Monday, December 22, 2008

Ice Bike: Not Just for Crazy People

I stumbled upon this great website the other day: It's basically a site devoted to bicycling in the Winter. Most people think of cycling as a Summer activity and that's too bad. Cycling is fun, inexpensive, and healthy. We shouldn't just give it up three to four months of the year on account of a little inclement weather.

Whenever you talk about biking as a form of transportation, even those with sympathetic ears will often moan: "Well what about the Winter?". What about it?! That's what the guys at will tell you.

I'll admit, I was more than a little skeptical when I saw this page. In the ice and snow it's hard enough to control a car on four wheels, never mind a bike on two. Throw in the stress from the elements and it looks like biking might just be a Summertime gig after all. After a visit to IceBike, I stand before you a corrected and humbled man.

These fine men and women have it covered. Everything from clothing, to equipment, to riding technique is laid out for you. It's a whole lot easier than you think. There's even instruction on how best to handle different types of snow and ice. What the site lacks in fancy graphics and web video, it makes up for in depth and sheer substance.

After looking at this page, I was sold. I'd be crazy not to bike in the sleet and snow. And for those you who are sitting there worried about the dangers, the folks at IceBike even posted this handy little chart listing the relative risk per hour of exposure to various activities:

Activity per million hrs
-------- ---------------
Skydiving 128.71
General Aviation 15.58
On-road Motorcycling 8.80
Scuba Diving 1.98
Living (all causes of death) 1.53
Swimming 1.07
Snowmobiling .88
Passenger cars .47
Water skiing .28
Bicycling .26
Flying (scheduled domestic airlines) .15
Hunting .08
Cosmic Radiation from transcontinental flights .035
Home Living (active) .027
Traveling in a School Bus .022
Passenger Car Post-collision fire .017
Home Living, active & passive (sleeping) .014
Residential Fire .003

Compiled by Failure Analysis Associates, Inc.

(Appeared in Design News, 10-4-93)

So there we have it. Cycling is less dangerous than scuba diving, swimming, riding in a passenger car, and even everyday living (and yes that is a true statistic, believe it or not). Ah, but what about Ice Biking, isn't that super dangerous? Well no. Check this out:

Winter cyclists report few serious accidents.

There are the occasional crashes but because of extra clothing and a slippery surface to land on, these usually result in less injury than would be sustained by a bare limbed cyclist on dry pavement. Road rash is just about unheard of.

In the winter of 98/99 the ICEBIKE site conducted a survey of winter cyclists with an automated web based survey instrument.

One of the questions asked concerned the worst accident that respondents had experienced while cycling in winter. The results were surprising. These results are replicated below and on the full result page.

Only slightly over 4 percent had ever required medical attention for a winter cycling accident.


If you want to try Ice Biking, here's your chance. Meet on the New Haven Green this Friday at 5:30 PM for Critical Mass. It's a slow ride through the streets of New Haven with a great group of people. The perfect chance to sharpen your winter cycling talons.

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