Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snow Queen!

My Gazelle "Linda" has now been updated for the winter, with new tires and woven dress guards. She is a beautiful sight to behold against the snowy landscape!

The tire replacement was something that had to be done anyhow, as the original ones were cracked and I did not want them to fail in the winter. And of course, I was only too happy to replace them with my favourite cream Schwalbe Delta Cruisers. As for the woven dress guards, there was no reason for them what so ever, other than aesthetic caprice. I thought that Linda looked somewhat generic with the solid black vinyl dress guards, and I wanted to personalise her. We purchased the woven dress guards from Mike Flanigan of ANT and installed them by drilling holes directly into the fenders. I have close-up pictures of the installation and will write a detailed tutorial in a separate post, for those interested.

Riding the Gazelle with the new tires, I immediately noticed that she became a bit faster and quicker to accelerate. This echoes my experience with Delta Cruisers on other bikes - which is one reason I love these tires so much. They are the best combination of city/ sporty/ cushy/ all-weather I have found so far. And okay, it does not hurt that they are available in cream!

It was interesting to cycle on the Gazelle after such a heavy snowfall, and to compare her handling to the Bella Ciao - which I rode immediately after the previous snowfall. Somewhat to my surprise, they handle similarly at slow speeds (under 10mph)- which is the speed I stick to under winter road conditions. The Bella Ciao's superior responsiveness and the Gazelle's superior cushiness are considerably less noticeable when cycling gingerly over slush and ice patches. Their common qualities, however, are all the more noticeable: Namely, how well-balanced and stable they both are. The Pashley I rode last year had these same qualities as well - so I think that all three are great winter bicycles.

The Gazelle does have a bit of an edge when cycling over large formations of hardened snow, due to its wider tires. On the other hand, the Bella Ciao has a considerable "winter cyclocross" advantage: It is easier to drag, lift and carry when road conditions necessitate getting off the bike and moving it over heaps of snow or patches of ice. Overall, I am honestly not sure which I prefer, and I see the two bikes as representing different ends of my winter comfort zone spectrum. The Gazelle has a rack and lights, so by default I ride it more. But once I install these on the Bella Ciao, that may change. For those who have tried different upright transportation bicycles in the winter (i.e., Pashley vs Workcycles vs Retrovelo vs Rivendell vs ANT vs Abici, etc.), I would love to know what you think of the handling.

After the first two snow storms of the season, I can already tell that I will have an easier time cycling this winter than I did last year. Nothing has really changed in a drastic way, but maybe my balancing skills have gradually improved and my lungs have grown accustomed to cycling in freezing temperatures. And as far as aesthetics go, I really do think that it helps to have a bicycle that you are excited about as a winter bike, rather than a "beater". This helped me last year and it's helping me now. The winter landscape is so beautiful, that cycling through it on a bicycle I love (and feel safe on) makes it all the more special.

51 comments:

  1. Beautiful.
    I love the contrast of the cream tires and the black bike frame.
    And the dress guard is very elegant.
    Doubt that I'll be cycling to work tomorrow. A major Arctic blast has roared across the plains, and the mercury has dropped below zero.
    So happy cycling to you.

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  2. I just discovered your blog. That Gazelle looks like a great ride. I'll be going out on New Year's day (here in western Vermont we dodged the recent east-coast snow 'event'). It's great to be outside riding - even with all the snow. Great post!

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  3. I too am a sucker for the Delta Cruisers in Cream, I have them on my Trek Allant, and I love them. I am looking to upgrade to a new bicycle in February and while I am pretty set on the Civia Loring, I am tempted by the Pashley Roadster Sovereign because I can put Delta Cruisers on it, but I can't on the Loring. Of course, I'm only 5'8" and I'm not sure I would be able to stand over the small one. Plus, I cannot allow myself to make a buying decision based on tire color. Can I?

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  4. Linda just keeps getting prettier! Nice guards too. I like how subtle they are. I'm still waiting on my Pashley, and hope that she arrives while it's still cold enough for snow!

