Sunday, November 22, 2015

Another winter

So another winter is starting is Oslo, in Lommedalen its a moonscape of tracks frozen into ice, sprinkled with gravel.  Really rough stuff.  On the roads, conditions range from bare pavement to black ice to thick rough ice.  The Nihola remains a good tool for hauling kids to and from birthdays, school and daycare.  I haven't put on any winter tires yet, but the tires are a bit soft and do the job well.

Oslo seems to have a growing cargo bike movement. But Norwegians as a rule are very serious about being hardcore, transforming stretchpants into every day attire, and when it comes to cargo bikes, they prefer two wheels. I assume to be sporty. I did see one of those turn-tilting trikes (Butchers & Bicycles) around. I don't understand it myself, but I presume because corning fast is very important. Nice bikes I'm sure, I'd buy a Bullitt myself except before that I'd get some other bikes. Priorities...

I think all the cargo cycles I've seen are electrified, sensible on hills of course, and important if you are to achieve high cornering speeds up hill.  However all the electric two-wheelers are vulnerable when traction fails, even for a short distance.  Trikes, including those with electric motors, suffer a much smaller penalty when they come into a situation where the drive wheel spins.  Its also pretty harmless to corner at a speed where the steering tires slide.  Icy ridges are amusing, not scary.  I think people in Oslo under-valuing this.  (Edit in spring: cargo bikes were invisible all winter.)

So I can screw around on icy ridges and steep hills with no winter tires.  I can use 100% of the available traction, no need for a safety margin (except for braking distance).  The winter tire (the back tire) can wait for winter to really arrive, and I can still get all the way to the center of Oslo safely.  Those two 20" winter front tires probably will go unused for the 3rd Oslo winter.  Long live the trikes.

(There is still the trouble that Niholas have poor front brakes, so I can't really say they are a obvious choice in Oslo.)


  1. I have just done my first snowy riding with the Nihola. A few thoughts (you may have comments, and others may be interested in reading them):

    - replacing the stock rear cog with a 23t cog has been incredibly helpful. Snow or not, having a bigger rear cog makes SO much sense.

    - the bottom bracket height is very low and makes for lots of pedal strikes in the snow.

    - while you can blast through stuff that you might normally carefully step through with a bike, it can make for pretty rough and slow riding. I am going to experiment with running the front tires at high and low pressures to see what works better.

    - the snow is the first time that the width of the bike has been a problem for me while riding on city roads. It forces you out into traffic more, and the tire tracks that get worn out by cars is not wide enough to run all three wheels on a flat surface. Makes for very awkward riding. And the city plows a narrow strip on bike lanes, just roughly matching the width of the bike. No margin for error means lots of hitting snowbanks!

    - rear studded tire is helpful but the issue, as I have experienced it so far, is more the problem of hitting built up snow because of the bike's width. Every bump has me dreaming of a Bullitt...

    Curious if your experience has been the same.

    1. I've had the good fortune of mostly having bike paths where I need to be going, else riding out with the cars in subdivision roads. In Olso they seem to make slow-clearing contract with farmers who simply don't have anything small to plow with, so mostly the question is wedging a farm tractor onto a bike path. :) In Oslo itself they are so kind to use snow brushes.

      Very true that the bottom bracket is low. Sort of has to be, for stability, I guess. Quite rare for the pedals or BB to meet anything other than soft snow.

      You do need someone to maintain your paths if you are going to get anywhere serious. Fresh snow is OK until parts start dragging.

      A bullitt could definitely be better if you primarily need to thread between piles of snow, except I'd imagine you would then find situations where it would become immobile as well. Probably a long-tail is the most robust option, but obviously it has no box. There is no winning. You should see how they "plow" some of the paths here, people can't ride MTB's in some stretches, one some days, and thats after its plowed and they aren't coming back. Farm tractors like I said.

      You can carry a snow shovel in the box. :)