Terii’s Cycling Babble


My First Proper Snow Ride!
December 8, 2012, 6:55 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Well, with the Sprint at least!

Before the rude reality of how lethal snow was to the back derailleur on my Trice thrust itself into my ken, I made attempts to keep pushing those pedals through the chilly, short days of a turning year. I have a distinct memory of riding on the bike/foot path paralleling the 55 with a vast, field of pure white between the road and track. Loke pulling along as I spun the pedals, the Trice skidding along beneath the crystalline azure sky and the sun making the winter day sparkle. It must have been in late February because the day seemed brighter than it could be at this time of the year. Of course, it might be my memory playing with me since I haven’t seen the sun in ages.

I remember too, the fateful ‘crack’ as the back wheel slipped into a hard frozen ice rut about 2 inches deep hidden beneath the powder of new snow to leave the derailleur a mangled ruin. That was followed by a delightful walk home, dragging the Trice through mid-knee deep snow with an insane husky. Still quite young then, Loke was a major handful on the leash. In hindsight, I’m surprised snow didn’t gather in the chain and freeze like it’s did on other rides when I made sure to ride only in fresh snow which hadn’t had a chance to freeze into ruts.

With memories like that, I was quite excited when the roads and paths were finally plowed after our little blizzard. Nature’s temper tantrum didn’t last long, but dumped about a year’s worth of snow on us. The sidewalks have walls nearly three feet high to either side now. Though we’ve had snow that stuck to the roads for less than a week, they’re not just plowing, but scooping it into dump trucks to carry away. In 8 years here, I’ve only seen them haul snow away twice. Year before last when we had insane amounts of the pretty white, but that took weeks/couple months to build up. Not 1 single snowstorm and a few, short and light snow showers. Amazing to go from ‘above freezing’ to freighting snow out of town so quickly.

Squinting at the dreaded camera beep.

Squinting at the dreaded camera beep.

But after his walk with Loke yesterday morning, Jens announced that the paths had been plowed. He warned me there might be a couple of difficult spots, but it should be navigable.  So, shortly after 12 pm, Loke and I went out.

The furball was in a frenzy of glee. We shot off down the road, taking a right to follow the tree-lined median right behind a gravel spreading tractor like thing. On the broken snow pack, the trike bucked and skidded as Loke dragged on it with all his weight, tail raised like a banner and tongue flopping gleefully. On that rattling stretch, I gave my GoPro a frown as the jarring rampage had already managed to tilt the camera a bit to the left.

A little further on, we passed a couple of dogs. One was a cute white little thing. The other, I think, was Loke’s Malamute buddy. At least I think it was. It looked a lot like him, but he actually growled as we went by which is not what that dog does.

I love Loke’s Mally friend. He’s absolutely gorgeous. He stands about 4 inches taller than Loke and probably outweighs him by a good 20 or more pounds. His paws are bigger around than the palm of my hand. He’s a big bouncy bundle of love and doesn’t seem to notice Loke’s boorish behavior. He is also quite stunning. I’ve seen 4 Malamutes since moving to Sweden. 3 of them look like enormous Pomeranians. You could lose small items, even children in their long fluffy fur. I’d never seen Malamutes so furry in my life! Not even in photos!

Then there’s Furvis. His coat is not much longer than Loke’s, but softer and incredibly dense. He looks like a Malamute rather than an oversized Pomeranian, which is to say, a huge, big-boned, powerfully muscled Husky type.

But if it was Furvis, his reaction to our passing gave me a possible answer to a question I’ve had when Loke and I are out with the trike. So many dogs seem aggressive. Are they really or is it just the strangeness of the trike combined with Loke’s running presence that sets them off? I’m now a little more certain it’s the Loke/trike combo. I have to say, the sight of a dog as big and powerful as Furvis standing on his hind legs at the end of his leash and growling is an impressive sight.

In spite of the plowing and the scattered gravel, even just taking the round about way past the school was hard work. The snow made the road feel just like any number of rough, unpaved lanes I’ve rattled down. The sections where the snow was loose, rather like sand, didn’t help.