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  5. My goodness! The Pashley has now been relegated to terms of being called a "beater?!" Certainly not a bicycle I'd term such, but I suppose it's all perspective.

    Glad you're enjoying the winter snowy season, and the cream tires are beautiful on the Gazelle.

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  6. G.E. - The Pashley a beater? My goodness no! It is a prettier bike than the Gazelle actually. I was referring to an ongoing bikeworld debate whereby some say that a beater bike (such as an old rusty mountain bike) is better to use in the winter than a "nice bike" (such as a Gazelle or Pashley). Here is my winter review of the Pashley from last year. It was great in the snow - handled somewhere in between the Gazelle and the Bella Ciao.

    Frazzled Glispa - I am 5'7" and can comfortably stand over the small Pashley Sovereign, so you should be all right!

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  7. Now you're making me want to swap out my Pashley's tires!

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  8. I'm curious if the snow/ice factor worries you at all? When I lived (and biked) in Boston I usually put a studded tire on my front wheel for the winter. I just didn't want to chance an unexpected slip on some unseen ice.

    Regardless, beautiful job on the skirt guard.

    Dave

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  9. Dave - It's a confusing issue, and I get just as much advice in favour of studded tires, as I get against them. My understanding is that studded tires only work if the majority of your cycling is on actual packed snow, whereas on cleared and salted asphalt studs can actually reduce traction. They also do not help on ice at all, only on snow. There is very rarely actual snow on the roads in Boston (other than during snow emergencies - which are rare), as they tend to salt the heck out of them. So that is why I do not get studded tires. I do worry about ice - which is why I do not exceed 10mph in winter. At that speed, I have time to see whether a patch of ice is in front of me, and to react accordingly. I have fallen in the winter several times in Boston when walking on the sidewalks, but have never (knock on wood) fallen while cycling. So while ice worries me, I feel safer cycling on the cleared roads, than I do walking on the icy sidewalks. I don't drive, so those are my two choices.

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  10. Velouria,

    *I've* heard that studded tires help on ice and not so much on snow. I really hope someone can clear this up. Dottie maybe?

    Dave,

    Ice isn't so much of a problem here, but potholes are. I'm constantly swerving all over the road on account of them, I almost destroyed a wheel on them last winter and just today may have gotten a pinch flat from a series I couldn't avoid in time.

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  11. I must agree with you about having a nice bike for winter riding. I have a 80's Peugeot road bike that I added fenders with big mud flaps, lights, ulock, tool bag , and i don't ride it because it's a tig welded frame and the top tube is to long, its ugly, a beater. I have a nice lugged Columbus tube Schwinn road bike that I rode last summer that I will add Honjo fenders for winter ridding I love that bike so I will ride it in the winter.

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  12. "Velouria said...
    G.E. - The Pashley a beater? My goodness no! It is a prettier bike than the Gazelle actually. I was referring to an ongoing bikeworld debate whereby some say that a beater bike (such as an old rusty mountain bike) is better to use in the winter than a "nice bike" (such as a Gazelle or Pashley)."
    Well, at least I feel better knowing you weren't referring to the Pashley. The way the post was set up at the end made me think, my goodness! I would never call a Pashley a beater bicycle. Perhaps it was simply the link to last years' winter post that threw me off. :o)

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  13. lyen - I can't find the post now, but I am pretty sure that Dottie on LGRAB has also described the studs as being effective on snow, but not ice.

    G.E. - I saw what you meant about the last paragraph. I've changed the wording and hopefully it's better now!

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  14. The Gazelle looks spectacular now. At first I was against the idea of nixing the old vinyl guards (I have them on my Pashley and like them), but the end result seems worth it.

    Interestingly, the inside of the vinyl guards is clean although I am sure they have never been washed, which suggests that switching to cords will not make the rider catch more dirt (one of the reasons I thought against doing this). My Pashley's coat guards are pretty clean on the inside, too.

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  15. Somehow the cream tires actually make Linda look more like a "winter bike." Hmm...Maybe those tires aren't "cream" after all: They're "winter white."

    I love the dress guards, too.

