Winter, Wherein Character Is Built

Pittsburgh received another round of winter weather yesterday. I awoke to several inches of snow on the ground, including the streets. Not a big deal, I thought, since I have the Monocog. Given the school cancellations, traffic would be light, and the ride might actually be enjoyable. So off I rode. Every street was still snow covered. Some had been plowed, which was a blessing and a curse. In some spots, tire tracks made for little bobsled runs, making it difficult to keep the bike straight, but generally grip was good and I was comfortable. The trail through Panther Hollow was untouched, and I was plowing through four inches of powder, all the way to the South Side.

Around 2:00 PM the lovely, puffy snowflakes became rain. I rolled out of the loading dock at 4:00 PM, riding through massive puddles and piles of slush. Within two blocks I was soaked–the Redline doesn’t have proper fenders, and the little clip-on models I have currently did little. This lasted until I reached the Hot Metal Bridge, which was still covered with snow, now heavy and wet thanks to the rain. I’m guessing it took me five minutes to cross the span. The Jail Trail was plowed, but snow-covered. Once in Panther Hollow, the fun began again. Heavy, wet snow. Even when riding in untracked snow, it was slow going. The bike was coated with snow, and I had to periodically bang on the fork to open up clearance for the tire. Finally, I was back on the road, slush-covered as it was.

By the time I stopped at our house, the snow on the bike was gone, thanks to the rain. I was soaked. On the bright side, at least the bike was clean. I hoped the snow was finished, and that, thanks to the rain, I might be able to ride the Surly to work in the morning. I missed my fenders, and I was willing to take the long way to avoid the Hot Metal Bridge and Panther Hollow.

Fast forward to this morning. Snow is falling. The streets are covered again. The Surly will stay in the basement. I’m off again, slicing through slush, and carefully treading along icy spots. As I ride along Centre Avenue, I’m jealous of the guy ahead of me on the ‘cross bike with full fenders. Road conditions vary from ice, to snow, to slush, to wet pavement, and back again. Once in Panther Hollow, the real slog begins. The trail is unplowed, and pocked with footprints and other bike tracks. The snow is wet, heavy, and, in sections, frozen. Being ever the optimist, I noted that at least I wasn’t getting soaked by slush. The Jail Trail is mostly clear, having been plowed several times. The Hot Metal Bridge doesn’t disappoint, though. It is snow-covered and icy. I actually manage to ride across, something I wasn’t sure could actually happen.

After more slush, and some ice, I’m hosing off the bike in the loading dock. I am quite wet, between the heavy falling snow and the slush. I have to figure out a way to extend my fenders this evening.