        Glad to hear you are ok, and yes, I definitely have noticed a bit more of the friendly nods this morning. A riding tip for stops is to use a bit more rear brake than usual, and lean back. A lockup on the front brake at any speed will take you down, whereas a rear wheel lockup is pretty controllable.

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      • Erinne December 6, 2013 at 5:52 pm

        Ha ha!

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    • Pete E December 6, 2013 at 11:49 am

      Exactly what happened to me. Slowly, carefully braked for the stop, fell over anyway, went home and took the bus.

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  • adventurepdx December 6, 2013 at 10:08 am

    I had a six-mile commute this morn from Woodlawn in NE to SE Hawthorne. I was prepared for the worst but it actually wasn’t that bad, and I didn’t get in too late either. The only “bad” was any time I had to bike east into the wind. (That and the car that almost hit me.) I got to test out a new windbreaker today, and I’m glad that it worked! Didn’t see too many cyclists until I got south to the I-84 crossing.

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  • Alex Reed December 6, 2013 at 10:12 am

    I thought this was the most fun commute of the year so far. Certainly in comparison to my alternatives (driving or bussing on clogged arterials). It was like a Northern European dream village where no cars go above 15 mph and everyone drives very carefully to avoid getting anywhere close anybody else. Traction was totally fine on my Dutch bike with fairly wide but relatively high pressure tires (~1.8 inches, 70 PSI). I think it was because the snow was pretty dry and not underlain by ice.

    I’m more worried about ice on the ride home. Might leave early and take the bus but I’m thinking to give it a try….

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    • Alex Reed December 6, 2013 at 10:13 am

      For context – my commute is 4.5 miles mostly on bike boulevards (NOT greenways) from FoPo to downtown.

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    • Paul December 6, 2013 at 10:18 am

      I had to drive a few miles today and it was VERY slick in some spots. Mostly around intersections. It was sort of deceptive in a car. On bike probably much easier to scope out. If you’re upright and your seat isn’t real high, you’ll be fine πŸ™‚

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    • colton December 6, 2013 at 10:55 am

      With the right person bussing can be quite enjoyable almost anywhere. Busing, however, wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.

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  • Lorelei December 6, 2013 at 10:22 am

    That was so much fun. The snow was dry, my tires rule (what’s up schwalbe marathons), and I rode past miles of stopped traffic in SE. After five years of winter commuting I finally have good gear so I was actually comfortable and warm. Felt like I took the safest and fastest way to get to work πŸ™‚

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    • Charley December 6, 2013 at 11:58 am

      Yeah! Schwalbe Marathon 40mm tires for the win! I almost rode my mtb, but decided it was time to put my euro-commuter to the test. Lots of fun.

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      • Steven Soto December 6, 2013 at 2:55 pm

        Schwalbe Marathon 47mm Winters for the win!

        There, I fixed it for you.

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  • JonathanR December 6, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Rider 456 across the Hawthorne Bridge. Quiet and peaceful as I passed the cars.

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    • JV December 6, 2013 at 10:59 am

      Rider 632 for me…funny that I noticed that. The only reason I did is because someone had stopped to take a picture of the counter. The commute in was great – just aired down the tires a little bit. I think they put some deicer on the Hawthorne Bridge, as it was more clear than I expected.

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  • SV December 6, 2013 at 10:34 am

    I agree it’s nice having the cars go slower and more cautious than usual. I grew up in Colorado so light dustings like this morning are fun to ride in. Wider tires at lower psi’s are great for traction. I did get funny looks for using my snowboarding goggles. Not sure why, it keeps my face warm, and the polarized lenses cut through the flat grey light amazingly well. Illuminates every detail of the white-ish road in front of you.

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  • Red Dawn December 6, 2013 at 10:35 am

    from SE Clinton area to PCC Sylvania… less snow the higher it got, which was weird. head nods and fists in the air to my brethren…

    Arrogant clothing choices kept me warm.

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  • Paul in the 'couve December 6, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Jonathan, Thanks for taking pictures. Nice shots.

    Over hear in Vancouver conditions are good. Snow in the bike lanes and on the shoulders is very rideable. Need to exercise a lot of caution at intersections, especially moderate traffic 4 way stops and lightly trafficed lights. The snow / water is refreezing as morning traffic is over and it’s very slick. Un clip and keep a foot out and try to edge over to the curb where it’s still snowy or plan to Idaho stop.

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  • SilkySlim December 6, 2013 at 10:43 am

    I had a lovely, albeit arrogant, commute in from SE to NW. I was most nervous about crossing the Hawthorne Bridge, especially the downhill bend right before the main span. But it was probably the cleanest section of pavement of my entire commute… Did somebody clean this before 830am??

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  • Oliver December 6, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Good time today. Rode the mountain bike though, which seems really slow.

