Saturday Commute

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As I crested a hill this morning I saw that a police car had pulled over a pickup truck. From the small snippet of conversation I overheard in passing, I believe Mr. Pickup was about to be ticketed for not wearing his seatbelt.

Benefit #876 of biking: I have never been stopped for not wearing a seatbelt.

I discovered a fun new winter biking game on the way home. At the side of the road some patches of snow and ice had been partially melted, leaving sections of snow/ice/dirt mix  slightly suspended above the road. My mission became clear: to crunch through as much ice as possible. I guess I was tired of commuting home so quietly while snowmobiles raced noisily through the countryside around me.

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Crunchable fun.

I crashed through the ice and snow, what a bumpy, loud ride! Shattering ice is lots of fun on a bike with studded tires.

To work (10 miles)
8:15 am to 9:35 am

Weather
3F, 9mph South wind

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava
Torso: thermal shirt, soft shell jacket, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: two pairs of yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Is it actually possible to be cold when the temperature is above zero?

From work (10 miles)
9:25 pm to 10:50 pm

Weather
7F, 9 mph Southwest wind

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Warm.

Friday Commute

007

A mailbox struggling to remain seen above the snow.

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001Do temperatures above freezing actually exist or are they the figment of an active imagination from the pre-ice age?

The good news is I am getting proficient at subzero early morning rides. I have no idea what I am going to do with myself when I can actually coast on the way to work without my chain slipping.

I am also getting better at handling my bike in snow. On the way back from work I ran my tires at full pressure even though I had to bike through decently deep snow in some places. I have learned to be very gentle on the handlebars and almost let the front wheel choose its own way through the snow. Then I use my body to keep the bike balanced and upright. Seems to work well.

At the beginning of winter, I would tense up all the time while biking through snow, especially the sandy, brown, snirty stuff. My fists would clench around the handlebars and I would force the front wheel to remain rigid. I had to make myself loosen up multiple times on a ride. But now I am pretty confident in my ability to stay balanced even when I slip or slide.

I shocked our supplier again today when he asked if I had biked in to work this morning.

Helpful coworker: “She bikes in every time she works!”

To work (10 miles)
3:25 am to 4:55 am

Weather
-8F, 10 mph West wind

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava, head band
Torso: thermal shirt, soft shell jacket, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves with liners
Legs: two pairs of yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Toasty warm.

From work (10 miles)
3:30 pm to 4:45 pm

Weather
4F, 16 mph West wind

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: two pairs of yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Gusts of wind blew through the little vent holes in my balaclava and made the side of my face feel numb. Thankfully, the crosswind didn’t last too long.

Monday Commute

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I didn’t sleep well last night and had lots of weird nightmares. When my alarm went off I had a headache and I felt like I had a fever. It wasn’t a bad headache, but I don’t usually get them so when my head does ache I am a bit of a baby. Convinced that I had a temperature, I stuck a thermometer under my tongue. Two minutes later I discovered my temperature was normal. Okay then, time to get dressed and head out the door.

Even though I felt a little off at first, after a few miles of biking I was fine. I was somewhat lethargic at work, but hey, I made it!

On the way home a car passed me and pulled over ahead of me. As I approached the car, the sweetest little lady popped out and came to the back of the car.

“Are you a young lady under all of that?”

After I answered in the affirmative, she went on tell me that she often sees me biking and wondered if she could give me rides “in a warm car”. I reassured her that if I did need a ride I had lots of family and friends that I could call. So she asked me if I needed a car.  I explained that lived car-free intentionally. Then she shared that she also loves biking and has her bike on a trainer in the winter.

She honestly put such a huge smile on my face with her genuine thoughtfulness. If I am remembering correctly, she is the first woman to offer me a ride this winter. I should have asked if we could meet up sometime to bike together in the summer, but those are the kind of things I don’t remember until after conversations are over.

To work (10 miles)
3:15 am to 4:35 am

Weather
-18F, 6 mph West wind

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava, head band
Torso: thermal shirt, soft shell jacket, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves with liners
Legs: two pairs of yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: My legs started getting cold toward the end which is normal. The thing is I could buy actual winter pants to keep me warm, but the problem is I really don’t mind my legs feeling cold. Am I weird?

From work (10 miles)
3:05 pm to 4:20 pm

Weather
3F, 6 mph Northwest wind

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava
Torso: thermal shirt, soft shell jacket, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: two pairs of yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Nice.

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Saturday Commute

002

An old railroad bridge.

009

That awkward moment when you have to tell a tree that autumn is over.

On the way to work my chain was behaving strangely again so I pulled over to take a look and found that the derailleur pulley (I think that is what it is called) was not moving freely. When I got to work I sprayed some WD-40 on it and that seemed to ease the problem on the way home. I look at it again tomorrow.

The sky was dropping huge flakes of snow on the way home, totally beautiful. I will never get over the stillness and peace of biking in a heavy snowfall, it feels special every time.

