16.12.13

A Baker's Dozen Bicyclist Words for Snow

[Death ruts on 4th Street, Duluth. via PDD.]
People say that Eskimos have a hundred words for snow. Of course it's not true, but people say it all the time.

One reason we repeat sayings over and over is that they often make common sense. One reason we repeat sayings over and over is that they often make common sense. In other words, the more time you spend time looking at a thing, the more you see. The longer you dwell with an environment, the deeper your knowledge.

And riding a bike in the wintertime offers you lots of time to contemplate your environment. For safety reasons, you can't ride that fast. Instead, you must continually stare at the street in front of you, attending to its nuance. It's a bit like singletrack mountain biking, or downhill skiing. You immerse yourself in your environment. You start noticing all the varieites of urban ice and snow experience.

Thus, the beginnings of a wintertime bicycling vocabulary:

Powder - Newfallen snow, lacking coherency. Mostly innocuous, pretty fun.

Ice Scabs - Round bits of compressed ice clinging to the street. Dangerous, but avoidable.

Ice shelf - Like "ice scabs" but larger. These tending to the edges of the street, often containing "death ruts." It's very easy to fall on an "ice shelf" if attempting to corner.

Continental shelf - A large seemingly infinite "ice shelf," lacking death ruts.

Death ruts - Bits of exposed pavement between "ice shelves," worn away by cars. It's often safe to ride in a death rut, until it isn't.

Death ridge - The unexpected edge of an "ice shelf." Particularly dangerous.

Brown sugar - A soft mix of snow and salt. It makes a pleasant smooshing sound under one's tire.

Cookie dough - What happens to "brown sugar" in colder temperatures. Kinda chunky.

Iceberg - The accumulated hard mix of ice and snow that mounts on the edge of a curb after a long winter.

Titanic - An immense curbside iceberg, likely to sink even the largest confidence.

Fender boogers / Fender snot -  Large brown bits of chunky ice/snow mix expelled from the wheel wells of cars.

Rorschach test - A particularly unpredictable formation of "ice scabs."

Permafrost - A continental ice shelf with a layer of "powder" or "cookie dough" on top. Actually pretty nice to ride on.

Skating rink - A road or trail with a thin, invisible coating of ice. Typically occurs around the freezing point, and almost certain to produce falling for any without studs.

[h/t to David for the help with this list!]

[Midtown Greenway, Minneapolis.]

2 comments:

Alex said...

I was told yesterday that Canadians have a word for when you step into snow and it gets into your shoe - they call it a 'booter' (which is indistinguishable in Canadian from the phase 'about her').

Anonymous said...

Here is a good write up for biking in a multitude of winter conditions-

http://www.icebike.org/Articles/TechniquesDeepSnow.htm