    What you say about the characteristics of those bikes is interesting. When I had a mountain bike, I used to ride it in the snow. The wide tires made for excellent gripping, but I found that as it (a Bontrager Race Lite) was oriented toward off-road racing, it wasn't quite as firm and stable as your bikes are. So, while the Bontrager was fun on the trails and snowdrifts, I didn't commute on it. Instead, I used a heavier "beater."

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  16. A potentially interesting thought- have you considered putting one of the Sturmey Archer 3 speed fixed gear hubs on one of your bikes for winter riding? I know a lot of people swear by fixed gear in wintry conditions, and I think it would be, if nothing else, highly amusing to see an upright loop frame fixed gear bike complete with chaincase and fenders.

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  17. MDI - You are right that the original dress guards were very clean when we removed them... though they were also quite smelly!

    Justine - The weird (in a good way) thing about the Bella Ciao, is that it is both "roadish" and stable. Not like a Rivendell, but more like my Royal H mixte (but not as flexible), and perhaps even more like an Italian racing bike that has been optimised for upright cycling. It frustrates me that I do not understand enough about geometry to figure this out, but it is certainly is neat.

    Finley - Yes, I have definitely considered doing this, possibly on the Bella Ciao!

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  18. Sadly, cream Delta Cruisers in 26 x 1 3/8 are terribly hard to come by.

    Yours (28, I presume?) look great. Safe winter riding to you!

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  19. Mike,

    Why don't you order from Calhoun Cycle? I ordered my first creme Delta Cruisers from them and was really glad I did. They have great prices and *extremely* good customer service. Sadly, I haven't really had the money to reward them with much business lately. :(

    Their site says they should be getting the tires back in stock soon. Why don't you give them a call and ask?

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  20. Regarding studded tires on snow or ice,
    they definitely work well in icy conditions
    such as these:

    http://bit.ly/ge5PMe
    http://bit.ly/gS7ZbO

    There is no snow or slush here, just hard
    bumpy ice covered by a layer of water.
    This is almost impossible to walk on
    (I have spiked shoes too :)
    and cars get stuck on it too.
    Even the black bits in the middle of the road
    are covered in clear smooth ice.

    I can (very gently) ride around in tight circles
    on this ice with Schwalbe Marathon Winter
    tires, running at 20psi.

    This is part of my 17 mile commute to work.
    Its been like this for over a month now
    here in York, UK.

    So in summary, studs do work on ice,
    especially if it is very cold and the ice is
    strong (some mornings it has been -2F).
    These photos were taken after a warm spell,
    where the ice melted a bit. This is the hardest
    to ride on, as the studs just tear through
    the ice. In snow and slush the tires do not help
    much.

    On pavement they are slow and noisy
    (sounds like riding on fine gravel).
    They grip well enough on pavement, like a smooth tire on grass, so no super hard turns or breaking, but just fine for commuting. But the joy of riding for hours in the beautiful countryside easily make up for any slowness or noise.

    Cathy my wife has the same tires on her Gazelle.

    I hope this helps,

    John I

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  21. I love this blog. And, knowing there is someone out there as in love with bicycles as I am.

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  22. V. - You got it backwards: studs help prevent skids on ice, but offer no advantage in riding on packed snow. Didn't you try out studs last winter?

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  23. Yesterday, I had my first opportunity to ride my Retrovelo in truly heinous snow conditions and it was awesome! I can only compare it to my departed Pashley but I would say that the things that I have found to be generally true between those two bikes -- that the Retrovelo is more nimble and faster with better handling and is more comfortable -- is doubly true in the snow.

    I also feel like what makes the Retrovelo slightly different from other bikes in its genre is even more true in the snow because it really felt like a mountain bike in the best possible way. I love the fat frank tires even on a beautiful summer day but I really got to appreciate them as they just plowed right freaking through everything disgusting on the road. The bike is wonderful.

    Happy crap weather to all :)

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  24. My understanding and experience is that studded tires help on ice but not so much with snow, unless the snow is compacted and rutted.