When I was a few miles from home the giant flakes morphed into fine, little powdery ones and the snow let off. But then a crosswind thought it would have its own share of fun. It blew the powdery new snow from the tops of the snow banks (which were about the height of my handlebars) and across the road. This created an odd effect: I could see everywhere except the road in front of me. I pedaled carefully, hoping that there were no obstacles hidden under the cloud of billowing snow. Nothing was blocking the path and I made it home safe and sound. (I did experience one epic fishtail, though.)

To work (10 miles)004
8:10 am to 9:35 am

Weather
8F, 16 mph Southeast wind, snow

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava
Torso: two thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, two pairs of thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Nice.

From work (10 miles)
8:35 pm to 9:55 pm

Weather
5F, 9 mph Northwest wind, snow

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

Monday Commute

013Thanks to Jean and TuckamoreDew , I found out about International Winter Bike to Work Day. I am now a little snowflake in a world of snow and it feels great!

First day using the Urban 700. My Urban 550 headlight has a beautiful, wide, even beam but the 700 outclassed it a bit. It spread the light out smoothly over the road with no discernible focus points. But what I really cared about was battery life and so far, so good!

Today work was really slow so I got out early. One of our suppliers pulled in just as I was leaving and the two guys had never seen me in all my snow gear or my winter-ready bike (because it hides in the shed while I am working). They were quite surprised to find out that studded tires are available for bikes. It is always fun to have conversations about winter biking with interested people. It is an odd feeling though, I have seen one of these guys twice a week, for over two years but all of a sudden he was looking at me with a respect he had never shown before.

Isn’t it strange how finding out one fact about someone can completely change your view of them? That is one reason judging people isn’t smart. I don’t know everything about anyone’s life, I don’t know all their struggles, pain, courage or love. Conversely, when people judge me, what difference does it make? They don’t know who I really am on the inside, they only judge by what they see.

But God knows every part of me, all my beauty and my ugliness, and He loves me. That is awesome.

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Amish horse and buggy tracks.

I felt bold on the way home today, I kept my tires at a high pressure and took the right lane, making cars pass me. Usually, I deflate my tires a bit and bike on the snowy shoulder but the skies were clear and my lights were flashing so I knew I would be safe.

To work (10 miles)
3:40 am to 4:45 am

Weather
6F, 10 Northeast wind, light snow

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Nice.

From work (10 miles)
2:50 pm to 3:55 pm

Weather
9F, 10 mph Northeast wind

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: two pairs knit gloves
Legs: thermal pants, yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Pulled balaclava down under my chin when my face got too warm.

Saturday Commute

On the way to work I saw guys cutting ice from a pond using an antique tractor. I kind of wanted to stop but I knew if I did my chain would slip and I also risked my goggles fogging up so I passed by, albeit very slowly.

I kept my bike on one gear for awhile but I realized at the end of my commute that it was shifting fine. I guess the non-shifting threshold is somewhere between -6 and -11.

I think my headlight battery has been corrupted by its subzero adventures, it quit on me a quarter-mile from home. Time for a new battery, new light or both.

To work (10 miles)
9:25 am to 10:40 pm

Weather
-6F, 5 mph Northwest wind

I wore
Head: head band, ski goggles, balaclava
Torso: two thermal undershirts, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: two pairs of yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: A bit sweaty but alright.

From work (10 miles)
8:20 pm to 9:35 pm

Weather
8F, 8 mph Southeast wind, light snow

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

Monday Commute

Subzero weather returned this morning but due to a bit of experience and some helpful suggestions my ride went much smoother.

(Many thanks to Cyclerist, Jim, Joshhan and everyone else for their encouragement and support!)

Last night I put ten more pounds of pressure in my tires, lubed my chain and set my bike on a gear that would work for the entire ride. When morning came I was ready to roll!

I treated my bike like a singlespeed for the duration of my commute. No coasting, no gear changes, just constant, steady pedaling. (Except when going downhill of course, then I had to pedal like crazy.) This worked out very well and I didn’t have to stop once to adjust a slipped chain, hallelujah!

Because I didn’t have to stop biking at any point, the problem of my goggles fogging up was also eliminated. When I arrived at work and removed them I discovered little spikes of frost about half a centimeter high along the inside of the bottom vent. So that was the white thing I kept seeing in the corner of my eye!

Sadly, one factor remained the same as my last subzero commute. I thought it was a fluke last time, that I had simply forgotten to dim the beam from my headlight, but apparently my headlight is allergic to cold weather. Even though I fully charged the battery last night, two miles from work the low battery indicator came on and I had to bike the remaining distance in the dark. I guess the cold depletes the battery much faster than normal.

I called my dad and he thinks a bit of foam insulation could help, or maybe I will order another light, keep it in a inner jacket pocket and then switch lights mid-ride. My taillights remained unfazed.

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

Weather
-11F, 7 mph East wind

I wore
Head: head band, ski goggles, balaclava
Torso: two thermal undershirts, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves with liners
Legs: two pairs of yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Everything was great except for my legs, need to order something warmer for them asap.

From work (10 miles)
3:35 pm to 4:45 pm

Weather
9F, 14 mph Northeast 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: Nice.