Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cycling after the Snow

At the moment in the UK the News bulletins are dominated by news of the icy temperatures and snow falls that we have been having. However here in the flatlands it has not been that snowy after the first sprinkle the other week. Although it has been quite cold - down to around -2C overnight there are parts of the UK which have been down to -156C apparently. So it feels as if the weather has passed us by. The schools are open, the roads aren't too bad - although there were reports of a multi-car accident on the M11 motorway near Stansted, which is not far away.

There was another bit of non-news - some more about the Cambridge Guided Busway appeared - to say that there is no fixed date for when it might be ready. The |Cambridge Evening News ran a piece - "Parties meet but no date for busway yet". It seems as if there is a stand-off between the Council and the Contractors. Each is suggesting the other has to commit to a date! Sigh - they seem to forget the ultimate customer in all of this - us the public.

This afternoon we got some more snow, I was not going to go out for a ride, there were other chores to be done, such as putting away the Christmas decorations for another year. But we had a bit of snow and then despite it being latish in the afternoon some clear, bright weather. I could not resist going out on my bike to check it out and carry on with my HDR experiments. (I am gathering pictures at the moment). I read the manual on my camera and set it to take 7 pictures of varying exposure when bracketing. Yesterday's experiments showed I was too conservative in my range of exposures.

Snow is not too bad to cycle on, it is the ice underneath that is the problem and oh yes, the ridges left by other vehicles as they plough though. Here is White Fen Droveway turns into Sandy Road on a bit of the Connect2 program for these parts. This is not a through road for motorised vehicles and so there are not many vehicle tracks. I cycled down the middle of the snow - which was around 1"/2.5cm thick - there is a soft scrunching sound when cycling through new snow, every now and then I would grab the back brake to see how slippy the surface really was. I tend to start of slow, then speed up, have a bit a of scare as the bike slides and slow down. Of course this repeats through the cycle ride. This picture was taken , along with the same scene with different exposures for my HDR experiments - so far I have managed to create a rather blurry picture far worse than the average exposure.


The fields were also covered in a thin layer of snow along with the country roads. The main roads were pretty clear though. I did find myself avoiding the cycle path when there was a choice between a snowy cycle path and a clear piece of road.


Another picture taken for experimental purposes. I wanted to be able to show the dramatic sky along with the white snow and drainage ditch.


Headlake Drove - although this is really only used by farm vehicles there were tracks on the road - the challenge is that this road is not at all flat and there are dips were puddles and mud congregate. This makes cycling a form of lucky dip when there is a covering of snow. It is probably good for improving bike control though.


Baker's Fen - another subject for the HDR experiments - although don't hold your breath on this.


I returned along more major roads - at night the bike lights bleach out the snow and the road and make it hard to see what you are cycling along. I did skid up to a junction in Burwell as the road surface was covered in a layer of black ice. I managed to steer into the skid and then steer the bike over some untouched snow which gave enough traction to slow the bike down without me having to jump off.

I also find that I cycle slower in the snow - and I tense up more, my stomach muscles "knew" they had been out riding today - which is most unusual. Another side effect of going more slowly is that I get colder (because I generate less heat). My feet were frozen by the time I got home and even my fingertips were tingling.

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