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  25. "Velouria said...
    I really do think that it helps to have a bicycle that you are excited about as a winter bike, rather than a "beater" ... some say that a beater bike (such as an old rusty mountain bike) is better to use in the winter than a "nice bike" (such as a Gazelle or Pashley)."

    Do you worry about all that winter salt, sand and slush rusting your "nice bikes" or corroding their finish?

    I do, and that's why yes, I ride a winter beater.

    But riding a beater doesn't have to mean not being excited about it as a winter bike. I love my winter bike (a 1990s steel Gary Fisher hardtail) but I also recognize that by riding it all winter, I'm slowly "loving it to death" and it will not last forever like my other keepers.

    (I take measures to maintain it and prevent rust, but still).

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  26. The Gazelle looks absolutely gorgeous with those tires! Yesterday I rode my Haro with the mountain bike tires. I came across slush, ice, and packed snow. The tires held up nicely, but I had to go slow because a couple times I found the bike wanted to slip from under me when I picked up speed. I heard that studded tires helps more with keeping the bike upright, so it doesn't have the tendency to slip as much. I thought abut investing in studded tires for trail riding. Last year I learned the hard way - it's impossible to ride without - Ice, packed under snow, is dangerous.

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  27. I can't help but notice that the seat is tipped back quite a bit. Are you able to ride with your seat this much out of level?? Ouch!!

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  28. I just got in my Scwalbe cream Delta Cruisers and have ordered Honjo
    fenders for my Sam Hillborne. Your Gazelle looks great!
    57 and clear here.

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  29. Here in Portland (Oregon) we don't get much snow but we do have a fair amount of black ice. I've been using studded tires this winter and have been pleasantly surprised at how well they work on ice. They do seem to have a bit more rolling resistance than my normal winter commuting tires but it's well worth it for peace of mind.
    For what it's worth Peter White has a good article on studded tires on his website, it helped me make my decision on what would work for me.

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  30. Re studded tires: Okay, when I have a moment, I will try to find the posts by other cyclists where they are described as not helpful on ice. I know I am not imagining this! But either way, Boston's roads do not have enough snow or ice on them 90% of the time to justify the tires, in my experience. I rode every day last winter and did not feel a need for them. (Anne Welch - no, I've never ridden with studded tires.)

    Walt D - Some bike+saddle combinations work best with the saddle tilted back like this; it works with the angles of the bike and with the shape of the saddle. It makes sense once you're standing over the bike and it isn't scary/painful at all.

    sekaijin - I worried about it at the start of last winter, especially with my new, shiny, retail-bought Pashley. However, the Pashley looked just as new and shiny after an entire winter of cycling, salt, etc. These bikes are designed to be used, not as pretty toys. The internal hub gearing and brakes resists the weather and need no maintenance in winter. The chaincase keeps salt and ice off the chain. The components are stainless steel or alloy. The frames are powdercoated thick as war tanks. The bikes are fine, if they are made well. See my write-up about the Pashley last winter here.

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  31. Thats just a beautiful bicycle, so easy to fall in love with classic vintage bicycles!

    Vintage Bicycles are making a comeback!

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  32. Velouria said...
    "my lungs have grown accustomed to cycling in freezing temperatures."

    Please, don't breath naked cold air while you ride! At least use a wrap or scarf to breath though!

    http://www.cptips.com/respasm.htm

    http://www.snowbikers.com/articles/cold_air.html

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/906030.stm

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  33. I was also surprised by the tilt of the saddle on some of your bikes, but then noticed that Dottie has a similar saddle tilt on her upright bike as well (see for example http://letsgorideabike.com/blog/2010/12/winter-street-dynamics/). The tilt to the saddle must work well on this kind of bike, and looks good with the visual sweep of the down tubes and handlebars. WIth this kind of tilt, I can also understand how using a seat post with a setback clamp could significantly lower the distance between the saddle and ground (http://lovelybike.blogspot.com/2010/12/diamond-frames-and-sizing-how-big-is.html).

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  34. "I have close-up pictures of the installation and will write a detailed tutorial in a separate post, for those interested."

