Friday, February 10, 2012

Cycling on Ice–not pleasant

Thursday, 9th February 2012: I had more meetings in Cambridge and this time I was determined to set off somewhat earlier so that I could take a few pictures on my route, unlike last time. Fortunately I did not have to contend with computer problems before setting off either. The other bit of good news was that I had managed to find the bicycle lock keys I usually use. So I switched back to my trusty D-lock, well I hope it is trusty.  I have had a cable type lock cut and a bike stolen from the Cambridge Railway Station a few years ago. That probably accounts for my negative feelings about the crap cycle parking facilities that we have to endure there. Apparently the new company taking over the local franchise is boosting security levels although they mean people deployed to reduce fair-evasion and anti-social behaviour rather than deal with anti-social cycle parking provision.

This time around I allowed myself plenty of time. Normally one of the great things about cycling is that the journey times are generally quite predictable and the time taken doesn’t  vary much. Generally bicycles don’t get held-up by unpredictable ( or predictable) traffic jams or road works. The main problems are caused by the weather, wind can slow you down, however as I have been finding out ice and snow on un-gritted cycle routes can be a real nightmare.

Perhaps, having fallen off already this winter due to ice I am more cautious. When cycling along byways I probably don’t manage much speed and when I do take a tumble the ground is generally fairly soft. On a cycle path you can easily pick up a fair bit of speed and then hit ice. I find it bad here in the flatlands and notice how even the slightest of slopes can cause unwanted speed. It is much worse in hilly areas. For some strange reason, I cycled out of town and then back in along The Tins. The route out along NCN51 was pretty much clear all the way around to the turn off along Airport Way. That bit of the route was also not too bad this time. (Compared with Tuesday).

Stourbridge Common looked pretty bleak though. We are certainly getting a bit of winter weather this year.

The Tins has been recently greatly improved. The Tins takes you from Cherry Hinton to the top of Mill Road and starts just of Coldham’s Lane alongside Kathleen Elliot Way. Just here in the picture as it happens. It looks as it it was an old factory road but has been left to deteriorate.

This didn’t look good for cycling as this is the flat bit there is a slope down from here past the Sports Centre. As it had frozen overnight this was very lumpy ice. Generally you need a bit of momentum when cycling over lumpy “ground”, the trouble is when that ground is ice then if you go too fast you run the risk of your front wheel washing out and coming a cropper. I find that you need to have the bike in an easy gear, keep moving and keep a relaxed grip on the handlebars. It is better to go with the front wheel wobbles rather than fight them.

I also find that my brakes aren’t anywhere near as effective when it is this cold. I guess the brake blocks lose their grippiness and ice gets thrown up onto the rim. I also have a feeling that the brakes wear down more quickly at this time of year as well. Or maybe that is just me using them too much.

After the slope down the route flattens out along past the Sports Centre. As you can see despite this being quite a well made cycle route it doesn’t seem to get any gritting.  So what happens is that narrow “snow/ice-free” route forms in the middle of the track and woe betide anyone who drifts of that line. I waited for this cyclist to come past before I set off.

The other thing that annoys me is how someone has cleared the snow along the road that crosses the cycle route and left their snow to block the cycle path.  How considerate! The trouble is this is not an isolated case, I have seen this quite a bit on my cycle travels.

When crossing tricky patches of icy compact snow you have to make sure you cross the area straight on, which is what this cyclist did. If you had a ramp of ice at an angle then you increase the risk of sliding.

After passing the hotel you have a bridge over the railway line to cross. This bridge had been gritted, although only the bridge bit and not the slope up to it on either side. Which made for a slightly nervous “descent”.

It got easier though – as you can see, look along the left there is a patch of ice-free tarmac, well at least until the next lamppost. After reaching Mill Road I avoided the cycle routes and stuck to the main roads – it was quicker.

As it happens I got to my meeting on-time, a couple of people who arrived by car didn’t as the pavements were quite tricky and slowed them down a bit. 

A topical bit of news – relating to the problems ice ice and grit just popped up in Burwell – “Out of control gritter lorry smashes into house” fortunately there were only minor injuries. All this ice will also increase the pothole problem in Cambridge as well.

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