Friday, December 19, 2008

Dashing through the snow...

He's not riding the wrong way. This photo is from the BBC.

When you take drivers ed in the snow belt regions of the northeast, you receive a wonderfully fun assignment: take a car out to an empty, snow-covered parking lot somewhere (away from any light poles) and throw the car into skids, slides, and spins. Do whatever you can: jam the steering wheel hard one direction, yank on the emergency brake...whatever. The instructor told us to do this because it's the only real way to learn how to control a car skidding in the snow. (Later in life, I used these skills to scare the crap out of a San Diego native who was experiencing his first Rochester winter).

Today, Connecticut is getting it's first snowstorm of the season. Around 1 pm or so, the snow started falling in the 'Beat, and we're getting about 1 inch per hour. All my coworkers scurried out to their cars to get home before it started piling up. While I left the option to throw my bike on a CT Transit bus open, I was really excited because this was the first chance I've really had to do a commute on more than a dusting of snow.

The Breezer was ready, except for not having any good knobby or studded tires. They're still pretty thick, so I had faith they would be adequate. I locked up the office at 3:00 and started down the incline from my parking lot. That lasted a whole 3 seconds before I took my spill, half-laughing. Right. Watch it on the hills. I spent the first couple of blocks working trying to get a feel for the technique and riding style I would need to get home. And that's pretty much when I remembered my lessons from drivers ed. You can think you know how to ride in snow, but it isn't until you force yourself to lose control when you really learn how to pull out of it and how to avoid doing so in the first place. By the end of my office park, I felt very comfortable with the skidding.

A couple of observations ala Larry King:

I found that my snow driving skillz translate very well to the bike: no sudden changes, countersteering, pumping the brakes....I would've thought that riding in car tire grooves would be preferable, but no...the fresh snow on the shoulder is the way to go. A couple of times I had to play the game "Oh! That's where the curb is." My black winter clothing in general isn't as visible in clear weather as it should be. But in a snowstorm? It's the most visible thing out there....Kids in East Hartford have terrible snowball aim. Missed me, punks! And I wasn't even going very fast....A set of goggles would've been handy. That's a wet snow out there, and my face got soaked....I saw more plows on empty residential streets than I did on the semi-major thoroughfares like Burnside Ave or Main St....Bunny hopping under bridges to knock the snow temporarily off of fenders, brakes, and you is pretty freaking fun. Going down hills that are normally fun is still fun in the snow, just more in a "I hope I don't die" kind of fun....From the Founders Bridge, the only reason I could see the Convention Center was because of the lights on the building. Couldn't even begin to make out where the Colt onion dome was....Hey, there are traffic cones set up on a bridge on Constitution Plaza, I think to mark and keep the drainage areas clear. I dare anyone to ride past them and not slalom!...The snow piling up and freezing in my helmet's vent holes makes for a very humorous version of helmet hair.


Joel said...

Well done Rich. I noticed the same thing about the car-packed snow vs. the plowed-but-unpacked-with-freshy-on-top shoulder. Hop on your skinny tire bike and try that- mine was knifing through the fluff.

chillwill said...

well done indeed