Saturday Commute

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A bit colder than this.

My coldest commute so far.
My slowest commute so far.
My hardest commute so far.

I love Saturdays! I learned a lot about myself today. I am stronger, tougher and dumber than I ever imagined.

At 3:35 after I covered myself in about thirty layers of clothing I headed out into the -17F darkness.

Minus seventeen by itself wouldn’t be too bad but…

-You know how you were told in school that when air is cold it contracts? It’s true. My tires at 35psi yesterday acted like they contained no air this morning.

-My bike has a rule for -17 degree weather. Thou shalt continually pedal. If you stop pedaling for even one split second, you must be punished by the chain slipping off the gear, which you must then stop and reposition.

-My ski goggles don’t really fog up unless you dare to stop and bend down to reposition chain. Then they protest by fogging up like crazy.

-My bike has an additional rule for -17 degree temperatures. All shifting is permanent until the bike decides otherwise. Biking on the second lowest gear of a bike is not exactly fast, in case you never noticed.

-If you don’t fully charge your headlight, accidently leave it on high and spend an inordinate amount of time on the road, it will run out of battery two miles before you get to work.

Usually my morning commute is a gentle, peaceful ride that I enjoy immensely. Today I fought for every inch of road. My legs screamed, my brain screamed, my back screamed, my neck screamed. No matter how fast and hard I pedaled I felt like I was going nowhere. That is because I was going nowhere. My average speed was just above 5 miles a hour. Many people walk that fast.

At 4:45 I called my coworker to tell her that I would be late, but that I should make it before we opened to customers at 5:30. I bumbled slowly on, aware that a single phone call could have me at the restaurant in 10 minutes with no effort on my part. But even though it was rough, I knew I could make it, I knew I wanted to make it. So I did. At 5:25 I rushed into work, performed a quick change act in the bathroom and started cooking breakfast. I cooked breakfast like I have never cooked breakfast before. I think it had to do with the adrenaline still rushing through me combined with the knowledge that I had faced my toughest challenge yet and conquered it.

I pushed myself to the limits of my endurance and I found that I can go beyond that.

I can bike in winter. I can bike in snow. I can bike in sleet. I can bike in storms. I can bike in cold. Living car-free in every season is what I have dreamed of for several years now. But now I am actually doing it! I just have to remember from now on that living car-free is a lot easier if I properly inflate my bike tires.

To work (10 miles)
3:35 am to 5:25 am

Weather
-17F, 3 mph Southeast wind

I wore
Head: head band, ski goggles, balaclava
Torso: two thermal undershirts, soft shell jacket, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves with liners
Legs: two pairs of yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Head, good. Torso, little good warm. Hands, good. Legs, got very cold on the last leg (hehe) on the ride. Feet, stayed warm but then became cold probably as a reaction to my freezing legs.

From work (10 miles)
3:55 pm to 5:10 pm

Weather
17F, 16 mph Southeast wind, 28 mph gusts

I wore
Head: balaclava, ski goggles
Torso: two thermal undershirts, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Good stuff.

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44 thoughts on “Saturday Commute

      • Ha! Sometimes the commute gets you out the door before you’ve thought about such scientific matters clearly. 🙂

        On another note, do you think you will end up needing studded tires at any point?

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      • I have used studded tires (hakkapeliitta 240 from Nokian) ever since the temperature dropped before freezing. I am way too chicken about falling to bike when there might be ice on the road. I love them, I feel so confident on ice.

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      • Lady, that’s 30 degrees colder than i’ve ever ridden a bike in – i haven’t got a CLUE! I’m going to guess here but a light spray lube (Finish Line makes a great cleaner/lube, same product for both)… Air up the tires 15 pounds higher if you’re doing it inside. Also, just in case, give the front derailleur a once over look (flip the bike upside down now that you have it inside and shift through the gears to make sure everything is working okay. Adjust as needed.

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      • Thanks Jim!
        Wow, 15 pounds higher, does that mean I was for all practical purposes riding with 20 psi? Thank goodness I didn’t get a pinch flat or something nasty.

        Guess what I picked up and used before riding home? Bike pumps are my friend.

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      • Typically speaking, a car tire will drop 5-8% when temps drop below freezing, a little more below zero… With a bike tire there’s less cubic space to fit the air it so I like to go about ten pounds over. If I want to ride at 30 psi, I fill ’em to 40… Dropping to -17, yeah, I’d guess about 15. If you want to ride at 25-30, I’d go 40 to be safe.

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  1. If you don’t have any hills on your commute i suggest to think about going singlespeed to avoid any problems with gears in future :). It is a low maintenance solution and it will strengthen your legs even more :D. Any bike service shop can do that transformation on your bike.

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      • And forgot to add before-congrats on your bravery! 🙂 I do ride on low temperatures, but never had a chance to ride on such low temp here since we don’t have them (yet?)

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      • Here is a tip from personal experience. Never tell friends, family or coworkers that you are kinda wishing for colder weather to cycle in because when it does get colder they will blame it on you.

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  2. Coooooooooooooold. That is cold. I second the thoughts on a single speed setup (or just don’t shift the gears) and you won’t have to worry about dropping chains. Find your nirvana gear ratio and stay on it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, it sure isn’t cold anymore, the temperature is hovering right above freezing. I actually opened my bedroom window, I love having a cool breeze through the house.

      “Nirvana gear ratio”, that is an awesome phrase. I think that is what I will do next time we are getting subzero temps, leave my bike on a nice gear the night before and stick with it through my ride. Thanks for the suggestion!

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  3. You are a force to be reckoned with! People think I’m nuts for cycling year-round and the weather here (Victoria, BC) rarely drops below freezing. Keep it up. Your determination is amazing!

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  4. Wow, let me politely say that you are insane! I live in Australia (near Canberra) and we only get to about 18 Fahrenheit (-6 Celsius) at its coldest and I’ve ridden a longish ride in 25 Fahrenheit (-3 Celsius) and my water bottle froze and my feet froze like blocks of ice. I had to get off and walk to make the blood start flowing in them again. It was one of the least enjoyable bike rides I have ever done.

    Good on you for persevering and keep rididing!! You are an inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Peter!
      Thank you for the encouragement and dropping by! I do admit to being slightly insane (my blog name doesn’t include the work “crazy” for no reason) but I truly enjoy winter. I was born and raised here, basically grew up building snow forts with my brothers and sister. If I ever moved to a warmer climate I would yearn for the snow and ice of winter.

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