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  • Matthew Rogers December 6, 2013 at 10:54 am

    I had a graceful/hilarious fall on NE Hancock WB at 47th. Serves me right for not checking my braking ability before a hill!

    Other than that it was a pretty pleasant ride (even the fall wasn’t a major hassle). I used my feet as outriggers for turns/braking events after that, made sure that I had right of way through intersections, walked some treacherous parts, and just took it easy.

    I was very grateful for the patience of drivers when I decided to ride in a clear auto lane instead of a buried bike lane, especially on NE Tillamook and N Williams.

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  • Brett Holycross December 6, 2013 at 10:55 am

    My ride in to Sellwood from FoPo was fine this morning, which was just before the snow began to fall. I’m more worried about my ride home against the forecasted 25-35 mph east winds (with gusts up to 50). That would make wind chills ~ low double digits. I’d still rather be on the bike than dealing with car traffic.

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  • dan December 6, 2013 at 10:59 am

    High-pressure slicks on my MTB/commuter (why drop the pressure when the snow will be gone tomorrow) made the commute more technical than it otherwise would have been. Fresh snow was grippy, but everywhere it had been packed down was pretty slick. I dragged a foot instead of braking in most spots and went slow around corners. I rode in part way with a guy with studded knobbies — I have to say I was pretty jealous of his rig today.

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  • Fourknees December 6, 2013 at 11:06 am

    I drove today and I noticed that for once everyone on SW Barbur was driving at or below the posted speed limits.

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  • spencer December 6, 2013 at 11:16 am

    cross bike was the fastest ride in town this morning, commute was two minutes slower than normal over 7 miles

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  • Rahul Subramanian December 6, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Fyi, this is the most snow I’ve ever seen in my life. I could have used a car2go but I found that option much more dangerous and intimidating. It’s easier to find the limit of friction on a bicycle versus say a car. Get your hiking shoes on and at the worst you can walk with your bicycle. I got into a low gear and ambled along on my bicycle and the ride was mega-fun. Now everybody get home safe!!

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  • jeff December 6, 2013 at 11:31 am

    i feel arrogant just typing on BikePortland now.

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    • wilf December 6, 2013 at 12:04 pm

      My ride was very arrogant today. Luckily I was by myself most of the time bushwacking down the bluff, across switching yards and private industrial roads. Good times.

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  • pdxpaul December 6, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    I feel superior because I took the bus.

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  • Ted Buehler December 6, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Didn’t go out this morning.

    But last night I went shopping for a balaclava and mittens shell. Found a good Balaclava at Universal Cycles on 22th and E Burnside. But no luck with mittens. Went to REI, Universal, River City, Bike n Hike, City Bikes, and Next Adventure.

    I love a good pair of mittens shells — wear them over your gloves on days like this, and having all 4 fingers in one compartment keeps them nice and cozy.

    I saw an amazing array of gloves and lobster gloves. I’d never been to Universal, River City, Bike n Hike or Next Adventure before, and I was very impressed with the sheer quantity of rain gear in stock. But, nary a pair of mittens to be found.

    Ted Buehler

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  • Ben December 6, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Riding in from Woodlawn in NE to downtown was a pure treat this morning at 7am. Falling flakes glimmered in my front lights and the almost imperceptible hush of tires on fresh snow was music to my ears. I saw only a few other brave souls biking inbound on Vancouver and at least two more folks with bikes waiting in bus shelters (perhaps banking on a drier ride home this afternoon).

    The only slightly hairy spot was the 100 feet or so of metal decking on the Broadway Bridge. I dismounted to take a few photos and found is more slippery on foot than tire. It wasn’t quite like biking to college classes years ago in upstate NY, but it was a pretty great way to start a Friday.

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  • Tom December 6, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    The wind out here in East county is howling , I’m retired and have no compelling reason to get out in it. The cold doesn’t bother me , but when the wind blows you sideways .. πŸ™

    Better to huddle around the woodstove today.

    Arrogant enough ?

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  • GlowBoy December 6, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Funny how it looked like they de-iced the bike zone, but not the pedestrian zone, on the Hawthorne Bridge this morning.

    Anyway, no worries in the flurries today. With a Schwalbe Marathon Winter up front, ski goggles on top, ski gloves on the hands and Lake winter boots on the feet, I’m toasty-warm with loads of traction, though I still modified my route to minimize riding next to cars.

    Guess it’s pretty arrogant of me to enjoy this weather so much, but I do.

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  • Neilz December 6, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Lovely ride, 2.3 tyres down to 20lbs, peaceful.

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  • Adam Gnarls December 6, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Swapped out the 1 1/2 mile ride for a wonderful walk through the snowdrifts (only because, as others have pointed out, the roads tonight are bound to be icy…..thanks internal combustion engines!)