    Yes please! They look really great!

    John I

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  35. Been offline for two days due to some redwood-branch inspired power line hi-jinks...

    back just in time to say "wow". That set of corded Jasbeschirmers works wonders for an already-elegant bike. Well done!

    Corey K

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  36. I have been reading your blog for some time, but now I feel I can put by little bit into the machine...

    Up here in Finland winter cycling is no special thing. The mercury went below freezing the first part of Nov., and it will not go above again until early March. I am at 63 north latitude (like Baffin Island or Nome in N. America.) Normal conditions include powdery snow over top of very hard irregular surfaced ice, stiff wind and (today) -5F.

    I have long ago stopped giving people (foreign students here from tropical regions) advice about how to handle a bike under these conditions. Everybody has their own system. Some swear by wide studded tires, others by coaster brakes and summer tires, one by a fixy with summer tires. Some use only the back brake, others only the front. There are heavy bike people and light bike people, those who drive with low tire pressure and high pressure... The pros and cons of studded tires are debated endlessly, reflecting all the points in the above comments and more.

    Personally I ride a light road/racing bike (a Crescent 207 built in 1966) with a single studded tire in front and I NEVER hit the back brake all winter. My friend who uses coaster brakes and summer tires and has as many decades of winter cycling under his belt as me, regards this as suicidal. The opinion is mutual.

    (BTW: Nokia does make narrow (2.1 cms) tires with studes.)

    There is no "correct" way to handle winter conditions. If the bike is under control and you feel comfortable with it then go right on down the road. Don't let anybody try to tell you how to do it and impose their method on you. THAT could be dangerous, inducing a degree of self-consciousness that could lead to a false move.

    I have enjoyed reading the blog for several months now. I am also a vintage freak and have a small stable of bikes dating from 1936 to '88, mostly Swedish and German, one Peogeut. I ride every one and don't maintain a museum.

    I should invent a name and participate...

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  37. Walt D - Yup, I cover my mouth with a scarf. Here is proof!

    Anon from Finland - Would love to see pictures of your bicycles! I completely agree with you that there is no "correct" way to handle road conditions. That is one reason I try not to give advice, but to simply describe my own experience. Some might read it and think "Oh, that sounds like it would work for me," while others might decide that they prefer to do it differently.

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  38. I have been reading your site for 6 months or so, and I figured it was time to say "hello" and thank you for your lovely blog and thoughtful posts. Keep up the good work. Best wishes to you for a happy and healthy new year!

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  39. Neighbortease -- I could not love my Retrovelo more. I have absolutely NO bike lust for any other bicycle now. You stated it well -- it handles like a mountain bike, but comfortably. I do a 14 mile ride every week with a bunch of other riders who have mountain bikes and road bikes. Not only do I ride the heavy Paula, but I have a 12 pound chain with me. I have absolutely no problem keeping up. It's an absolute dream to ride. I have no snow or ice, so I can't comment on that.

    The *only* thing it is missing is dress guards. I love the woven guards but I don't think I can bring myself to drill the fenders. I'm going to have to get busy with a crochet hook.

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  40. I think you have to assess the winter conditions in the city you live in and decide if studded tires are worth the investment. Sounds like they may not be in Boston.

    We have 6 months of winter conditions where I live. Studded tires are a necessity. From my experience I have found studs to work exceptionally well for ice and do absolutely nothing for snowy roads. Of course there are many exceptions. Many studded tires have more aggressively lugged tread that may provide more stability in some snow conditions. And studs may not help if you are riding streets where slush has frozen and formed rutted tracks. Winter conditions vary widely with temperature and precipitation. That means the tire pressures you run have to vary as widely as well to get the maximum traction for the conditions. I have two winter bikes. A cross bike with 700 X 40c Schwalbe Marathon Winter studded tires for ice and light snow. I run tires pressures from 30 psi up to 70 psi. And a Surly Pugsley with 4" wide tires that can run as low as 6 psi for rutted ice and deeper snow.

