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
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
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
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
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
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