If you ride all winter long, there is a shift in riding habits that must adapt when the weather turns cold. Preparing for the ride with cold-weather gear, allowing the bike to adequately warm up, and generally taking it slower, are some of the things that pop to mind. I have ridden through the past few winters, and I take these things into account when I get ready to ride. But in the past few days, with the temperature dipping down into the teens, I have become really concerned about ice….
I am always aware that ice may accumulate when you see that rain or snow has fallen, and in fact I expect it. On those days, I decide not to ride at all. But what about the days when the sun is shining, there has been no precipitation, and the roads look decent? What I noticed yesterday was a build-up of ice in unusual places. The ice I’m talking about comes from odd sources, and can catch you off-guard, if you are only looking for ice where it “should” be.
I found myself leaving the apartment quite early yesterday. The skies were clear, the sun was out, and the roads looked great. The problem was, I was following 30 minutes behind the trail of garbage trucks, which dump nasty liquid all along their route. This unspeakable mess turns to ice, in unpredictable patterns along the road, making avoidance nearly impossible. There is almost no way to choose a line up the street that will avoid it completely.
The other unexpected ice formations I’ve noticed come from the condensation that drips from cars, most likely from the exhaust, while an automobile warms up. This drips onto the ground, and within minutes, if the temperature is low enough, turns to a thin layer of ice. These patches are found mostly along the side of the road, but occasionally at stop lights and stop signs. I found just such a patch at the foot of the garage driveway, causing a scare when I turned in to enter the shop.
So, for the remaining winter months, make sure you are on the lookout for the garbage sludge along your riding path, and keep an eye peeled for the gauntlet the Department of Sanitation leaves behind…