Snow Day report: I made it, did you?

I made it home from work without any trouble yesterday. I skipped riding the trails because they were not plowed at all and we had about five inches of snow on the ground by the time I left the office. As I turned onto my street, one of my neighbors took a break from shoveling his sidewalk to cheerfully shout “You made it!” I smiled and shouted back “Yes I did!”

This morning, when I headed out for a photo shoot in the Riverwest Neighborhood, I had about a foot of snow in the back yard of my West Side home. The side streets were plowed enough to make travel pretty easy. The main motor vehicle travel lanes of the arterial streets were plowed and heavily salted. There was a few inches of slush in the bike lanes, but it was not a problem, so I had a fun, incident free ride to the shoot.

In fact, as you can see by my Endomondo ride summary, I averaged a little over 11 mph for the ride on my single speed mountain bike with Nokian W106 Mount and Ground tires. Even without the snow, that is a reasonable average speed for city travel with all the stopping and starting for traffic signals. At least it is for a typically slow old man like me.

How was your commute?

Did you use the trails or stick to the streets?

Did you get any cheers of adulation?

Anyone call you crazy?

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

17 thoughts on “Snow Day report: I made it, did you?

  1. My five-mile ride in Madison was a little challenge because the return route took me straight into the 25mph winds and snow. This city does a bang-up job of clearing bike paths. I hate riding in the mashed-down tire ruts of cars and trucks when there’s thick snow. Rule #1 of bike commuting: minimize your contact with motor vehicles whenever you can.

  2. Of course I rode in to work and back. Why not? I had to plow through the drifts this morning, of course, and they did not clear the snow off the sidewalk on the bridge (still), so I rode in the traffic lane (again) and only had one psycho lay on the horn for 1/2 mile or so. The bridge is 105 feet wide-you would think that he could pass? Good thing I have a 12 volt lighting system on my winter bike-I mounted a “freeway blaster” car horn (125 dbl). Great fun!!!

    • Dude,

      Are you kidding me? That is sooooooo cool! I hope you don’t mind, but I am going to share that video on the Bike Fed blog this morning. Feel free to give me any more details.

  3. I ussually don’t ride in Winter But I’d like to commute next winter would a commute of 24 miles round trip
    During the winter sound to out landish? I know what type of gear I’d need thats not the problem My Co workrs would think I’m nuts. Hopefully next winter I’ll be ready.

    • John

      Winter cycling is safe a reliable as a means to get to and from work. I have been doing it for 5 years in conditions worse that what we see in Milwaukee (Minneapolis) I just returned from a conference on winter cycling in Finland. Now those guys know how to ride bikes in the winter.

      My trips to and from the office amount to about 35 Miles round trip and involve roads, paths, streets and big parking lots (Not recomended for bike riding) I am a league certified instructor and teach winter biking as well as regular bike safety.

      Key to helping you decide is understanding your objectives, experience and skills. One important way to build confidence is to partner on line with someone who does this or someone in real life. It provides a lot of good feedback.

      Getting started.
      1) plan your route and practice it when getting to work is not critical. Saturday’s and Sunday’s sometime afford a good opportunity. Look for features that work to your advantage. Figure out when traffic is greatest and least, Identify places of refuge (coffee shops and even bars are great places to sit out bad traffic) All of this route planning will improve your experience.

      2) build your skills. Snow, Ice, wind, cold are all winter elements that I have come to actually love because they make me feel alive and provde me a challenge that I can actual comprhend (that is as opposed to kids, work and the world economy) Road conditions are rarely consistant from place to place and time to time. These are not obsticals just facts.

      3) Finally find joy in what you are doing. I have yet to meet a day where riding my bike was a problem. There is no way that I would feel more comfortable in a car. I can meet my obligations and time commitments easly on my bike. I am a professional who wears a suit and tie. My other enjoyment is eating which is enhanced by cycling. I do all my shopping from my bike and can pack a lot into my back pack. My family has not starved yet.

      I would be more than happy to encourage you and talk further. Even accompany you on a winter bike ride to your work.


      • Tom,

        Thanks for the great winter cycling advice and the friendly offer to ride with John! That was both informative and super nice.

        John, as for the distance of your commute, 24 miles is definitely on the ver long end of the bike commute spectrum. My current ride is only 4 miles each way. My last job was 8 miles from home. Both of those are super doable daily bike commutes. My preferred distance is actually about 15 miles. That is long enough to be a real ride so you get good exercise, but not so long that it takes forever.

        My longest commute was when I built frames at Waterford Precision Cycles – 28 miles each way and I started at 5:30am. I totally enjoyed the three hours I spent in the saddle biking to and from work each day (and I loved working there), but eventually I had to quit because it was just taking too long. I still miss the rides and building those awesome bikes, but I just couldn’t make the bike commute work and I was not making enough money to make it worth buying a car.

        I assume you already have a car, so what I would suggest is to follow Tom’s advice above, and then set a goal of riding a few times a month or one day a week to start. If that works out, you can always ride more, but don’t tell yourself you are going to ride every day. That is honestly a pretty long ride to fit into your schedule.

        But it is great that you want to give it a go. Please do let us know how it is going once you try it!

  4. Oak Leaf Trail decent this Thursday morning from the Milwaukee border North to Estabrook Park, then not good. Estabrook Parkway fine too. When you are talking to the City and County folks about trouble spots for winter biking, please mention this one: The southeast corner of the intersection of Hampton Avenue and Port Washington Road. The crew that plows the park bike trail that runs on the southside of Hampton Avenue there invariably creates a wall of snow at that corner, which wall covers the sidewalk that runs along the eastside of Port Washington Road. That can be a trouble spot for a week after a good snow fall. Still, why put a suit and drive in a boring car to the office like a lot of other worker drones, when you could instead get on a bike and head out for what could be an epic adventure on your way to the office!

  5. I’m grateful that I have many options to me to get to work everyday – I can bike, walk, bus and drive. These particular days I drove.

  6. I’ll second what Brian said, the wind and snow coming off of Lake Monona was brutal. I walked twice for a stretch because I was standing up in first gear and making little headway and figured I could walk almost as fast as I was going.

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