Ice and snow

When we chose to go car free I wasn’t really thinking ahead to when it would snow… It doesn’t snow often here, and back then it was early Autumn. But last week it snowed. Twice.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to ride in the snow. I hadn’t tried before last week, and probably wouldn’t have if we still had a car – my instinct was that it was a bit risky (SPOILER – I was right). I thought about walking – we could have set off earlier to go to school and taken time for a winter expedition: all wrapped up, making steady careful progress, maybe with a sledge in hand for tired legs (or for when there was a slope to slide down!). But last Monday I wasn’t feeling patient – I was feeling daring.

Long story short, don’t do it – or at least think twice. In my experiments with bikes on snow last week I found that:

  • on deep, fresh snow cycling is edgy but manageable – just go steady;
  • on slushy, half melted snow it is hard going – lots of resistance and very slippery;
  • if the slush has re-frozen into sheet ice the next morning you should leave your bike at home.

I fell off. Hard. On a road. With child 2 in the seat on the back. Child 1 was just ahead of us, she had slipped off just a second before me.

Thankfully we are all ok. We all had helmets on, and weren’t going fast. In my defence, it had been going really very well up until that point! We had started off very cautiously – pushing the bikes down the road, taking the path over the field so we could ride where it was grass and muddy path (not so slippy). By the time we got back to the road we were at a section that had been gritted – it was wet but totally fine. We still rode cautiously, keeping clear of the piles of slush and gunk in the gutters and keeping more distance from cars than normal. Down the road, round the roundabout, up the hill over the railway bridge and down the other side – we were doing great! Through one set of traffic lights and then there was just one more turn before we got to the school – almost there. But this time as the light went green and we made the turn I looked ahead and saw that this road was obviously not on the gritting list… I started to slow down, but it was too late. Down went child 1, and then me straight after. We fell hard – a real crack. I have never been more grateful for bike helmets. Thankfully none of us were badly hurt, and there were no cars anywhere near us. A handful of good Samaritans came over to help us up and off the road and to check that we were ok. I had bumped my leg (got a nasty bruise on the back of my calf), and child 1 had hurt a knee. Incredibly child 2 was just shocked but no physical damage done! We all had a cuddle and rubbed sore legs, then pushed our bikes the last few hundred yards. The thing most damaged was my pride, though in the days that followed my neck was very sore – mild whiplash I think. There is a book of proverbs in the Bible (called Proverbs – not the most original, but at least you know what to expect) – one that is quite well known says:

Pride goes before destruction,
    and a haughty spirit before a fall.

I hadn’t really thought before about how cycling might help me to grow in humility and patience, but there you go. Life lessons! I am learning that sometimes slowing down and taking things steadier is not just one option, it is the only way. I’ve just started listening to The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer, and can see there is going to be some of this kind of wisdom in there too.

As I said at the beginning, it snowed twice last week. We fell off the first time, and by the second time we were much more cautious. We still rode to school, but this time we got off and walked for the sections that hadn’t been gritted. It took a bit longer but it was worth it.

Published by oikoslife

I am married, father of 2 young children (2014 and 2017), pioneering priest in the Church of England, surfer, climate activist and much more. Born in Yorkshire, and currently living on the Yorkshire Coast. Doing my best to live in good connection with God, self, neighbour and creation - working it out as I go.

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