Still, I was grinning as we made our way along. It wasn’t raining. Though it was 24 F under leaden skies, that was better than 1F. Better even than 40 F with rain! My feet were a little cold since I’d forgotten my shoe-covers, but endurable. Loke was happy.

The underpass beyond the school was a little harrowing. Mostly because Loke adores charging down it at 15 mph to sweep up the slope on the opposite side. I remember the last time Loke ran that fast with the trike down a slippery hill. The Trice rolled and the seat broke off leaving me dazed in the middle of the road on a blind hill.

Granted, I couldn’t tell if the underpass stretch slippery or not, but there was no gravel and I fell three times while walking on sidewalks the day before. Loke’s feet scrabbled on the packed snow as I clenched the brakes to keep us at a reasonable 5 mph down that slope. Even with the studded tire, the drive wheel slipped a bit going up the other side. Loke pulled hard as I geared down to creep up.

On the other side where the ground leveled for 100 yards or so, we sped up to a more respectable 9 mph or so. I had to work for it. Then we skimmed down the hill for the 2nd underpass. That one brought us first to a halt then a 2 mph struggle. Probably because of the plowing, that underpass was choked with brown, loose snow about 5 inches deep. I glanced back at my rear derailleur, but it was in the clear so we settled in to chew our way through it. I was reluctant to get up and pull because getting snow packed in the shoe-cleats would have meant spending 5 minutes or so to pick it out. I was going to at least try to power my way through.

We did it. I admit it would have been much less likely if Loke hadn’t been with me.

My feet were feeling a little more uncomfortable as we went on along the path through a park-like area and then over residential streets. I cut about a mile off in that area since one of the paths was so minor I couldn’t be sure it had been plowed. It turned out it had been, so the next ride, I can add that extra little out-back loop. The snow through the neighborhood was pretty mushy, but between Loke’s determination and my willingness to work it, we hit about 10 mph. I took my usual turn back toward the cycle path on the other side of the barricade and stopped to stare. A huge pile of snow, nearly as tall as the little houses around us, stood at the end of the street where the path access lay. I hadn’t looked at the previous 2 streets so I had no clue if all the accesses were blocked like this one.

Then I saw a tiny gap between the mound and hedge. For someone on a normal bike, even with a dog on a running bar, it would have been no problem. Tight and hard for me with 80 cm width between two small front tires and Loke on his tether bar. Those front wheels would have to be pushed through piled chunks of hardened snow. We did it.

After that, it was a short lope to the long hill down to the river. Again, Loke had to suffer the pangs of aggravation as I kept our speed down to no more than 8 mph. At least until we reached the flat stretch between hill and river.

Frozen?!

Frozen?!

The river had a surprise waiting for me as we coasted over the bridge. Loke gave me an irritated look as I stopped to smile at the view. It was frozen! Solid all the way across! Granted we’d had those couple days in the single digits, maybe even dipping below 0 F during the nights, but that river is very deep and the water moves. The days since the snow-storm haven’t been so bitingly cold either. I expected a wide shelf of ice on each bank, but the center still clear.

Loke and I did most of the out-and-back on the path going upstream, but my toes were really starting to complain about the cold. It was a bit tricky to do the turn around even at an intersection of another path. Instead of making the right toward the 272 to go pass the Sybilla and then left between one of the river’s tributaries and a couple of industrial buildings, we cut straight across and down through another underpass to follow the river home.

River Panorama

River Panorama

What a difference freezing solid and a little more snow makes!!

What a difference freezing solid and a little more snow makes!!

Loke was still running well, but I was tiring. The ride was hard work! I was also feeling a little jumpy about the fact that was after 2 pm. With the cloud cover, it would be getting dark fast and I hadn’t brought my lights.

The way along the river went fairly briskly. I enjoyed the scenery and also gave careful thought about my route home. The sidewalk/cycle path going by the swim hall has been at the edges of an addition to said swimhall. Huge concrete barricades between traffic and the path and fencing to keep people out of the construction site. It’s narrow when it’s clear. Had to be worse now. Across the road and further down the river to the big yellow bridge would be easiest, I decided.

