Snow ride, take it easy

Ridable conditions warm a winter cyclist's heart

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Jack Crowe

Cycling Columnist

Like the call "toga party" during college pledge week, nothing warms a winter cyclist's heart like a snow ride in early February.

Others cyclists might want to head to the basement for another ride on the trainer, but how often can you distract yourself with a mind (and rear) numbing trainer session while watching a 2007 Tour de France video?

This winter has been so cold that any chance to get outside and pedal needs to be exploited. This past Friday, the forecast was for ten inches of snow overnight and into Saturday afternoon but with the heaviest snow predicted mid-morning Saturday on.

Hmm. At thirty degrees, that meant that early Saturday morning could be ridable before the snow got too deep.

I use the term ride loosely. We were on mountain bikes with thick treads and we rode slow, as slowly as needed to stay upright. Sure we fell sometimes, but so do kids on sled hills.

We started riding at daylight. Oak Park? Municipal snow plowers must sleep in. The side roads were untouched, but five inches of not-yet-plowed wet fresh snow is actually pretty ridable.

Things improved in River Forest. The side streets had had at least one pass from the snow plows? We tended to bike in the car tire snow tracks.

The key is not to over correct when you feel the front wheel of the bike start to slip. Like Luke Skywalker using the Force, snow cyclists go whatever way the snow tracks tell them.

When you get to Elmwood Park and its snowing and you are on a bike and you see a giant snowplow with a sign on its back that says "Do Not Follow," that's what you follow. Behind that plow, the snowy road was as smooth as a baby's bottom.

We stopped by the Des Plaines River Trail over by Russell's Barbecue to see if it was ridable. It wasn't. The snow was too deep and the trail too rutty to pedal. So it was back to the streets.

One tip for snow cyclists: don't bother trying to ride within the Chicago city limits. The city doesn't plow side streets as a matter of municipal policy, making snow cycling all but impossible.

We had one last stop to make. Cycling and triathlete coach Tony Zamora was running a spin session at Greenline Wheels in Oak Park. He had about twelve sweaty cyclists working through an indoor training session.

We stopped outside, pounded on the storefront windows, and generally made a nuisance of ourselves. We invited our steamy selves in, like kids on spring break taunting others still doing exams.

After roughly two hours of cycling, we finished our adventure at Dahlia's Restaurant with Florentine skillets and Belgian waffles. There, drinking hot coffee, we plotted springtime cycling adventures.

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Foghat! from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2014 9:08 AM

Great headline!

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