A dead guy made me do it.

Why did I decide to bike in the winter?

I am not athletic.

I am not super fit.

I am overweight.

I am not fast.

It doesn’t really make sense that someone like me would try to conquer the elements. But here I am. A dead guy made me do it.

My parents homeschooled me, which means I got to do nerd-ish things. One of the nerd-ish things I did was to memorize the entirety of Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death speech”. It is an epic speech. One sentence of his oration has stuck with me ever since.

“The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.”

This is not just a true statement for battles, for wars. It is true in all of life. Strength and natural ability do not guarantee success. Nope.

The battle belongs to those who are aware and cautious.
The battle belongs to those who go out there and fight, the ones who lay their lives on the line.
The battle belongs to those who courageously move forward despite doubts.

Biking in the winter isn’t for athletes or superheroes. It is for those of us who actually do it.

Saturday Commute

I got to sleep in on a Saturday! I never get to sleep in on Saturdays. It was a big deal, okay? But that means I worked late, so I am dog tired right now. Good night!

To work (10 miles)
8:50 am to 9:35 am

Weather 23F, 12 mph Southeast wind

I wore
Head: balaclava, ski goggles, rain jacket hood
Torso: thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots

Comments: Perfectly warm.

From work (10 miles)
8:00pm to 9:05pm

Weather 28F, 18 mph Southeast wind

I wore
Head: balaclava, ski goggles, rain jacket hood
Torso: t-shirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots

Comments: Man, I went really slow on the way home. The wind was fighting me the whole way though.

Friday Commute

Winter has found its way back to the north country.

My bike ride to work was peaceful and stars were glittering all across the sky. I should have stopped to savor them, but I didn’t.

On the way home from work half of  the shoulder was covered in about an inch of snow and assorted clumps.  So most of the ride I rode on the clean pavement, but I also chose to ride in the snow some of the way. I want to be ready if I ever need to bike on an unplowed road.

To work (10 miles)
3:45 am to 4:35 am

Weather 19F, 3 mph West wind

I wore
Head: balaclava, ski goggles, rain jacket hood
Torso: thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots

Comments: The pinkie finger on my left hand got really cold, so I put it in with my other finger to keep it warm. I need to buy new gloves or mittens like right now, because my current ones stink. The only problem is I don’t know which I should buy. Too many choices!

From work (10 miles)
11:20 am to 12:05 am

Weather 23F, 10 mph West wind, snowing

I wore
Head: balaclava, ski goggles, rain jacket hood
Torso: t-shirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots

Comments: I love biking in the falling snow. My head really overheated with the balaclava, but I wanted to test it out today.

Good For The Soul

Today was just one of those  days that warmed my heart and filled my soul to overflowing with joy.

What warms your soul?

Here is a list of things that make me all warm and fuzzy inside.

-realizing that Thanksgiving is tomorrow
-making pie crusts
-baking pies
-being with my little nephews and niece
-listening to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe soundtrack
-hanging out with my totally amazing brothers
-snuggling with my puppies
-listening to Rend Collective
-looking at family pictures

And all of them happened today. I am a lucky duck.

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The magic starts here.

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I love the smell of pumpkin pies, but they aren’t my favorite. But my brothers will gobble them up.

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Blueberry crumb pie

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Apple pies. I don’t know what is better: making them or eating them.

Monday Commute

Winter is over! It is currently spring.

Seriously, why do the seasons fight each other like this? Why all the drama? Why can’t winter come gradually? Instead we get tons of snow only to have the snow melted by warm weather and rain.

But I must say I love to bike in the rain. This morning I felt so energized by it. When I was almost to work a random guy pulled over to ask me if I wanted a ride. I gave him my standard answer. “I’m good, thanks though!”

On the way home I saw an awesome rainbow and the faint colors of a second one. I know the science behind rainbows, but let’s be honest, they are actually magical. Also saw a bunch of turkeys. I decided to leave them alone since my mom already has her turkey for Thanksgiving.

Passed another cyclist. It has been almost a month since I have seen one on the road so it made me happy to see him. What didn’t make me happy though is that he was biking against traffic. Which means that he was headed toward me on the shoulder, forcing me to take the right-hand traffic lane. Oh well. No harm done I suppose.

To work (10 miles)
3:50 am to 4:35 am

Weather
45F, 28mph Southeast wind, 37 gusts, steady rain

I wore
Head: ear muffs, ski goggles
Torso: t-shirt
Hands: my skin?
Legs: yoga pants
Feet: socks, sneakers

Comments: With wind chill the temperature was 36F so my hands got a little cold but not bad.