The icy grip loosened on the river somewhat as we approached the swim hall. Stretches of dark, mirror smooth water made gorgeous contrast against the gray/white of snow and ice. Not far from the swimhall, there’s a little patch of work going on. I’m uncertain what exactly they were supposed to be doing, but they’ve had a spot where a bench used to sit, backed with a hedge dug into a pit. It’s over 8 feet deep, 8 feet wide and 12 or so feet long. It abuts the cycle path and has been untouched, forgotten maybe, since they dug it up early this year. Or was it even last? I rarely can keep track of such things, but it’s been a minor inconvenience for this year at least. The fencing around it hogs part of the cycle path, leaving too little space for my trike and a pedestrian. With a sharp drop to the river less than a foot from the edge of the path, I’ve had to stop many times and wait for bikes and pedestrians to pass before going through.

That was without the snow leaving just a 1 ft wide solid path flanked by walls of semi-hard chunks of snow. I tried to power through. Loke couldn’t be much help as he had to hang back behind the running bar since I couldn’t get over enough to give him space between it and the fencing. I got stuck. The front wheels were trapped in nearly 1 foot of snow chunks and the studded tire just spun. Muttering, I got up to drag the trike along by the chain guard. Loke complicated matters by wanting to leap ahead and pull, twisting the trike sideways. Gah!

This was what I expected of the river upstream!

This was what I expected of the river upstream!

Then it was across the road to the yellow bridge!

At the bridge, a woman with a toddler in stroller stopped to point us out to the youngster. I waved and said, ‘Hej!’ before making a turn between two buildings. Then I ran into my second difficulty. There was a pile of loose snow. Often when I say ‘loose snow’ in terms of road or path surfaces. I don’t mean the fluffy, freshly fallen white. I mean the stuff that’s been packed a little and then shoved around until it looks something like pie crust dough that has had the butter worked in, but not kneaded yet. Getting through it is kinda like going into damp, loose sand. It just chokes the knobs and studs of the rear tire to leave it spinning.

The woman with the child came up behind us and, bless her, pushed before I even unclipped. Once the trike was free with my pedaling, Loke’s pulling and her pushing, I stopped to thank her. Loke nosed the little boy and made him giggle.

Crossing Svartbäckgatan (Black Stream Street) took a bit. I was a little wary since there was a high bank of that damp sand like snow that looked high enough to get caught in my chain. An older couple also waited to cross. The woman was quite timid about the traffic, I think because of difficulty with mobility. I was unruffled about it, content to wait on them. The man looked down at us with a huge smile. Suddenly, he began to talk about a trip he made through Norway on a recumbent trike back in the 70’s. His expression was a little wistful as he reminisced about it, his eyes running over the trike with what can only called longing.

The last quarter mile went easily, though I had a little trouble making the turn into our parking lot.

As I staggered into the apartment, Loke still had plenty of energy. It hadn’t been a very fast 6 miles after all. For me, it felt like I’d gone 15 miles on unpaved, freshly grated lanes. Against a 20 mph headwind. All uphill. But I did it! And every time I came to the least little patch of that once dreaded ‘loose snow’, I grinned and powered through it. 1 inch? 2 inches? 4? Ppft! Notta an issue! It was glorious and it gave me one hell of a work out! As long as the temps don’t drop much below 25 F and we don’t get an unending string of blizzards I’ll come out of the winter maybe fitter than I went into it!

As the end of the year rushes in on us, I’m also going to make an attempt to get another 42 miles done before December 31st. Why? It will tip me over 800 miles for the year total! Already this is the most I’ve done in a single year since 1300-ish miles in 2008.

Loke's Stylin' Ice Soul-Patch - Mile 653

Loke’s Stylin’ Ice Soul-Patch – Mile 653

As for Loke? This ride was an accomplishment for him too, though he knows it not. Last year? According to my Garmin Training Center software, he ran 650 miles in 2011. The most he’d ever done. After yesterday’s ride, he’s covered 653 miles. Pretty good given the problems with his feet and the nightmare of his anal glands, surgery… He finished the ride in style too! A silly-cute icy soul-patch hanging from his chin!

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