Well, we sure got a dump of snow
last weekend Nov. 10, to the tune of 25cm (9.8″)! That Saturday night I decided it would be a good idea to go out for a ride. Am I crazy? Did I not see the forecast? Yes I am. Yes I saw it. I knew what was going on, but I still desperately wanted to test out my urban bike with ‘cross tires for the snow.
Earlier in the day, around 5:00pm, I had to go out for some errands. I took the Elantra, which was still fitted with my performance all-seasons, since I hadn’t had time to switch for the winter tires. Don’t get caught up in the word “performance”. They’re about the best performance/value I could find for the Elantra’s tire size, but I’m not putting high-end summer tires on a four-door econo sedan here. They do not perform in wet and most definitely not in snow. I was slipping all over the place, I couldn’t start from any stops, I couldn’t drive faster than about 30km/h on side streets; frankly it was more than unnerving, it was scary! I parked the car in the garage and vowed it wouldn’t come out until the snow tires were on.
Enter the bike. I was supposed to go to an improv show at Osbourne and River, about 6km from my house, and was supposed to be picked up by friends. “No problem”, I thought, “I’m not driving in this stuff anyway”.
Due to my lack of planning and my unwillingness to pay $2.75 service fee for advance tickets, I was looking at having to buy tix at the door. So now I could be stranded there if there were no tickets left. So now I had to get there on my own. Well I wanted to try out the bike with ‘cross tires in the snow, so I figured there probably wouldn’t be a better opportunity. I planned my route, avoiding busy roads, and headed out in it around 7pm.
Things started OK, but I quickly found the limitation of skinny (albeit knobby) 700×32 tires. Bike paths with trampled-down snow were extremely hard going, and side-streets with some packed tire tracks weren’t much better. I plodded on and made it to my destination. I locked up my bike and went in for a 2 hour show. I came out to 4-6″ more snow everywhere, with it still coming down!
I started walking back, figuring once I hit a decent street I could follow the tire tracks. Problem is, taking the side streets as I was and it being late, there were no tire tracks to speak of. I wrestled with the snow trying to keep on track, slipping off into deep mushy crap, and went back-and-forth across the tire tracks, wobbling all the way. I probably would have been more stable on a unicycle! I probably looked like I was on a unicycle. So I got off and pushed. Pushed for blocks and blocks plowing my bike through 6-8″ of snow, riding for a bit and failing, then pushing again. I actually found the best traction on the side, way off the tire tracks in virgin snow. It was up to my bottom bracket and my feet scooped up snow with every rotation, but I was able to go for a bit like that.
I ended up getting tired and giving up riding altogether, again pushing my bike for several km. Then, when it was too hard to push, I hoisted it up ‘cross style and walked the last few blocks with my bike on my back. I was so exhausted when I got home! I was soaked through with sweat and have never worked that hard on my bike (even in the cyclocross races I did). Boy did I learn my lesson!
So for the rest of the winter, it’s cross tires and urban bike out, MTB and studded tires in (I still have to make my studded tires, more on that later). Nonetheless, I’ve done a few more winter rides since then and still I say: “Bring it on winter!”