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The weather
galadrion
  Galadrion here, reporting from work.

I just got here, walking in as opposed to biking, and boy am I glad I opted that way. Not only is it rather chilly out there (below freezing), but the humidity is rediculously high for the temperature... which adds up to one thing: icy patches everywhere. Slid several times on the way, but I was taking it easy so I never actually fell. (Kestrel, be careful out there today - and at all costs avoid those stairs at Streets of Tannasborne: they're gonna be deathtraps today!) Here's how bad it was: I saw two seperate accidents on a two-mile walk, at five freakin' AM! On a road which is nearly deserted at that hour, yet.

Right, enough of that.

Do you people who drive realize just how much you miss that way? Okay, so it was cold, and I was out in it for... well, forty-five minutes this morning; it's usually a half-hour walk, but as I said I was taking it slow. But the cold isn't really too bad out there, and with a little planning, you can dress for it pretty easily. But as I was walking in, it started snowing - little tiny flakes just drifting down, pretty and gentle. I'm willing to bet that the people whipping past me (at way too high a speed for these conditions, incidentally - as two people illustrated quite pointedly) either didn't see it at all, or only saw it as yet another annoyance. It seems a shame, really. There's so much out there that you really ought to take the time to look at, but nearly no one does any more.

Case in point: as I was crossing Rock Creek, I heard an owl hoot - very clearly. Too clearly: normally, they're fairly far back into the trees, but this one wasn't. I stopped and took a look in that direction, and there was this simply huge owl sitting on a tree limb not more than twenty feet from me, just watching. He (?) met my eyes, blinked a couple of times, and then stretched out his wings and took off, circling behind me and winging off across the road into the trees. Beautiful. And nothing I'd have ever seen in a car.

No real point to this, but it was a nice experience. Get out there, folks. There's a whole world to see, and it won't wait for you...

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Three words you need to learn about bicycling in cold weather...

Nokian...

Extreme...

294...

That number at the end is the number of metal studs.
Trust me, ice is no problem anymore.

If those are too expensive(about $100 each, I believe), then you could also try the Continental tire. It has only 280 studs, but is supposed to be good, too...

Or if money is absoutely no problem, the Nokian Hakkapeliita 300. (The most important reason to get that one is that it's half a pound lighter than the 294 )

Heh. What prevented me from biking today wasn't the thought of ice - although I can see how my entry would tend to lead your thoughts that direction - but a few other factors. First, moving that quickly through cold damp air gets unpleasant - rapidly. Walking might take longer, but it trims away the effective twenty- to thirty-mile-an-hour wind trying to cut through my clothes. Second, there's a fairly good chance of ice and/or snow falling when I'm expecting to come home; biking through that strikes me as even less pleasant than cold, damp air, whereas if I'm walking, I can use an umbrella. And third, it's not really my control I'm worried about - and as at least two drivers can testify, I'm somewhat justified in that worry. In a bicycle-car collision, it doesn't matter who's at fault; the bicycle loses. Last winter, someone put a car through a stone wall along that route; I can probably dodge much better on foot than I could on wheels.

Good advice, though. I'll look into those.

Trust me, with those tires you won't be going fast anyway...
(26" rims, 2.1" wide. Very open pattern and with all those studs... I believe they're really made for off-road cycling.)

I'm happy if I manage an average of 10Mph on good roads.

As for cars getting out of control.
I guess I'm lucky in living in a country where studded car-tires is normal, and every driver is required to go through a special course in driving on ice and how to recover from skids.
(I had a bit of an experience, with my car losing rear-wheel traction and starting to skid at 80Km/h the other day, and I guess the training left traces as I immediately stepped on the clutch and started steering into the skid. A bit of dancing back and forth and the car was back under control. )

As for wet ice...
I've yet to fall while bicycling on wet ice.
The last time I took a tumble when on foot though, I landed on my backpack and smashed the LCD of my PDA. (A Psion netBook. Cost me $1000 to fix... )

Of course, I don't count the couple of times I've ditched when going down a steep downhill and had to avoid a car swerving wildly while trying to climb the hill. (Why do people drive rear-wheel drive cars, anyway? They're crap on ice)
Anyway, as I say to drivers, 'I can LIFT my bike out of the ditch, you can't lift your car, can you?'...

Two miles?
(That's about 3.2Km)
Before I moved to my new apartment I lived about 2Km from the office.(And mostly downhill) It was nice to know that it was only a 6minute ride from home(7 if the traffic was bad), and that it would in fact take me longer to drive to the office...
(Now I have a 23Km road, with a 2.7Km tunnel in the middle, which means biking isn't a good idea anymore. At least not during rush-hour. Tunnel + Rush = not good)

Tunnel + Rush = not good

I hear you on that. Add in the fact that even in this relatively bike-friendly city, bicycles are pretty much "second-class citizens" on the roads, and I think you can probably understand why I prefer to take the sidewalk where possible. The curb makes it that much harder for an aggressive driver to crowd me.

Why do people drive rear-wheel drive cars, anyway? They're crap on ice

Because they're cheaper, thanks to the way the automotive industry evolved - all the earliest successful mass-production vehicles were rear-wheel drive, since the engineering was simpler, and once practical front-wheel/four-wheel drive designs were developed, they had to compete with the economies of scale the rear-wheelers already had. They're gaining, but industry changes slowly. And ice, unfortunately, doesn't factor into it much - most of the people making the decisions don't live where it matters more than a couple of weeks a year.

Incidentally, I've been curious for a while: what's your nearest good-sized city? I lived in Stavanger for about four years a while back.

How can rear-whel drive be cheaper to make?

They have that long driveshaft, the 'tunnel' for it all through the car, gearbox and diff is two different boxes...
Sure, the front-wheel suspension is slightly less parts, but the rear-wheel suspension gets that back.

My nearest good-sized city?
Well...
I live almost exactly midway between Bergen and Trondheim, near the town of Molde. (Known for roses, a great view and an international Jazz festival)

Unfortunately, we live in SE and the Tanuki works in Beaverton, so walking or biking isn't a viable option. He reported much icy unpleasantness this morning.

I can believe it. Tell him to be careful coming home, and if you're going out today, you be careful too. Remember that it's not just your control you need to worry about.

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