Blood Donation and Biking

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My Bike

I hope you had a great day, because I had a great day.

Real winter Biking

All the local schools had a snow day. So I did the only rational thing possible, I set out for a bike ride. I went up a couple nice-sized hills to my parent’s house. My mom was really scared about me biking up, she kept asking my dad to come pick me up from town. (My parents are the sweetest.)

But when I finally made it up to their house (I went at a wind and caution induced speed) she told me a was a hero and made her feel like a wimp. She kept insisting I retain my biking gear so she could take pictures of me (lol) but she couldn’t find the camera, so I shed my gear, promising her that she could take pictures when I was leaving.

So I puttered around the house for a few hours helping out with some cooking and cleaning, getting stuff ready for Thanksgiving. Then I set out to head home.

I chose a different route going back which was kind of a mistake. One of the roads was covered with gravel, and therefore I discovered a fun fact about combining gravel roads, studded tires and strong winds. Progress is slow. I think I could have walked faster.

Luckily the next road I turned onto headed in the perfect direction to catch a lovely tailwind. It felt like flying. But then I miscalculated the location of the edge of the road, slid and fell. Now in an earlier post I detailed that falling is one of my greatest biking fears. So I was shocked to find that I was not hurt at all and neither was my bike. Phew.

Got home, left my panniers, grabbed my ID, told my disappointed dogs I would be home for “real” soon, and rushed out the door to head to the blood drive.

Donating Blood

It was only about a mile bike ride to the blood drive but the roads were not well plowed. I slid around a little whenever I went through a thick layer of powdery snow, which was somewhat terrifying, but doable.

As a first time blood donor I was kinda unsure what to expect but the process was easy, simple and almost painless. I told my needle stick-er person (that is the official term) that I had been out biking for a lot of the day. When she took my pulse, she was slightly shocked. “Your pulse is not very high for having just biked here. You must bike a lot.” I swelled with pride. But then I remembered that “pride goes before a fall” and I stopped swelling. I didn’t want to fall on the way back home.  I arrived without any mishaps.

I am currently home, safe and sound cuddling my babies in bed.

Weather

19-21F, 21-26 mph Southwest wind, 35 mph gusts

I wore

Head: rain jacket hood, fleece hat, ski goggles, scarf                                                  Torso: thin thermal undershirt, rain jacket                                                             Hands: thinsulate gloves                                                                                                       Legs: yoga pants, rain pants                                                                                               Feet: pair of socks, boots

Comments: I stayed very warm, my face was overheating most of the time. I had to keep pulling my scarf down to uncover my mouth to cool down, but then a gust of wind would make me want to cover my face up again.

Monday Commute

To work (10 miles)
3:55 am to 4:45 am

Weather
32F, 7 mph Southeast wind, light rain/snow

I wore
Head: headband, scarf, ski goggles
Torso: t-shirt, rain jacket
Hands: pair of knit gloves
Legs: thin thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, sneakers

Comments: The ski goggles I bought are orange-tinted so they really minimize how well I can see at night. They will be great for those bright winter days, but I need to order goggles that aren’t tinted for night/early morning biking.

From work (10 miles)
2:20 pm to 3:12 pm

Weather
34F, 10 mph Southeast wind, rain

I wore
Head: rain jacket hood, ski goggles
Torso: t-shirt, rain jacket
Hands: pair of knit gloves
Legs: thin thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, sneakers

Comments: I was passed by six snow plows on the way home. They weren’t plowing, just heading to or from plowing. Hopefully I stuck out to them, maybe they will realize that there will be life forms other then motor vehicles on the road during the winter. There are epic ways to die but being squashed by a snow plow is not one of them.

My Downward Spiral

Biking has become an addiction for me. I am trapped in its web and I don’t think I can possibly break free anytime soon. But as a warning to others I will outline my downward spiral into the world of cycling.

When I was a child my parents forced me to go on bike rides with my siblings. It was awful, I hated it. Biking was just not for me. Definitely. But of course my parents still got me a mountain bike when I was in my late teens. Thanks.

