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Monday, December 17, 2012


Yep, there's a chance of snow in the forecast. Maybe Tuesday.

After being away from Connecticut and its longish, somewhat snowy winters for over twelve years, I actually look forward to the idea of snow.* This is helped by seeing reports from other places where snow is more common. And more and more people are riding through snowy winters.

Of course, Portland and the west-of-Cascades Northwest does not have snowy winters. We are lucky to see one or two snowfalls a year. These could be little more than a dusting, or up to a couple inches like our last snowfall in January. We can get big snows here, though. They don't happen frequently, but there have been two significant snow/ice events here during the time I've lived in Portland: the ice/snow storm of January 2004, which left snow on the ground for a week (and burst the pipes in my uninsulated, not-well-heated abode), and the biggie, Snowpocalypse in December 2008 which lasted for an amazing two and a half weeks!

Since Snopocalypse, the only real significant snow I remember in Portland was the "surprise" snow of December 2009. (There was snow during the cabin camping trip to Stub Stewart for New Years 2011, but this was at a higher elevation, not in the valley, so it doesn't really count.) Oh sure, we've been teased many a time, and snow is such a fleeting thing here so you have to grab it by the cojones and enjoy it for the brief moment it happens.
Midnight snowfall, 18 January 2012.

And yep, I've biked a few times in the snow in Portland. The first one I blogged about was in December 2005, which got a mention on Bikeportland. (Jonathan was out of town, and the bike news pool was much smaller then, small enough that I warranted attention from him.) I managed to bike through some of Snowpocalypse 2008 with the aid of studded tires.

And yep, I still have studded tires. Now the question remains: will I put them on? I'll see how the forecast is going. If it's little or no snow (and not sticking on pavement), studs are overkill. And installing studded tires is a major pain in the ass. But if it looks like it's going to be significant, on they go. We'll just have to wait and see.
Click to embiggen.

*However, there is a fairly tight window of time where I feel snow is okay. Once we roll towards February with longer days and the promise of spring, I don't want to think about it anymore.


  1. I wouldn't bother with the studded tires unless things get icy as well as snowy... they work wonders on ice but any knobby tire will do for snow. If you get snow before me, which looks likely, I envy you. I'm all studded up and ready to go, but no winter (as I define it) so far in London Ontario... wishing you a white christmas - - Rantwick

    1. Things tend to get icy here more than anything else. I probably won't need to do anything, but the ice is what I worry about.

      And if you want winter, you can always move to Edmonton. I hear they get snow there.

  2. Snow in Olympia today, though it looks more like slush from my window. Will go for a walk in it later, but not that interested in bicycling in it (though I certainly have ridden in snow including a number of memorable commutes). Big problem here, probably there as well, is we get a we snow then it clears up and freezes. I'll ride any condition but ice.

  3. "Derailleurs can freeze up or get jammed with snow, so I stuck to my 3-speed internal hub bike. Single speeds are good, along with fixies"

    In my experience in a land with 6 months of winter each year, a cheap derailleur bike works fine as long as you have a full fender plus "mud/snow flap" extension to within about 1 inch from the ground. This keeps the crap from the front tire from getting into the chain and eventually into the derailleurs. Plus I occasionally wash the bike (two or three times each winter).

    Internal hubs are better of course, but it is still good to have the full fender to protect the chain and bottom bracket (even with chain guard, the fender protects the bottom bracket, at least quadrupling its lifespan). For me, the fender is much more critical than drive train type and often seems overlooked in winter riding advice.

    Plus, what is one to do in a land that is not overflowing with army surplus like America?? I guess we are left with paying more at Mountain Equipment Co-op! :-)


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