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tl-w.gif (842 bytes)tr-w.gif (841 bytes)Frank 'N Fred

In which Fred hears about riding in winter.

Hey Frank, buddy! What are you doing on that bike? Aren't you cold?

Hi, Fred. Oh, this isn't so cold. It's over forty degrees today! This is easy to handle if you dress right. We talked about this, remember?

Shoot, I'm almost shivering just sitting here in the Rambler! Course, the old heater doesn't work like it used to, and the duct tape on that window's kind of loose, but still! You won't get me out on a bike in weather like this! When it gets this cold, it's only natural to take the car.

That's interesting. The whole human race has been pretty unnatural for a long, long time, then! I've always thought cars were kind of unnatural! Fred, if you got out of the car and got your blood pumping, you'd be plenty warm.

Man, you're really something. So when do you stop riding? Christmas?

Oh, I ride a lot less in the winter, I admit, but I don't guess I ever really stop. If the roads are dry, I'll occasionally ride down into the 20s. And it's even possible to ride on snow - but please, be very, very careful if you try it!

Hey, don't worry about me trying it! Shoot, how come you don't fall on every patch of ice?

Well, you've got to be careful, and it's not just ice! You have to watch where you're going, and try to avoid the slippery stuff, if possible. Ice, wet leaves, wet steel are all very slippery. But if you can't avoid them, coast over slippery spots, perfectly straight and steady and you should do fine. Of course, on a bad surface, it's better to ride slow, and avoid traffic.

So if you're on something slippery, you hit the brakes to slow down?

No, you don't hit the brakes! Just coast! Sudden moves like braking or turning skid the bike.

Great. So I can't brake and I can't turn. See why I don't ride in winter?

But you have to know this even in July! There's always the possibility of a slippery patch - like loose gravel, for instance.

And I don't mean to say you can't ever brake or turn. You just brake or turn carefully when it's slippery. If it's really bad, be ready a to put a foot down. And whatever you do, don't let the front wheel skid. Do most of your braking in the back.

Front wheel, back wheel, what's the difference?

If the back wheel skids, the bike will wiggle a bit, but you probably won't fall. If the front wheel skids, you'll fall immediately! Steering the front wheel is what keeps you balanced.

Look, Fred, I'm not telling you to plow through the snow in traffic. But a good rider can certainly ride in less than perfect conditions. Actually, it's not the cold that stops the most dedicated cyclists. It's the darkness. It gets dark so early in the winter.

You don't ride in the dark?

Oh, I ride in the dark, but lots of people don't. I think most people aren't willing to buy a decent headlight for their bikes. Take a look at my headlight. See? I've actually got several I can use, plus taillights and reflectors. We'll have to talk about lights someday.

But cars have headlights. They should see you. Why do you need lights?

Well, it's illegal to ride at night without them - but, sad to say, most police officers ignore cyclists who break laws. More important, it's foolish and dangerous to ride without lights. How am I going to avoid road hazards if I can't see them? I might hit a pothole or something worse.

Yeah, I guess you wouldn't want to fall and bend your good bike.

Oh, I don't want to fall even on a bad bike! But that points out another tip: there are many people who keep a special bike for winter. It can be neat to visit a thrift shop or garage sale and pick up a "beater bike" to fix up for winter. I once got a nice one for just $12! You might even find an old three-speed. Those hub gears aren't bothered by slush and salt. You can fix it up with big fenders and good lights. Some guys even stud their tires for when it's really slick!

Wow, studded tires on a bike! I'd never think of that! Where do you come up with these ideas?

Actually, the best place I know for winter ideas is the Icebike website. It's devoted to people who ride through the winter, no matter what! Whether or not you ride through blizzards, you might find it interesting. It's on the web at http://www.icebike.com/

But even if you don't get a special bike, you can still ride in the cold and enjoy it. There are lots of days when the roads are dry, even in winter. Just dress right, watch the road surface, and light up at night. Oh, yes, one more tip...

Yeah? What else?

Stay vertical, Fred.

- Frank Krygowski

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By Frank Krygowski

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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08/16/11
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