Saturday, February 4, 2012

Brompton in the snow

Yesterday, the murphy's law of package delivery happened when DHL tried to deliver my package during the only time of the day that I was not home. It was obviously going to happen, so I didn't try and avoid it by staying home all day (if you do that, then they won't deliver at all). So, desperate for my package (new boots), I asked them to leave it at a pick up point in Den Haag for me today! The pick-up point is only 5 kilometers from the train station, so taking the folding bicycle seemed like a great idea...

Then there was a blizzard-like snowstorm.

Today, I woke up to beautiful frosted trees, slippery snowy roads and bicycle paths. Half the trains were no longer running, but I could still get from Leiden Centraal to Den Haag Holland Spoor.
To put a positive spin on it, in addition to picking up my package, I also tested out the Brompton in the snow.

First, I do believe cycling on a snowy path isn't too difficult if you go slowly.  If visibility is good, it can even be fun. Wear wool layers and a hat and you'll be fine. Oh, and gloves! The crossing buttons might be frosty.

Frosted button

Soft new snow, is easier than packed and smooshed snow but it can also mask ice underneath. The route I had to take to the pick-up point was on multi-use paths which tended toward the packed and slippery side. (The widest bicycle-only paths were plowed) Slipping isn't so scary if you go slow.

Snowy bicycle paths

I had to be prepared to step off the pedals at any time for balance or to stop, even if I had the right of way, for nervous drivers who were completely freaked out by the snow. 

The bicycle held up very well at the beginning but started to "catch" after 30 minutes on the uphill portions. By catch, I mean the chain was skipping and catching until I shifted to a lower gear. Then, it operated better. There is probably a real technical term for this...

At the same time, the snow had started packing into the fenders and along the rims. This caused the wheels to make strange new noises. I picked up the bicycle and shook it a few times which helped until the snow built up again. 

Snow packed in my Brompton

Overall, I think my bicycle held up very well and I felt secure on it. The brakes squeaked but worked, and anytime I felt slipping, I could easily steady myself. At no point, did I wish that someone would pull me along, bundled and warm.

Lazy children

The shifting was weird going uphill but otherwise fine. Maybe proper snow tires would help with slipping, but I think going slowly is enough of a precaution... And I hope it's not going to be this snowy for much longer. The most important thing is to be prepared to stop at any time.

Especially for the relentless cuteness that might cross your path.

Finding the best sledding spot


  1. Yeah, that's been my (very limited) experience riding in the snow as well. If I go slow, even if I slip a bit, I can always re-balance with a foot, no big deal. The rim brakes on my old Raleigh were pretty much worthless in snow, but the hub brakes on my current one work great, and the chain case and normal internal gears mean shifting continues to work normally, too.

    Te other thing that's nice about snow here, is it's about the only time people actually drive at reasonable speeds :)

  2. Well done. I have a Brompton too, but I'm not sure I'd trust it in several centimetres of snow. But you have all the Dutch infrastructure to help you rather than impatient cars behind and beside you. Nice video from the town hall steps (Google again).
    I'm off along the Canal Latéral à la Garonne tomorrow for lunch in Grenade. I hope the snow they forecast is purely decorative and temporary.

  3. Cont'd. It was 4cm deep and fell lightly all day. Good hot lunch though.
    I had the same problem as you with the hub gears; I think it's the temperature that mucks up the innards.
    Hitch-hiked back, for the first time in 40 years. That's another great thing about the Brompton.

  4. People driving at reasonable speeds and the dutch infrastructure make it much easier to cycle in all conditions! I went out again today and had no real problems... except now I have a filthy bicycle drip-drying outside my door
    Yes! The fact that I could hop a tram or not, made my decision to ride much easier... hitch hiking, yes, I hadn't though of that! Cool. :)

  5. I live in Dronten. More than 10cm snow was fallen and in the morning it was -18 degrees. I biked to the grocery and saw a lot less people on bikes. Around 50% of normal. So dutch bikers can be beaten by weather.

  6. where is this place? about the video, i watched many bikes, brompton all of them?.

    1. Hi- It's a video shot from the steps of City Hall in Leiden. Most of the bicycles are not bromptons- I only meant that one that I was riding!

    2. it looks a very beautiful place.

  7. it looks a very beautiful place.