I’d like to report that, so far, cycling through my second winter season has been fairly easy. Last winter, the first one I ever cycled outdoors through, was filled with snow and ice. I managed to average about three days a week throughout the cold weather and remember saying to myself, “Well, if I could bike through that winter I could probably bike through most of them”. It was that cold and snowy. This year it’s been cold out but so far only one snowstorm. Two if you count the one back in October but I wasn’t counting that freak occurrence. I don’t know how it happened that we’ve had such a mild winter so far especially since there seemed to be snow falling every week of last year but I’ll take it.

I recently saw a TV show in which a scientist was asked a question. Why did people ever bother to move into the cold areas of the world? The scientist answered by saying that with enough clothes people were as warm in colder climates as they were in hotter climates. It was such a simple answer. And that’s also how simple my bike riding has been this winter. With no snow and ice on the road I haven’t had to change off of my summer route. My riding is the same as in the summertime except I’ve got on warmer clothes. Layers and layers of warmer clothes.

There was one close moment though when, maybe, I shouldn’t have been on my summer route. Keep in mind that with only one snowstorm up to this point I was on my summer route except for one day on the winter one. And I wanted to be on my summer route. It’s more fun. The winter one is shorter and I have to do three laps of it. I hate laps. Laps are boring. I much prefer the longer one-pass summer route but the winter one is on residential roads with less traffic so I can easily avoid the ice and snow that gathers on the side of winter roads. That sure takes priority when there’s ice and snow about.

It was a morning after a cold night when a little bit of snow and rain had fallen. Not enough to really get the plows out. I walked my bike to the top of my driveway to check out the road. The temperature was a few degrees above freezing and the road looked mostly wet but there was a little snow at the side of the road. Not much snow and it was melting. As I preferred my summer route I decided to ignore the little bit of snow and take the good weather ride.

The road was clear of snow and the wetness of road wasn’t too much of a problem. I don’t like riding when the road is wet because my bike has no fenders so road filth gets thrown up onto the back of my pants and windbreaker but that’s par for the course on any wet day. Warm or cold. My bike has a few rusty parts from all the riding I’ve done on wet days and it sure does get dirty but I’d rather ride in the wet than not ride at all. No, the problem came as I was going down my favorite hill.

I like hills. I like powering up them and I especially like rolling down them. A flat bike ride is pretty dull. I have a few good hills on my route but my favorite is Reservoir Road. It’s a nice long downhill with a curve in the middle before it turns back uphill. I can go flying down it then hit the curve fast before powering up the other side. Not only is it fun to go down but it ends up being about the fastest I ever go uphill. But on this day it was the curve in the middle that was the problem. Curves are where physical forces meet.

Luckily I saw it coming. I hadn’t run into any patches of ice on the road up to this point but as I was coming down the hill I looked ahead and saw some slush on the curve. “Not ice”, I thought. Just a bit of slush. It must have been built up from cars making that turn and piling up the snow just a little bit in that place. Since it was above freezing and I had seen no other ice along the way I couldn’t quite believe my eyes but I applied the brake and slowed down anyway. Good thing I did because my bike began to wiggle just then.

I don’t know how many people have felt the sensation of a rear bicycle tire slipping out from under them but it’s not a fun one. As a teenager I had my bike slide sideways on some unexpected November ice and I ended up skidding along the ground on my side. I was lucky not to be hurt especially since this was in the days before most of us even knew bike helmets existed. That’s 1982 for you.

This time on this hill I only got the wiggle but even a wiggle is disconcerting. As I slowed down my back wheel hit the little bit of slush and slid from side to side. The front wheel sliding a bit is nothing but the back wheel has my body weight over it so I can really feel that. It’s like, “I’m about to go down! No I’m not! Yes I am! No I’m not!” all in the space of a second or two. I don’t think I really came close to sliding down. It was only a small slip but If I hadn’t have checked my speed it could have been a real problem. It was about then that I thought I should have taken my winter route.

Only one weather related thrill this winter is pretty good. Not that I had many of them last winter but my winter route was picked to minimize all thrills. Maybe that’s why I don’t like it as much. It’s not even mid-February as I write this and there is some more snow moving in tomorrow so I don’t think this ice free cycling is going to last the rest of the winter but so for this winter’s riding has been just as the man said. Like in a warm climate only with more clothes on.