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  • Adam December 6, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    I live on the Multnomah cycle track. I am too chicken to bike in the snow (mostly because I don’t have disc brakes, and with regular brakes, I find the snow tends to accumulate on the brake pads til eventually my wheels won’t turn around). I took the bus this morning, and it was fun to see all the cyclists on Multnomah while I waited at the bus stop.

    I also noticed how slowly the car drivers were. It was a Christmas miracle. Literally my first thought as I got to my bus stop to wait was, “Holy holy, why doesn’t it snow in Portland every single day”.

    This must have been the safest day of 2013 to be a bicyclist or pedestrian, because all the car traffic is driving at about half the speed it usually does, meaning your chances of getting creamed were also halved. Amazing.

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  • Lillian Karabaic December 6, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    I commute at 5:30AM so there wasn’t any snow on the ground yet – just a few flurries that weren’t sticking. The bike valet (at the aerial tram) was the slowest I’ve worked this morning, but those that did ride said it wasn’t too bad – folks usually complain more about rain than they did about the snow today.

    I’m now back home from work with hot cocoa and space space heater.

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  • Kate D December 6, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    I biked in, but admit it was a little inadvertent in that I didn’t realize it was snowing/ had snow on the ground until I had wheeled out my bike from the basement. At that point I was already running behind for my 7:30 am coffee mtg, so I decided to risk it on my hybrid with regular brakes, coming down from NW hills.

    The snow was actually pretty dry and sticky and I used a lot of precaution approaching intersections/ red lights. Also, cars were super courteous and took a wide berth so overall it was a really pleasant commute in.

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  • spare_wheel December 6, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Put CX tires on the “B” commuter, adjusted fenders, adjusted brakes, and inflated to ~45. Totally over-prepared!

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  • Dick Schouten December 6, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    There was little snow but lots of wind in Beaverton this morning. What snow there was was very dry, fine and powdery. With a little caution I rode from home north on SW Murray to the MAX Milikan Station in little more than 15 minutes and than from there via MAX to work in Hillsboro without incident.

    I left a long line up of cars behind me as I went up Murray.

    Washington County Commissioner Dick Schouten

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    • steph routh December 6, 2013 at 1:55 pm

      Thanks for the Commissioner’s report, Dick!

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  • jyl
    jyl December 6, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Clear roads when I rode in from NE to downtown at 5 am, then I watched downtown get white from my office window. I got called home mid-morning, by then the snow was mostly gone from the traffic lanes but the bike lanes were still snow-covered. I guess 700C 25mm 100 psi road tires aren’t ideal for snow but I had no problem, with some caution. Very few cars even then, so it was fun. Wish we had snow mornings more often.

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  • Scott December 6, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    No way, not where I live. Good luck stopping or turning on the unpaved streets and the hills around SW Portland. Riding may work if you live in the flats of the east side, but I’ve had enough broken bones from ice and snow to know better than to even bother hauling my bike out today.

    The only laws that matter when you’re riding are Newton’s.

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  • steph routh December 6, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    The I-205 path was delightful. The sound wall shielded the wind, which was an added bonus. And the drivers were nice on Burnside!

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  • Todd Boulanger December 6, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Jonathan – perhaps there is an article in this question – do PBoT crews add the deicer to bike lanes/ bike tracks on arterial routes that get the deicer treatment for the motor vehicle lanes?

    And if there is a bike blvd route parallel to the arterial route without a bike lane that is treated with deicer…does the bike blvd route get deiced too (since it is local street that has a higher function for bike traffic – a bike arterial of sorts?)

    And then the same can be asked about snow plowing too.

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    • dwainedibbly December 6, 2013 at 5:16 pm

      They de-iced the north end of Terwilliger earlier this week and did NOT spray the bike lanes.

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  • Maria December 6, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    I left my Nokkian studded tires in Pittsburgh before I moved here in March thinking that I’d never need them in Portland. Wrong! I’m going to pick up a pair of studded tires ASAP. My commute from NoPo to UP would have been just lovely with them this morning. I think I’m going to do a combination of walking/scootering/coasting/and praying to get home from work this evening.

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  • Marcus December 6, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Dropped the pressure in my Pasela’s and turned a slower cadence. I didn’t have any problems dressed in my normal winter gear. My commute partner went down…but that was mostly due to his arrogance. There wasn’t ice under the snow so it really wasn’t too slick. I also made sure I put on my humility helmet so I didn’t come off as too arrogant to the other brave souls braving the cold weather…then again back home we call half a foot of snow a normal commute so I’m not sure what the big deal is. We just shared a danish when we got to work and called it a fun ride in.