When I was eighteen I started my first “real” job and I decided I would rather bike to work than learn how to drive a car. I hated the thought of driving a car more than biking, apparently. This was the beginning of it all.

Stage 1
Biking four miles (downhill) to work. But I would never bike uphill, in rain or in the dark.

Seems completely innocent, right? I remained at that stage for over a year but then I got a new job and my sanity began to quickly erode. You see, I actually started to enjoy biking.

Stage 2

Occasionally biking ten miles to work. But only if I couldn’t catch a ride with someone.

Stage 3
Biking ten miles to work. But I would never bike home, in rain or in the dark.

Then I went to Brazil for a month. Many people in cities have crazy long commutes on public transportation every day. I came back to the States with a new attitude. If Brazilians didn’t complain about transportation taking up a large part of the day, why was I complaining? Plus biking was actually really fun and relaxing. That’s when I began to believe that it is impossible for me to waste time on a bike.

Stage 4
Biking back and forth to work if it was daylight. But I would never bike in the dark. That would be insane.

Then winter came and I couldn’t bike at all. For the first time in my life I hated winter. I decided that when spring came I would buy some good quality bike lights and try biking in the dark.

Stage 5
Biking twenty miles back and forth to work. In the rain, in the dark, no matter what.

I immediately fell in love with biking in the dark. But my ten mile morning commute started to feel really short and routine.

Stage 6
Biking twenty miles back and forth to work, plus a couple of ten to twenty mile morning bike rides on my days off.

Ever since the start of spring I have been weighing my options for winter. Should I buy a car or try biking? The answer was obvious.

Stage 7
Live car free no matter the season.

I am currently at Stage 7. The scary thing is the downward spiral may continue and I have no clue what will come next.

Saturday Commute

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

Weather
27F, 2 mph West wind

I wore
Head: headband, rain jacket hood, scarf
Torso: thin thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: two pairs of knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: two pairs of socks, sneakers

Comments: Started out warm and got a bit over heated on the way.

From work (10 miles)
7:55 pm to 8:40 pm

Weather
32F, 7 mph Southwest wind

I wore
Head: rain jacket hood, headband, ski goggles, scarf
Torso: thin thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: two pairs of knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: two pairs of socks, sneakers

Comments: Snow was gently falling for most of the ride, so beautiful. I got quite overheated though since I dressed for mid-twenties (which was the predicted temperature) and when I arrived home I realized it was actually 32F. Cars were definitely slowing down when they passed me, wondering what in the world a orange-goggled, blinking creature was doing out at night. It made me feel rather self-conscious but I suppose I just have to get used to the scrutiny.

My Three Winter Biking Fears

When I am confronted by family and friends about the insanity of biking through the winter I always project complete confidence in my safety. But the reality is I fear some things about winter biking.

Falling
I am terrified of heights, I have nightmares about falling, when I was younger I ice skated like my limbs were made from porcelain. Newbie winter biking and falling go hand and hand I’m quite sure. The question isn’t if I going to fall but when. And that is terrifying. What if it is in the middle of an intersection, or right in front of a car?

Sickness and Injury
Ever since I was a little kid I have gone out in the cold with t-shirts and sneakers even though people tried to tell me I “was going to get sick”. That idea, though mostly false, gives me shivers of fear. What if I get a bad cold and/or cough that won’t go away? Biking in the freezing cold and winter wind while struggling to breathe does not sound fun. And of course any kind of leg or arm injury could force me off my bike for awhile.

Snow Plows

Snow Plows seem like monsters. The route I use to bike to work has very wide shoulders and is generally free of any obstacles that would cause a snow plow to be cautious, so they plow with super speed. I am very visible with my reflective clothing and well placed high quality blinkies but I move much slower than a car. And cars will be the only vehicles snow plows will be expecting. My plan is to get off the road when a snow plow is approaching if possible.

I am not biking through the winter with the idea that it is perfectly safe. There are risks. It is more dangerous than biking in the summer. But driving in the winter is also more dangerous than driving in other seasons. I am way more confident that I can keep myself safe on a bike then I could in a car.

First ride in the snow!

