Call that a Winter?
This week I have noticed that even in the coldest weather, there still seem to be plenty of cyclists on the road; I passed one chap in my car when the temperature outside was reading -8 degrees Centigrade, riding the other way, his beard covered in ice! But the icy snap we have been experiencing makes cycling difficult. Black ice and the added risk that cars pose mean that it’s a dangerous game out there. Plus, the really extreme cold makes it physically very painful on the extremities unless you are properly kitted out. This led me to explore what happens in very cold places, such as Anchorage….
Speedway Cycles, based in Anchorage, have had to adapt for the simple reason that the climate there demands certain features of a bicycle. Snow and ice are obviously prevalent, and yet why should this mean that the bike is an ineffective form of transport? These folks have come up with a design of bike known as the Fatback. It is designed primarily as a ‘winter bike’ – which means something a little different to the UK club cyclist’s definition of a racer with mudguards!
These bikes are based on a mountain bike style frame, with clearances to accept the huge tyres necessary for grip and stability in the snow. Gearing is also low enough to make progress through deep drifts possible. Notice the disc brakes, to reduce the clogging of snow that would happen around rim brakes.
While not in any way beautiful, these snow bikes do fulfil a purpose. They are also competed on – the Iditarod Trail, which runs through Alaska as shown on the map, can be tackled not just by sleds and dogs, but also on skis and by bike. This is extreme touring – I guess your water bottles would freeze – but it does help to put things into perspective for me after the week just gone. 1100 miles through the frozen wastes takes the riders from Anchorage to Nome – but apparently just a handful of the entrants have ever made it all the way. Entrants have to survive for days on end between food and water drops from a plane!
Inspired, I’m off out tomorrow morning, whatever the weather!