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  • Forrest December 6, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    Imagine a place where you can bike in the snow 120+ days out of the year, where lakes freeze solid and winter bike races are held on them, where 20 degrees (above) is t-shirt weather, and with all this factored in, still has a 12-month average commute share on par with Portland’s. We welcome you would-be winter commuters in Minneapolis anytime! But seriously, enjoy the snow riding, it never ceases to excite. See my flickr link to view my no-nonsense winter set up…

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  • Ted Buehler December 6, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    If you’re unaccustomed to riding on ice, make sure you drop your seat a couple inches before going out. Makes you more stable, and better able to use your a foot to keep yourself upright if your wheels go out from under you.

    I just rode from Fremont to Woodlawn and back, very slick out there. Biggest danger is getting run over by a car if you wipe out. Be careful out there, folks. Ride slow, slow down well before turns and stops.

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  • q`Tzal December 6, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    Be careful:
    Having to chain up north of Roseburg. As the sun was setting the temperature started dropping rapidly and deicing suddenly stopped working.

    As I was cresting a hill (elevation less than 600 feet) headed down to exit 148 on I-5 I slowed to 15mph after I saw one minivan start to spin out at 20-25mph on the newly formed ice. As I dropped back to 10mph cars passed me and they all did a little of the same. Even the chains weren’t preventing my truck from trying to start a jackknife.

    Expect people driving tomorrow to hit these patches of black ice at full speed tomorrow morning thinking the road is ok.

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  • Mike December 7, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    I see some people with kids on the back of their cargo bikes and it seems very irresponsible to me. I’m all for riding in inclement weather and showing your kids that there are alternatives to cars but sometimes it can be too unsafe. If there is ice on the streets you have little or no control. Sometimes it’s better to swallow your pride and protect your kids

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    • Alex Reed December 8, 2013 at 7:30 am

      Did you ride yourself yesterday? You might be surprised to learn that traction was fine (dry snow, little ice) at least in my part of Southeast. I would have felt fine about riding with kids yesterday albeit I would have been happier to have them in a trailer or a bakfiets box than the back of an Xtracycle (lower center of gravity & less distance to ground in event of a skid). I think the danger of a collision with a car was actually less than usual because people were driving so cautiously.

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    • Greg December 8, 2013 at 4:24 pm

      “Swallow your pride”? I think the current meme here is “Swallow your arrogance”.

      You may be surprised to know that the extra weight of a bike trailer can increase your stability in inclement weather. A trailer that attaches to the rear axle is adding weight at a low center of gravity, which improves the traction of the rear wheel. Obviously, the rider needs to compensate for the extra weight by going slower and increasing braking distances.

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  • Mark Syme (@MarkBikeFanatic) December 8, 2013 at 12:31 am

    The worst that I have to deal with is summer storms trying to blow me off! Not sure if I could deal with snow at all – would love to try though:-)

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  • 2wo Wheel December 9, 2013 at 5:02 am

    Looks like to much fun! I’m envious.

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  • GlowBoy December 9, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Don’t really know if it’s weather related, but I’ll post it here anyway. There was some sort of malfunction with the Hawthorne Bridge bike counter this morning. When I rode by at 8:15, it only read “0025”. Pretty sure there would have been that many bikes in the previous 3-4 minutes.

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    • Neilz December 9, 2013 at 3:08 pm

      There was a power outage downrtown just before that. It also read 25 when I passed at 8:15 !

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  • John Liu
    John Liu December 9, 2013 at 10:16 am

    I wonder if the air hoses or the air in them are affected by cold (stiffer? freeze?) such that they don’t register bike crossings. It was around 18 F early this morning, on the bridge I imagine it was colder.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu December 10, 2013 at 5:49 am

    Light dusting of snow in inner NE this morning at 5:30 am. No problems for riding, no icing that I saw, even on the Burnside bridge. Hardly any snow in downtown. Has warmed up a tad.

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    • GlowBoy December 10, 2013 at 9:54 am

      Likewise, saw a light dusting in inner SE and very little downtown. But significantly more out here in Beaverton, enough to make things white all over and possible make things a bit slick here and there.

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  • Carye bye December 10, 2013 at 7:05 am

    I reopened the Facebook page : I fell off my bike on the ice from 2009, since I once again did just that. The morning of the first snow, I went back and forth about riding or bussing and decided to ride as the snow was new and there were no icy reports. I had a nice gentle ride 2.5 miles from laurelhurst area towards downtown and then on Taylor by the goats I hit a huge icy patch on the hill. Nothing I could do, but all the extra cold layers gave me padding and I didn’t hurt myself. I saw some dude zipping so fast a few blocks down. But I decided not to risk falling again as the risks if getting run over is too high. I enjoyed many long walks and a couple bus rides. It was alright.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu December 11, 2013 at 5:40 am

    Roads in inner NE were a little slick this morning. Not unrideable but keep your wheels under you and use brakes gently. Slow for turns and give yourself extra stopping distance, just like if you were driving.

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