Biking by the Lake (91/365)

Some cool bikes images:

Biking by the Lake (91/365)

Image by Jack Amick
April 1st, 2011

It’s a Friday and the weather was great. So obviously I made the great decision to forget about everything and go for a bike ride. Found this nice muddy road that wound along the lake.

(Tip: Looks great in the lightbox!)

my bike on the snow

Image by adamscarroll
also here

How To Ride A Bike: Notes on Winter Cycling from Russia

Here, it is cold.

You complain about the cold, but here, it is colder. I live in St. Petersburg, which is pretty cold, but everybody else in Russia lives some place even colder.

Step 1 to staying warm while winter cycling- never forget that in Syktyvkar, it is colder. In Shchuchinsk, it is colder. In Novosibirsk it is colder. Are you not lucky that it is only -15º C?

Step 2 is true everywhere- wear lots of clothes. You do not need special clothes. Just lots of them. Wear underwear, long underwear, extra socks, shirts, sweaters, coats, overcoats, hats, scarves, mittens, gloves and more. Most of my winter clothes are made of wool. It helps if you have something windproof on the outside. When it is -25º C, your nose hairs freeze as soon as you step outside, but the rest of your body is nice and warm, sealed up like a cosmonaut. Once you start pedaling, your woolen cocoon begins to heat up, everybody you know is literally freezing to death in the street like during the blockade, and you will be sweating.

Those are the two simple steps to staying warm.

Here there is snow, sometimes a lot of snow. Does it still snow in America? When there is snow here, it does not get cleaned up very quickly. It becomes muddy and slushy, and then, at night, freezes. That is the worst. Since there is a lot of ice here, I use studded tires in the winter. If your roads are clean, you do not need them, although you should consider replacing your 23cm racing slicks with as wide a tire as possible. Wider tires can be run at lower pressures, which will help you stay balanced on packed, uneven snow.

If it does not snow in New York anymore then you can ride any bike all year long, really. Even if you only have snow for a week you can probably deal. But we still have snow and ice in Russia, so I use studded tires. When you have your first snow storm of the decade and everybody freaks out, do not run to the store and buy studded tires, that is embarrassing. In two days your well-run public services will probably have cleared the roads anyway. I hear that you have separate lanes for bicycles, how quaint.

In the winter, it is really gross and there is snow and shit, and they put salt and other crap on the road that is rather corrosive. Because of all that, I leave my favorite bike at home and ride another one that is already a piece of shit. It is a KhVZ Ukraina made in the USSR in the mid eighties from war surpus tank parts (tanks were made of bicycles during perestroika). It has 26” mountain bike wheels, really wide handlebars, big fenders, and nothing else. If you do not have room or time or whatever enough for another bike, no big deal. Just ride the one you already have. Learn how to lube your chain (, consider getting some lithium grease and learning how to overhaul your bottom bracket and hubs ( The salty snow sludge that sticks to your bike will eat through the grease on your bearings; in Russia I expect to overhaul them at least twice every winter. Snow sludge will also rust your frame if your bike is made of steel and the paint is not 100%, so wipe it down periodically.

Riding a bike in winter is just like riding any other time of the year, except for under specific circumstances. When streets are icy or thickly packed with snow, you may have trouble getting traction from your rear wheel, resulting in fishtailing. In the fairer months I prefer to ride a geared bicycle, but during the winter, I find that a bicycle with a fixed cog and a low gear ratio can be very practical. My winter bike is a 16-42 fixed gear. Because there is no freewheel to disengage, traction is constant. The low gear ratio keeps me from going to fast. No matter what you ride or drive in the winter, you should probably be going slower anyway. In russia we say “tyshe edesh’, dal’she budesh’” – the slower you go, the farther you’ll get.

Since I ride so slowly and St. Petersburg is flat I feel comfortable relying on my drivetrain to brake. In the past, I rode a geared bike in the winter- it had caliper brakes. On one particularly awful day, when the sun had not risen in several weeks, my brake calipers got frozen open. I thought the cable was snapped until the brake suddenly clamped shut. Then, the friction from the brake pads melted the snow that had been collecting on the rims. Then, after a few minutes, that melted snow refroze on my rims, which became too slippery to brake on. Derailleurs are sort of the same way in the winter- just one more part to freeze or get jammed with ice or snow. If you can get rid of them until the spring, you will be better off.

If you are going to use a rim brake, choose cantilever brakes. In the depths of winter, use your rear brake. Relying on your front brake (as you should in the warmer months when the roads are clear) can lead to fishtailing if there is lots of snow or ice underneath your rear wheel.

The wind is the worst. In the winter, the wind always knows which way you are trying to go. It knows because it blows in the opposite direction. In the winter the wind is always hurling snow and sleet and icicles and muddy trash and other crap, literally sometimes human waste, right in your face. You will look stupid wearing ski goggles, but on certain days, you have to. If there is a blizzard, you and every other idiot trying to go vote or wherever it is you Americans do should probably just stay home.

Buy really bright bicycle lights. In Russia, the sun rises at 10:00 and sets at 15:00. Bright front and rear lights might be the only light you encounter for months. Also they may help to prevent early death, although if the cars do not kill you, exposure to the elements or dehydration probably will.

Why ride a bike in the winter? Basically for the same reasons as the rest of the year. If you want to impress your friends and coworkers, ice biking will give them the impression that you are reckless or crazy- commendable traits to many Americans. If you are poor, winter cycling is cheap (it will not make you richer). If you like the environment, you will have the opportunity to meet mother nature’s capricious side; perhaps you will enjoy it. It is similar to the way your girlfriend is most sexy when she calls you a dickhead and throws something at you. If you are training for the apocalypse, good luck. More than likely you will decide that survival is not worth it. Personally, I ride my bicycle to avoid the sticky mass of human bodies that clogs up public transportation from late November until early March. I would sooner ride a snow shovel to work then spend half of my day underground being fondled on the metro. Regardless of why you do it, enjoy yourself- it will always be worse next winter! Udachi!

Mother’s Day Bike Date

Image by Simply Bike
Mother’s day bike date to the Botanical Garden.My first Mother’s Day (with baby still in utero, third trimester).

12 thoughts on “Biking by the Lake (91/365)

  1. bjexplosion

    Oh ho, snow plows, oh ho, oh the days. I’m working on getting a bicycle. Maybe you can throw me some pomosh this summer when I go shopping for an old cruiser. I’m thinking about putting an ad in the paper that says "poor but kind foreigner wants bicycle from the Soviet Union." I must now get drunk with my co-workers at 4:00 in the afternoon. Also, you forgot something – the key is lots of clothes but also clothes from Kazakhstan. Socks from America cannot help you now. Tights from America cannot help you now. Only poorly manufactured yet oddly overpriced goods originating from China that are sold here will magically keep you warm.

    From Ye Olde Russia,

  2. bjexplosion

    pps As a side note, my co-worker was so worried about whether or not I was warm enough that she called Peace Corps and told them that I was not wearing enough pairs of tights, and I would render myself sterile.


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