From work (10 miles)
3:20 pm to 4:12 pm

Weather
64F, 23 mph Southwest wind, 30 mph gusts, sudden short bursts of rain

I wore
Torso: t-shirt
Legs: yoga pants
Feet: socks, sneakers

Frozen

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“The cold never bothered me anyway.”

I think the writers of Let it Go secretly spied on my life and based this line off me. Ever since I was little I have been scaring my poor mother by refusing to wear proper apparel when out in the cold. I never wore coats and barely wore gloves or hats or socks. I embraced the cold. When you are outside, my philosophy was that you should feel like you are outside. The wind should touch your skin, should make your cheeks burn.

It really is amazing how our perspection distorts reality. By telling myself that I was warm, I really would feel warm. When others around me would be huddling together for warmth, I would stand up straight and refuse to shiver. I would tell people, “I feel the cold but I don’t let it inside me.”

Until.
That fateful day when I was sixteen. My sister and I went for a walk in close to zero degree weather. A stiff winter breeze was blowing but of course I decided against a hat. As we walked I felt the cold hit my ear in a way I had never felt before. But I didn’t fear the cold, so I walked on never mentioning the pain to my sister.

We returned home and instantly when I got inside I could tell something was wrong. My ear throbbed and started to swell. Before long it was thick, fire red and velvety to the touch. Yay for frostbite! Everyone found it funny that Bri, who never got cold, could get frostbitten.

Sadly, I did not learn my lesson. Last year some friends and I were making homemade ice cream up at my parent’s house. Someone dared me to see how long I could stick my hand in the mixture of water, ice and rock salt. So I stuck my hand in. And left it in for almost two minutes. This was A Bad Idea.

When I took my hand out I noticed my fingers were white and felt waxy. So I slipped into the bathroom and plunged my hand into cool water. Pain shot up my arm and I felt nauseous and feverish. For the next half hour I writhed in agony as my hand unthawed. For the next week my fingers felt like they had been severely burned.

Yes, the pain the bad. But that was not what bothered me. What scared me was that it was easy for me to hold my hand in that rock salt water. I could have easily kept it in for a longer period of time. That’s when it hit me.

I could probably freeze to death without it ever bothering me.

I still love the cold. I delight in that crisp feeling in the air. I didn’t close the windows in my apartment until the temperature dropped below freezing. I will never wear a proper winter coat. The cold continues to be my friend.

But I now realize it is a friend with dangerous powers.

Saturday Commute

I feel so good right now. It is a few hours since I got back from work but I can still sense the endorphins filling my body right down to my toes. Biking makes me feel alive.

The roads were clear today, thank you salt! My poor little bike though, hopefully the winter doesn’t hurt her to much. On the way back home I got hammered with “rain pellets” which stung quite badly where my face was exposed. Thankfully, the precipitation didn’t last to long.

I went to my landlord’s to pay rent and his wife asked me if I had been biking last Saturday night. I told her that I had been. She said that she had seen a blinking red light on the side of the road and thought there had been an accident. As she got nearer she was surprised to discover the light attached to a bicycle. I guess my taillight is doing its job.

People are very impressed by my bike lights and frequently exclaim, “whoa, those are brighter than my car’s lights!” Nope they are actually not. Car lights are stronger, believe me I can see the difference every morning that I bike. But I never spoil it for them. If they want to think I have better lights than they do, they are free to do so.

To work (10 miles)
3:55 am to 4:50 am

Weather
23F, 13 mph Southwest wind

I wore
Head: ear muffs, rain jacket hood, scarf, ski goggles
Torso: thin thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Stayed warm

From work (10 miles)
3:00pm to 4:25pm (included paying rent)

Weather
36F, 18 mph Southwest wind, 26 mph gusts

I wore
Head: ear muffs, rain jacket hood, scarf, ski goggles
Torso: thin t-shirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Overheated some but not too bad considering the fact that I was working hard against the wind.

Friday Commute

If this post seems odd for some reason, I blame it on my downstairs neighbors who are currently gutting a deer directly below my window and making the strangest comments while doing so.

Today was my first commute to work in “real” winter weather. Last night in bed I kept almost falling asleep only to be woken up by thunder and lighting. I set my alarm for 2:22 am (an hour eariler than I usually wake up for work) in case it took me a long time to get to work due to heavy snow.

