Omaha hasn't had a Christmas blizzard since 1941. While most people stayed in this Christmas, I needed to deliver some presents, so what better opportunity or excuse to get the bike out again than the second blizzard of the season. Being still stir crazy from remaining indoors all Christmas Eve also helped me make the decision to head out. I love a challenge, and needed to burn off some holiday treats calories.
The drifts were deep in my neighborhood, and my elbow still hurts from digging out from the last storm, so I wanted no more shovel action. The streets in my hilly destination neighborhood hadn't seen a plow, so getting there by automobile would have been difficult, anyway. I'm happy to leave my truck in the drifts while my bike gets all the fun. Considering all this, I donned my blizzard biking apparel, loaded the messenger bag with gifts, and set out for a four mile trip.
Considering that there would not be a lot of traffic, I took my chances on routes I would never bike under normal circumstances. I rode Dodge Street and 42nd Street, with only a few gentle passes from holiday travelers, and not much trouble with the snow. It was when I turned onto Grover Street one-half mile from my destination that I had a problem. A silly wipeout (with witnesses) reminded me how slick things were as I turned off a plowed road onto one with drifts. Fortunately, falling on the snow drifts wasn't unlike falling onto a couch. I ended up walking about 1/3 of a mile in a spot where the snow was just too thick on an uphill climb. For my final hill climb, I carried my bike on my shoulder cyclocross style, taking tiny steps into really deep snow.
I didn't take any more pictures as I made my way out. I arrived safely, and not at all cold or chilled, in time for gifts exchange, a nice Christmas lunch, and time spent with family.
On the way back, I made really good time since some of the roads had been plowed for the first time, or perhaps replowed. I didn't have to do any walking or pushing this time.
The trips were slow, but consistent, averaging about 10 MPH in my lowest gear.
I did stop for some fun photos.
What To Wear?
After a year of all-season bike commuting, I've got down pretty well what works for me. In case any of this information may be of use to others, I'll list the conditions, and what I wore.
Blizzard Trip, Leg One: High winds with blowing snow, temperature around 10 degrees.
Blizzard Trip, Leg Two: Reduced winds, no more falling snow, temperature around 22 degrees.
- long sleeved base layer top, polypropylene (from sporting goods store)
- short sleeved wicking shirt (from department store)
- another long sleeved base layer shirt
- long sleeved wicking ski shirt (from sporting goods store)
- long sleeved zip-up cycling jersey jacket (from bike shop)
- hi-visibility cycling wind breaking shell (from sporting goods store)
- AmFIB leg tights (from cycling store)
- base layer leg tights on top of AmFIBs (from sporting goods store. I probably didn't need these, but in case I ended up walking more, I wanted to make sure I'd stay warm)
- cycling knickers (custom made from Scout Dry Goods)
- glove liners under lobster claw gloves
- fleece balaclava over head and face
- polypro balaclava on top of head
- wool cycling cap on top of head
- helmet, of course
- MTB style SPD shoes for clipless pedals
- ski goggles on the trip out. Didn't need them for the return trip. 10 degrees seems to be my threshold for requiring goggles.