When I went outside to walk my dogs snow was covering the ground and the road was full of slush. Words cannot tell you how excited I was. I quickly changed into my biking gear and headed out to the local fairgrounds to gain some winter biking experience. Getting there was really scary. I avoided the frozen slush at the edge of the road and walked my bike across every intersection.

At the fairgrounds I started out slowly but quickly became more confident in the capability of my studded tires. One path was perfect for testing them out, it was covered in a thin sheet of ice. After not falling for awhile I decided to amp up my biking speed, and brake and turn more aggressively. I still did not slide or fall, maybe winter biking won’t kill me after all! (Silly friends and family.)

I finally took to the road to run some errands. One guy saw me getting off my bike and we chatted for a bit about biking, his family and local stuff. I think I will have to get used to winter biking being a conversation starter. I am quite the introvert, so maybe it will be good for me.

Weather
20F

I wore
Head: headband, rain jacket hood, ski goggles
Torso: t-shirt, rain jacket
Hands: pair of knit gloves
Legs: thin thermal underwear, rain pants
Feet: socks, sneakers

Comments: I got some snow in one of my sneakers, so my foot was a little cold part of the time. Other than that I felt just warm enough.

Crazy Morning

Yesterday started out with pizzazz. Woke up, got all ready for work, headed out the door with my bike headlight, pressed the on button. It didn’t turn on! WHAT!?! I rush back to my bedroom and hook it up to the usb charger. The indicator light on the back is solid green, meaning that the battery is fully charged. But when I unplug the light it refuses to shine and the indicator light blinks red.

So I find my cheap walmart light and attach it to my handlebars using hair elastics. Then I bike. Halfway to work there is a hill so I downshift while ascending. At the top of the climb I try to shift to my third gear but suddenly the gear line snaps.

So I get off my bike to figure out what is going on and after a few minutes I realize that I am going to have to bike five miles on first gear. Wanting to make it to work on time and knowing that I am already somewhat behind schedule, I pedal lighting fast. I have never pedaled so fast in my life while going so slow.

Of course my walmart light runs out of battery 3 miles before reaching work, so I am biking slowly and dangerously. Bad combo. (Actually that little light didn’t really help so I guess I was biking dangerously the entire ride.)

The good news is I pulled into work just as my coworker did. Win.

The best news is when I called tech support for my bike headlight, the guy figured out in five seconds flat that I had put my light in travel lock mode. So I felt kinda dumb but my light is working so I am super thankful.

So the only not good news is that I had to bike back home on first gear which took a while, and I will be stuck on second gear until I get the gear line replaced. (My dad figured out how to change it to second gear, he is pretty awesome.)

Thursday Commute

To work (10 miles)
3:55 am to 5:03 am

Weather
32F, 3 mph West wind

I wore
Head: headband
Torso: t-shirt, light weight jacket
Hands: two pairs of knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants
Feet: socks, sneakers

Comments: Started out warm and stayed warm the whole way, at least I think so but I am not sure because I had other things to deal with besides the temperature. (I will post about it tomorrow.)

From work (10 miles)
3:00 pm to 4:01 pm

Weather
32F, 5 mph West wind

I wore
Head: rain jacket hood, ski goggles
Torso: t-shirt, rain jacket
Hands: pair of knit gloves
Legs: thin thermal underwear, rain pants
Feet: socks, sneakers

Comments: Woot! My second time biking while snow is falling. The pavement was too warm for the snow to actually stick so as far as my tires went it was like biking in the rain. Tried out my ski goggles and rain jacket out for the first time, both worked well. It was quite fun biking through the gently falling snow, I can’t wait for it to snow in the early morning.

The Beginning

One girl, one bike, one harsh winter. What will happen when their worlds collide?

Hi there! I’m Bri and everyone I know thinks I’m crazy. I live the car free life in rural Northern New York. In the coming months I am going to tackle my biggest challenge yet: living car free in winter. Can my bike and I survive? I have no clue but I am gonna find out.

This blog will document my biking journey. I was just gonna keep an old-fashioned journal so I could remember for next year what worked and what didn’t, but I figure the more people talking about winter biking online the better. It might help someone else look less crazy.