The forecast all week called for snow and the usual grocery store antics were afoot. By the end of the week friends were warning things were expected to get severe. As a precaution I ensured the KLX250 had a full tank of fresh fuel, inspected it, and placed it on the battery charger overnight as flurries appeared in the sky.
As predicted, there was a substantial amount of snow on the ground. This being Seattle however it was the powdery, barely-frozen variety of snow. With the overnight lows and cloud cover it would be a while before snow started to melt and refreeze into a nightmare so I choose to take early advantage of things.
Right away I made loose plans with other local riders to meet up even though the odds of getting down the hill in one piece were low and then getting back up were even lower. I just wanted to brag to someone at 6:30 am. I ate all of the yogurt left in my fridge and prepped my riding gear. I was honestly scared because I didn’t know how the little bike would do in this much snow and there are serious hills in my neighborhood. I could probably push it home with all my gear on as long as I stayed uphill.
Speaking of which I’ll take a moment to review what seems to work well for 30 degree riding here in Seattle snow:
For practice and support I also brought my water bottle/backpack. That solution held up for about 20 minutes. The second time I went to sip the mouthpiece was a solid ice cube. If I am being honest it was the lack of hydration in the cold temperatures that ultimately ended my trip. Next time I’ll have to run that tube under the warm clothes and remember to drink often enough that the exposed sections do not freeze solid.
Apologies ahead of time for the lack of photos but it’s just too difficult to shoot any type of picture in these conditions. Gloves, cold, wet, fog, traffic – dear reader I simply ask that you embark with me upon a voyage of the mind.
Back to sunrise in the snow – this was the real deal. I was hoping for the chance to break the rear tire loose in a few turns and perhaps get a little sideways. What I saw piled the alley when I pulled the KLX250 out of the garage told me I was in for that and much, much more. I would guess 6 inches fell overnight but it often drifted well over 8 to 10 in places and was still falling. This was not flaky, fluttery snow but more akin to a dry sleet that easily accumulated. It also easily scattered from my front tire so I was able to cut a fresh trail from the garage door up to the main access street. I took a slow lap around the block as the engine continued to warm up and I got used to the new handling at low speed. The avenue had a few recent car tire tracks that assured me that I could get around on that road even if I ended up riding into a snowdrift bigger then me and getting buried. Pedestrians were out testing their cold weather hiking gear so I took care when approaching them.
First I tried some hill climbs to ensure that I had a chance at getting back once I started exploring. Both the traveled avenues and the side streets were passable with correct technique. Hill climbing was especially difficult and I think the biggest reward from this trip was learning how much traction and weight distribution work together on the climb. Simply planting my butt far back on the seat would make a huge difference in both terms of traction and handling. I tried and failed to perfect this on the biggest hill climbs in my area and finally gave up when I got too sweaty. Sweating in the cold is dangerous
Satisfied that no matter what I’d still have a decent chance of getting home I pushed out a bit further along the ridge northbound to search for a passable route over. I was treated to a near-constant stretch of untouched or only foot-printed road ways. There was evidence of snow games the night before and I saw a few groups of children up early to take advantage of the new fallen abundance.
The longer, slower-paced hill climb northbound was easy for the KLX250 with the knobby tires. In 1st gear it rolled thru the high snow steady and true. It executed a graceful right turn to switchback and climb the remaining ridge where I finally put my new hill climbing skills to elegant use if I do say so myself. Summiting the hill I exclaimed at all the streets and avenues that were now wide open to explore.
It was not long before I encountered the neighborhood do-gooders out shoveling the walks and stairs. Naturally I felt obligated to ask each if he or she cared for a hand at the task. To my surprise not a single person took me up on my offer. Most merely replied “No thanks I’m good” which I assume was out of pride or a rightly-placed suspicion of handing their only snow shovel over to a masked stranger. One older gentleman and I spoke about motorbikes for about twenty minutes and I offered to help shovel twice. I think if I had asked once more he would have let me but maybe he was just using it as an excuse to hang outside.
I buzzed Queen Anne Ave a few times hoping to see anything that was open but only saw small coffee shops that I could not easily enter will all my riding gear on. I could get good speed on this straight, wide street. The KLX250 felt smooth and balanced over twenty mph and my only concern was stopping distance. I was ready to take a run at a real hill on this bike someday perhaps when my hands were no longer frozen.
The rest of the morning I spent practicing corners and recovery while looking for hills that were in my skill range. I met a few of my neighbors and most seemed to enjoy watching me having fun. Once or twice I accidentally scared a few. Overall a great group. I’d like to give appreciation to all the very careful 4 wheel drivers I saw on my trip. I expect Seattle drivers to be scary but on this morning I saw nothing but fine and patient drivers and I wish everyday was like that.
Finally on one of the turns I got a little too sideways (left turn as I recall) and when I untwisted to bring the bike back up out of the turn I pulled a muscle in my lower back. I felt it right away and without water or food I decided it was time to end things while I still was in recoverable shape. By now many of the roads were driven and had slush patches that would soon refreeze into dangerous hidden hazards. The density of pedestrians increased including very young children with sleds and more excitment than environmental awareness. Choosing not to press my luck I knew it was time to end it for now. There were also more cars about and I was not sure they would all be as cooperative as the ones I’d encountered so far.
I took the steep downhill streets all the way back after showing off for hikers who were looking at Elliott Bay from Olympic View. It took some time to dust off the snow packed onto the bike. I pointed a fan on it while the remaining melt dripped onto the floor and went inside to nurse my sore back.