The few blocks I ride to get to the state road that takes me to work were badly plowed. I kept slipping and sliding around in the light powdery snow. It was kinda fun though, to be honest. Once I got to the state road it was smooth sailing, the road was alreadly clear so I didn’t need to worry about snow plows, thank goodness. Going downhill was still quite terrifing. My internal dialogue went thusly: “It’s gonna be okay, loosen your muscles, breathe, you are gonna make it…..” and I did. I arrived at work 40 minutes early. What can I say? I like being on time!

By the time I rode home in the afternoon the roads were nice and clear.

To work (10 miles)
3:10 am to 4:20 am

Weather
18F, 5 mph West wind, light snow off and on

I wore
Head: ear muffs, rain jacket hood, scarf, ski goggles
Torso: thin thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: thinsulate gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots

Comments: I stayed warm until partway through the ride my legs randomly got cold for a few minutes.

From work (10 miles)

Weather
23F, 8 mph West wind

I wore
Head: ear muffs, rain jacket hood, scarf
Torso: t-shirt, rain jacket
Hands: thinsulate gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots

Comments: I have to get new gloves or mittens soon. My current ones make my hands sweat really badly.

Reasons that Rural Riding Rocks

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A tire on my sidewalk Monday when I got home from work.

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The tire Tuesday morning, before we got hammered with snow again today.

To everyone who commutes and bikes around in cities, I bow down to you. I simply do not know how you do it. Actually, living in the same rural area my whole life I cannot fathom how anyone could survive just living in a city. The longest stretch of time I “lived” in a city was two weeks. I barely made it.

Even though I have great respect for city cyclists, I just have to tell you that biking in the country is way better than the best biking perks a city has to offer.

I am a huge animal lover. So one of the reasons I think rural biking is best is because of all the animals I get to see on my commute. Every day while commuting I pass farms with:

Cows
Horses
Donkeys
Alpacas
Sheep
Goats
Chickens (careful not to run over the free range ones)
Guinea fowl
Pigs
Cats
Dogs (there is only one that chases me, he got hit by a car once while running after me, but his leg is better now and he is faster than ever)

Biking past livestock can actually be quite an experience. I was biking home one day when I saw a herd of 30ish cows grazing in a field next to the one they were supposed to be contained in. This did not surprise me since this farm had recently been dealing with escapees. I as went past I called out to the nearest bovine. “Hi there!” I said in a cheery tone of voice. (It is very rude to pass farm animals without a greeting.)
She stared at me transfixed for a moment and then bolted in the direction of the field she was supposed to be grazing in.
When the other cows noticed her running one by one they all started to run. If you have never seen dairy cows run before, you really should put it on your bucket list. It is quite a sight.
As cows were stampeding back to their pasture they climbed a small rise. Coming toward them on the other side of the rise was a herd of about twenty sheep, seeking out better grazing after their own escape.
When the sheep saw a herd of cows running toward them they turned tail and booked it back to their own pasture. I never got paid for my service as a herdbiker, but the reaction of those sheep was worth it.

I also see many wild animals.

deer
skunks
raccoons
coyotes
muskrats
beavers
opossums
porcupines
geese
ducks
great blue herons
owls
vultures
eagles
falcons
frogs
snakes
rabbits
mice
turtles (I have helped a couple of snapping turtles cross the road so if you ever lose a toe or a finger to a snapping turtle in NNY, blame me.)

It is amazing to see tons of different animals on my commute, it makes biking that much more enjoyable.

Just to warn you I will probably be doing more of these “rural riding” posts.

Some of My Bike Stuff

Here is some of my bike stuff. I am usually a very frugal person and kinda stingy when it comes to my own needs. It was hard for me to spend lots of money on some of this stuff, but I kept reminding myself of the context. I could either buy this gear or buy a car. So in reality I am saving money whenever I buy something that will enable to go through the winter without paying for a car.

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Tuvizo Reflective Vest

I call these my “safety suspenders”. I have a dark jacket so I wanted something to enhance my visibility.

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Waterproof Helmet Cover from J&G Cyclewear

I hang one of my taillights on the tab on the back of this cover. It makes me feel safer to have a blinking light at head level.

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Glacier Gloves

These gloves are warm but don’t seem very breathable, my hands get really sweaty. I am going to buy mitts soon, I think.

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Light and Motion’s Urban 550

Love this little guy.

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Taillight from Serfas

I just ordered another one of these. I am impressed at how bright this light is and how wide it spreads that light.

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Bolle Mojo Snow Goggles

These haven’t fogged up so far. So nice to bike in snow and rain without it hitting my face. I am buying another one of these without the tint for nighttime biking.

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Avenir Excursion Panniers

These are reflective, which is great.