Monday, December 22, 2008

Snow commute? Why not?

The ride to work last Thursday was downright fun. Snow was coming down hard, the cars were at home where they belonged and cruising to work was a pretty simple matter.

The ride to work today was different. There was 15" of snow at my home. Only a few cars, alpine skiiers and snow mobiles were moving about. My initial 1.5 miles down hill from NE 80th St to the Ballard locks was a riot. I spent more time unclipped with a foot on the ground as I did clipped in pedaling.

The ride from the Ballard locks to the bike route at Interbay was simple and uneventful - except for the total ass working for Burlington Northern who decided to pass me going down the hill to the Burlington Northern parking lot. Apparently annoyed by the car I was following, he pulled next to me and forced me off the road into a 3' snow bank. Fortunately, I was able to simply fall over into the pile of snow, climb out, catch up and get his license plate and truck number. Stupid people suck...

The ride from Interbay to Elliott Ave took about 35 minutes. There were more alpine skiiers than walkers and I was apparently the only cyclist for the morning. The skiiers packed down a nice little track about 14" wide in the 10-24" of snow. The only trick was keeping the bike on the track. All those cyclocross races helped, but I stayed on the track far less than 1/2 of the time. The rest of the time, I was pushing through the deep snow.

Arriving at work, I was greeted by the friendly sales guy who lives on Vashon Island who suggested: "You make stupid look good". Hmm, I guess that was a compliment!


Heather said...

Hello, Mr. Connors!

I stumbled across your blog in the "seattle+bikes" search. I am a Chicago fixed-gear biker planning on moving to Seattle in the coming months. I was wondering if, in your opinion, riding fixed-gear in Seattle is unwise, and if one would be advised to sell said fixed and opt for a geared bike once arrived in Seattle? Thanks, and happy biking!

-Heather Mitchell

Nic Pottier said...

Hi Heather,

I ride a fixie in Seattle, but I wouldn't really recommend it. I wouldn't necessarily go geared though, just give yourself the ability to coast and go singlespeed. The number of hills really isn't a problem on the way up, but its hard to find a gear that works on the way up without gearing out completely on the way down.

At this point I ride a fixie only because I'm too lazy to put a freewheeled gear on the back.

Note that there are a decent number of fixies in town though, so even if you kept it, you wouldn't be alone. Perhaps everybody is just stubborn.

Kevin Connors said...

Like Nic points out, there are a significant number of fixies around town and they get by just fine. You should use some real data when making your decision:
1. What kind of commute will you have in Seattle, and how often will you commute? There is a great web site that will allow you to use google maps to plot your commute and get a look at elevation changes:
As an dedicated commuter with 2 hills >200' each way, I would not be happy with a single speed.
2. Will you be interested in other non-commuting related cycling activities? Cycling is also a very social activity in our area. Throughout the summer, there are many very cool group rides, and a geared bike is the normal (but certainly not only) choice. See Cascade Cycling Club for more info on some of the possibilities. You might also check out their message board for more open opinions on this topic.
3. Lastly, how much do you love your fixie? This is probably the most important question. If you have a close connection with your fixie, keep it, get the gear ratio setup for your commute and enjoy it.

Ted Diamond said...

"Mr. Connors?" Kevin, is that your dad?

Good advice, all. I don't ride a fixie, but since when has ignorance stopped me from contributing an opinion?

I rode fixed gears in Chicago and Ann Arbor long ago, and the terrain here is so different from there that, at the very least I'd want a brake.