The coastal climate keeps it from snowing in Amsterdam as much as you’d figure for a place quite far north and with a reputation for considerable rainfall. Some winters it hardly snows at all while some winters it begins in November and snows regularly until spring. Still it almost never snows more than perhaps ten centimeters and then it usually warms up a couple days later, making a slushy, dirty mess and gradually disappearing.
This winter, however, it’s already snowed more in November and the first half of December than we usually see all year. No matter; we have our bikes to get around and today’s snowfall was just what I needed to remember that. This morning I had a plan to train at the Velodrome with my friend Toon. Yes, I still do that sort of thing and no, there is no conflict between being a cyclist for both transportation and fun/fitness. The Amsterdam Velodrome is great way to stay fit when it’s like this outside. It’s just warm enough to wear shorts and even in a snowstorm there are 30 or 40 riders in a training session paceline.
Here’s a picture I coincidentally found of Toon at the Velodrome. See? Nice and warm and dry and fast; sure beats sitting on a stationary trainer at home.
The only challenge today was that I had my track bike at home, not in the storage at the velodrome. Carrying a bike while riding a bike is no big deal; usually I do it with the bakfiets. The front wheel comes off and I strap the handlebar against the back of the box. The rear wheel stands on the front edge of the box and a pair of straps hold the whole rig upright. Looks a little funny but it works like a charm. You might be thinking “Why doesn’t he just ride with the track bike rolling alongside like most normal folks would do?” Or alternatively “Why doesn’t he just ride that darn track bike like the entire world population of skinny-jeans with U-lock wearing, butt-crack showing hipsters. And there is a reason: At a wooden velodrome it’s not allowed to ride on tires that have ever been ridden outside. They can pick up debris that would damage the track surface.
Anyhow Kyoko needed the bakfiets to bring the kids to the daycare this morning and for reasons to mundane to explain our Fr8 city bike was at the shop. That left me with my Brompton folding bike, which actually sucks in snow much less than you’d expect. It is sketchy handling on the slippery, squishy stuff but it’s also very low to the ground making it really easy to do the one foot “outrigger” or tripod thing. So for lack of a better option I set the saddle a few cm lower than usual, tossed the track bike on my right shoulder and set off through about 10cm of unplowed snow holding the Brompton’s handlebar with my left hand. Comfortable it was not but neither was it dangerous; I just had a few kilometers to ride, almost entirely on separated bike paths. I didn’t fall until I tried to dismount at Toon’s house. Then I discovered that the neighborhood road I’d been cycling on was as slippery as a greased pig and fell immediately on my butt with two bikes on top of me. So much for grace.
I did consider the other transport options this morning:
Car: Well, we don’t have one of our own. I could probably have borrowed a friend’s car but it’s parked about half as far away as I had to ride anyway. In any case auto traffic around the city was a mess. The few snowplows they have here were running way behind the heavy snowfall and cars were stuck everywhere.
Tram: There’s a tram that runs between our two houses, with just another few minutes walk on his end. Problem is that the trams and buses were all getting stuck behind the floundering cars and trucks. One of my Workcycles colleagues spent half the afternoon trying to cross the city by tram and finally ended up walking most of it out of frustration. The trams that are running smoothly are jam packed so I also wouldn’t have made any friends carrying a bike frame and a pair of wheels.
Taxi:That would be convenient aside from sitting in traffic while watching the meter tick away at the alarmingly fast Amsterdam taxi rate. Oh, yes, I’d still have to disassemble and reassemble the bike to fit it in the trunk. Basically we only take taxis in Amsterdam when headed to deliver a baby or return home with that baby. Four times thus.
Walking: The distance was just too far for a reasonable walk. It would have taken well over an hour.
This evening after work I rode the Cargobike (bakfiets) to the daycare to pick the kids up. By then quite a bit more snow had fallen and it was either packed down into ice on the car roads or half packed and half sliced up into zig-zag tracks on the bike paths. The bakfiets is actually quite good in such crappy cycling conditions. Though the front wheel is lightly loaded and slides fairly easily the low center of gravity and long wheelbase make for very forgiving handling. Kyoko and I both prefer it to our city bikes when it’s slippery. When it’s as slippery as it was this evening falling is more an inevitability than a bad scenario. Falling with the children under a tough canopy in the wooden box of the bakfiets is annoying for you but probably just funny for your kids. Falling with kid(s) on child seats on a regular bike will result in at least one snowy, screaming kid.
I did drop the bakfiets once this evening; After successfully navigating the paths, roads and sidewalks (hey, whatever works when it looks like this out) to our home I once again today fell on my butt after dismounting at my destination. Two year old Pascal’s response while on his side under the canopy? “Bakfiets Boom! Bakfiets Boom!”