Don’t fear the frozen sunshine; embrace it! (Inspiration and tips for snowmageddon)

Posted by on February 8th, 2019 at 2:04 pm

This man embraced the snow on a ride up North Williams Avenue during a storm in February 2014.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Snow is already falling in Seattle and it’s headed our way. The National Weather Service says we could get up to four inches by Saturday. And there’s more snow, ice and cold temps in the forecast all next week.

As we brace for the challenges and opportunities a winter storm brings, I thought it’d be helpful to share tips and open up a comment thread so we can share road conditions.

If you’ve read BikePortland for a while, you know we’ve been through this before. In fact our coverage of riding in the snow goes all the way back to the storm of 2005 when our headline proudly proclaimed, “Snow doesn’t deter local cyclists.” It seems like each year the local media and various agencies forget about cycling when the snow starts to fall. And each year we have remind them that — not only is cycling in the snow a legitimate transportation option, it’s often safer than driving, and it can be a ton of fun!

As we brace for yet another go-round with frozen sunshine, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Ice is not nice — unless you’ve got studded tires

These should do the trick.

As we mentioned earlier this week, ice is not your friend. If you see anything shiny or black, avoid it. That is, unless you are lucky enough to have studded tires. If you’re curious, our friends at Western Bikeworks have a great selection (I’ve ordered a set of these). And unlike studded tires on cars (which aren’t usually even needed, cause millions in damage each year, and are still not taxed or prohibited) you and your bike don’t weigh nearly enough to damage the roads. On that note, the Canadian city of Banff has subsidizes the purchase of studded bicycle tires!

Keep the PBOT Winter Weather Center Map open in your browser

If you want to keep track of which routes will be de-iced and plowed, look no further than PBOT’s slick, interactive winter weather road map. While the agency still hasn’t committed to plowing key bike routes and neighborhood greenways, knowing which roads will be cleared at least gives you something to work with. For more official links and info, see PBOT’s latest statement about the approaching storm.

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Biketown bikes are excellent snow-shredders.

Tips for a fun and safe ride

We’ve shared tips for winter riding in the past (remember to read the comments!), but here’s a refresher: Lower your tire pressure for better traction; lower your saddle so you can use your legs as outriggers for balance and stability; use as wide of tires as possible; take the lane if you can, because riding in the shoulder will encourage people to pass you unsafely and put you in the path of snowdrifts and other debris.

Grab a Biketown!

It just so happens that Biketown bikes are great in the snow. I tested one out during the 2017 Snowmageddon and it passed with flying colors.

Don’t assume you can’t ride

Every year when the snow hits the ground our inbox and timelines fill up with excited posts from readers who enjoy winter riding. So many people leave their cars at home when it snows that cycling can be even safer during storms. And if you have the right set-up, sloshing through the neighborhood on your bike can be one of the highlights of the year.

For more inspiration, check out the photos below and peruse our past coverage in the archives. Have fun out there and make sure to chime in to share road conditions and neighborhood intel as the storm rolls in.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

7 Comments
  • Avatar
    cbikes February 8, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    I luv these pics. They make me smile and warm my heart!

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    Laura February 8, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    In 1990 or so, Seattle got a snowmageddon. One day, at noon, people were out jogging in t-shirts…by 6pm, it was ankle deep snow; SR 520 was nearly shut down and even small hills caused the buses to stall out. The next day, my friend and I went “water skiing” with my studded-tire mtn bike and his XC skis. So much fun! We even got in the Seattle Times. Embrace the snow and have fun!

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      GlowBoy February 10, 2019 at 8:24 am

      I had just moved to Seattle when that storm hit. Took me an hour and a half to drive (didn’t think of biking in it, although I did ski) from the UW to Capitol Hill, where I found 18 inches of snow and had to chain up to get up the 3′ rise of my apartment’s driveway.

      I know a LOT of people who were stuck in their cars for 6 hours or longer that evening, and I also know people who finally gave up, walked away from their cars and went back to get them later. It really did catch everyone off guard.

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty February 9, 2019 at 9:47 am

    Maybe Sunday.

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    Vince February 9, 2019 at 8:44 pm

    Just opened the article. Banner photo has a guy riding in short sleeves, then the article has tons of snow photos. You messing with us Maus? Making us miss warm weather?

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    GlowBoy February 10, 2019 at 8:30 am

    Seconding Jonathan’s endorsement of studded tires. I commuted on a front studded tire (usually enough for Portland-level ice and snow) daily for 12 Portland winters. I know a lot of people have a hard time justifying that $70 expense (even on a $2000 bike, oddly enough) because you “only” need it a few days a year.

    Well, sure. That studded tire will easily last you more than a decade, easily a month or two of use in the long run. If you’re committing to riding in the snow and ice anyway, in that time it has a very good chance of saving you a broken clavicle or dislocated shoulder. I can guarantee either of those injuries will cost you a lot more than $70. What price peace of mind?

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    Todd Boulanger February 11, 2019 at 11:35 am

    So far no snow in Vancouver…BUT we go snow in Hawaii, actually Maui for the first time in the “modern” era. http://bigislandnow.com/2019/02/10/first-time-snow-falls-at-hawaii-state-park/

    I told my family to take back that snow and give it to the greater Vancouver/Portland Metro area.

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