Friday, February 4, 2011

The Treacherous Pursuit of Safety

There was a lot of snow on my roof, with 3-4 foot drifts on the southern side. With the recent rash of buildings collapsing in Connecticut, I was getting nervous. My first attempt to shovel it on Monday afternoon was kind of terrifying, as the snow on the tarps currently covering some of the roof made me slip a couple of times. I cleared off the deepest drifts for a few hours and gingerly climbed back down the 40 foot ladder, determined to acquire some sort of safety harness before returning. Everything closed early on Tuesday, so first thing Wednesday morning I headed for a welding supply place on Murphy Road that carries safety gear. I chose the most direct route that featured major streets, as many side streets had not been plowed yet. Of the streets I rode, Park Street was the best and Wethersfield Ave was the worst. I had a pretty good wipeout on the latter street which left me with a sore wrist. Airport Road wasn't fun, either, come to think of it. It was a pretty sketchy ride that I didn't particularly enjoy.

I arrived at the store glazed with ice and soaked with sweat. They were already preparing to close early, and I was happy to get in under the wire. I bought an OSHA-approved harness and lanyard in a bucket. It was called "Compliance in a Can" which is my favorite product name since "Pope Soap on a Rope".

Having no desire whatsoever to retrace the route I had taken to get to the store, I followed Murphy Road to Reserve, past the regional market and Coltsville. The snow conditions were no better than the busy roads, but the minimal traffic made the return ride much better. I began to actually enjoy myself. The few cars and trucks I saw gave me a wide berth, and the only time I heard honking was a guy in an MDC truck giving me an enthusiastic thumbs-up. I found myself calmed and entertained by the sight and sound of slush churning around the tires and oozing out the leading edge of the front fender. It sounded like a Slurpee machine. Mmmm, salty.

The Mundo has been handling better than I could have ever reasonably expected in the snow. The 26x2.0 Schwalbe Marathons I recently installed are fat and smooth, which should make them utterly useless in the snow, but they worked; not well, mind you, but they worked. The rear wheel had surprisingly good traction as long as I kept my weight on the saddle. The front wheel was prone to handlebar-jerking deflection and washouts in the deeper, more irregular deposits of snow, but could be easily corrected in all but one instance. The front brake grew stiffer and a bit grabby, but never failed to work.

I still dream of building the ultimate winter city bike someday, but I'm satisfied that the current configuration of the Yuba can serve as my four season workhorse. There are a few minor tweaks I'll make, of course. I do want to rotate the front fender rearward, for instance, as a substantial amount of slush was flung at my feet and the bottom bracket shell. Minor details aside, it got me where I needed to go and it got me home again. Most importantly in this case, it helped me safely clear a lot of heavy snow off of my house which took a load off my roof and my mind.


Jones said...

riding in that snow looks exhilarating but I wouldnt ride unless I had spiked tires! gotta have some grip.

Yuba Bicycles said...

Awesome story. You're an inspiration. Ever consider studded tires?