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  41. Hi. can anyone recommend the best route from Newton to Boston in the snow? i have been biking along the Charles River path, but given the snow, have been thinking about switching to some route that stays on the roads instead? does anyone recommend staying on the Charles bike path and if not, can you suggest an alternative to get all the way to South Station?
    Thanks in advance.

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  42. @Lynne, I agree with you about the dress guard on the Paula. The only thing that's kept me from ordering some is that I have giant panniers that I rarely remove. The combination of those and my son's bobike seat prevent my dresses from getting caught. I've had my bike since June and I just gotten progressively happier with it. It's a total joy. It's nice to hear you love yours too.

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  43. Anon 5:48 - We take Route 16 even when the Chas Rv bike path is available, just because Rt 16 is much faster. There are no bike lanes, but the cars are used to cyclists along that entire route.

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  44. thanks Velouria. So you follow rte 16 east into watertown? does it go all the way into Boston? is it easy to follow?

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  45. Anon--we take Rt 16 back into Cambridge/Harvard Sq and can't comment on the best way into Boston proper, including South Station.

    When we go to Boston, the easiest way from where we live is to take Beacon/Hampshire all the way to Longfellow bridge, but it seems like a detour to get into Boston that way coming from Watertown. There may be a more direct route involving an earlier bridge over the Charles.

    What I would do is use mapping sites with "avoid highways" setting and see what's recommended. Often it's the best route for cars or bikes.

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  46. thanks MDI. i had tried that, but it told me to bike on Storrow so i didn't want to try that.
    if anyone bikes from newton into Boston avoiding the Charles Bike path, can you let me know the way. Rte 16 doesn;t seem to go all the way in. Thanks

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  47. Newton to downtown? At this time of year, I'd go with Rt. 30 into Cleveland Circle and then Beacon St. from there to Commonwealth Ave. Roads are relatively wide and well ploughed. Bit hilly though.

    You could take Rt. 16 as V and MDI recommend, but I'd avoid the Longfellow on the inbound side. Thanks to the recent redesign the inbound cycle lane in blocked off by snow at the base of the bridge, forcing cyclists to either dismount and use the pedestrian crossing or take the sole remaining lane and climb the bridge with auto traffic backed up behind them. If you do take Rt. 16 into Cambridge, you may want to consider crossing the river at Mass Ave instead of the Longfellow. Depending on time of day, taking the lane on the Longfellow isn't too bad, but it isn't something that I'd recommend during rush hour.

    Normally, I wouldn't count on using the Charles River Path until March/April thaws arrive.

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  48. Thanks so much cris. I think rte 30 to rte 20 to Beacon is what I will try. As an fyi if anyone is interested, I used the Charles River path this morning and while there were a few icy patches after all the melting, in general it was in great shape. No snow on it, just some ice for a stretch around Elliot Bridge. But on the way home in the dark, I think the roads will be better as they shouldn't be as icy. Thanks again.

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  49. Beautiful photos ... beautiful bike, a perfect setting! The ice combined with the human figure and black bike. Congratulations Lovely Bicycle! Robert Furtado

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  50. When we had all the snow here in Groningen, Netherlands, I pulled out my 24" Dutch Union folder. It is lower to the ground and a great ride on ice and snow. She got new cheap tires from Halfords-- nothing fancy, but certainly better than what she had.

    My red Sparta beater is great on anything but ice. She is tall and you have to lean to turn otherwise your foot hits the front tire when you turn to steer. While she has the weight and nice wider tires, the higher center of gravity bothers me when the roads are slick. I've fallen a few times, usually when first mounting and starting to petal.

    I'm not Dutch and I can't do the fancy mounting and dismounting tricks they do. Scary people. They use their bikes like kick scooters, then flop thier leg over once it's moving pretty quickly. Watching them do it on ice makes me vere jealous.

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  51. A traditional roadster, especially a ladies bike, looks alot like the off road bicycle Geoff Apps developed.

    http://clelandcycles.wordpress.com/2010/09/26/welcome/

    http://www.completesite.com/mbhof/page.cfm?pageid=7&categoryid=4&memberid=209

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