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A Winter Ride Experience

Safety Corner logoby Eli Post


Winter riding offers many challenges and for those in the Club who keep their wheels rolling year-round, it can be a rewarding experience. I am a fan of winter riding and encourage others to join me, but at the same time recognize that this end of the sport is not for everyone. Most riders simply do not wish to deal with the cold weather so they hang up their wheels, and wait for the early signs of spring.

If you do ride in winter however, there are considerations specifically associated with the season. Often a judgment call has to be made on the spot to decide whether road conditions are acceptable or might make riding hazardous. In fact, sometimes it is not clear and no single decision is the right one. Here’s an illustration from a recent ride. An impromptu Saturday ride was planned, as reasonable weather was forecast early in the week, but an ice storm the day before changed that. There was roughly 4” of rain in two days, and temperatures plunged. It caused a power disaster if you lived north and west of 495, but just a big rainstorm if you lived close to or inside of 128. New England weather obviously does not always conform to forecasts and the morning of the ride offered quite a surprise.

Chris George, the Ride Leader, started out from Newton where roads were dry and clear. The temperature was below freezing but sunny, perfectly fine for winter riding. However as he approached the start, he tentatively decided to call off the ride due to ice on the roads. Three other riders showed up, and they debated about doing the ride when Bob Wolf, a recent convert to winter riding, rode up on his bike. He reported that roads were mostly fine but that there were stretches where they would have to walk.

Then Rich Taylor, another CRW Ride Leader, drove up and said that he had fallen on his bike on the way to the start (on a stretch where Bob had walked). Some Good Samaritans had driven him home, where he got his van, and drove to the start to warn Chris about Tower Road where he fell. The small group ultimately decided to proceed. Chris activated his toe warmers, and they started the 29 mile ride, taking it slow to watch for ice. The four had a delightful ride, although there were several sections where walking was necessary, and there was an inconsequential low speed fall due to ice.

Tough calls come up frequently in winter cycling, but it is not necessarily fraught with peril. However, ice on the road requires extra care. Try to avoid the ice, but if you can’t, do not brake or turn on the slippery stuff. Watch for dry patches where you can brake or turn safely, and learn to focus more on the road than you ordinarily would. We hope you don’t let cold weather discourage you from riding. With the proper precautions and skills development, you can stay safe in cold weather conditions.

You might find winter riding far more satisfying than you ever imagined.

Postscript: A week after this ride Rich Taylor’s pain from the fall sharply increased and he sought medical attention. Unfortunately, the fall generated a hairline femur fracture, which required surgery. Rich now has a screw in his leg and cannot engage in weight bearing activity for several months. We all wish him a speedy recovery.

“Safety is about choices, what choice will you make?”

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