Friday Commute

As I started my ride I was awestruck by the beauty around me. The snowy landscape was gleaming from the light of a full moon making it the brightest morning I’ve experienced so far this winter. Two deer crossed the road underneath the moon night and I drew in a deep, contented breath, knowing this was going to be a peaceful, beautiful bike ride through the snow.

Until it wasn’t.

I had just descended the hill coming out of town, when my bike decided to revolt.

My bike and I have come to a mutual agreement about subzero rides. As long as I keep pedaling constantly, my bike will be nice to me. But if I coast at all, my bike does have the right to let the chain slip, which I then have to adjust before moving on.

But this morning my bike was having none of our little contract. The chain was slipping over and off of the gears, while I was pedaling. Not cool.

I readjusted the chain, and started pedaling. Success only lasted for three pedal strokes, however. After going through this process multiple times and having more trouble and less success each time, I realized that I was going to have to attempt getting to work without the help of my bike. (My dad’s hypothesis is that trapped moisture somehow prevented the freewheel from working in the cold.)

Maybe I could lower the seat and use the bike as a scooter? Nope, the seat would not budge. Then I discovered that while sitting on the saddle I could kick the snow bank on the edge of the road with my right foot and propel myself forward.

This proved effective as well as strenuous. I took breaks from bike-scooter-ing by jogging alongside my bike. It felt like a bizarre workout; push my bike along until my leg was on fire, then run until I was out of breath, repeat.

At almost the five mile mark, I checked the time. There was no way I could make it to work on time at this pace, or even make it before the restaurant opened. It was time to call in a rescue vehicle. Stink. Figuring that my dad (who had kindly come and installed new derailleur pulleys as well as serviced my front brakes the night before) wanted to wake up early on a Friday morning, I dialed his number. In fifteen seconds flat our conversation was over and he was on the way. (Isn’t he the best?)

In the interest of staying warm and with the thought that there was a chance I could still magically make it to work without the need for rescue, I continued my scooter/jog routine.

I was disappointed with my inability to make it to work on my own, but the irony of the situation began to amuse me.

-When I started using my bike as a form of transportation a few years ago, most days I rode while secretly hopeing that someone would offer me a ride. If the weather was the least bit nasty (rain or wind, horrors!) I would be glad to use it as an excuse not to bike. But here I was in out in -16F, desperately trying to make it to work somehow.

-I was apprehensive about many aspects of year-round biking when winter began. The cold was not one of them, I knew I could handle subzero temps no problem. But the cold has turned out to be my bike’s arch nemesis.

-I was able to complete every commute in November, December, January and February. The first week of March is a different story.

-My dad and I were talking last night and he made the comment, “This could be the last time we get below zero temperatures this winter.” I expressed that I would miss them and that I was glad I had learned how to bike successfully in them. Oops.

All these things flashed through my mind and I had to laugh at the extreme irony of my morning. But when I looked to the sky, I realized the moon had been laughing at me the entire time.

Half way to work (5 miles)
3:20 am to 4:40 am

Weather
-16F, 8 mph Southwest wind

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava, headband
Torso: thermal shirt, soft shell jacket, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves with liners
Legs: 2 pairs of yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Who knew bike-scooter-ing is actually a really good way to stay warm?

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

Weather
18F, 17 mph Southwest wind, 23 mph gusts
I wore
Head: headband
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Sure, my face got a little cold, but it feels like spring!

003

The giant white dog makes a cameo!

Advertisements

Monday Commute

010
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.

008003

006

Friday Commute

001Happy International Winter Bike to Work Day to everyone! To celebrate this unique holiday, I decided to bike to work! Incidentally, I also logged the lowest average temperature combined from my trips to and from work today at -7.5F.

My new headlight didn’t die on the way to work, which is really thoughtful of it. My chain was not so gentle with me however. Yesterday I gave my bike a decent cleaning and re-lubed my chain (I have been lubing my chain twice a week during the winter) and I guess I did not do something right because it kept starting to slip while I was biking which was downright annoying. I had to stop a few times to reposition it, but thankfully I still made it to work on time.

On the way home it worked fine.

Because it is International Winter Bike to Work Day I thought I would share my top winter biking tip with all of you.

004

This is the sidewalk in front of my house. Those snow banks are actually taller than me.

Don’t lick your lips.
The saltiness you taste is not from the aftermath of your last meal or even from your own sweat. It is from the salt and chemicals of the road flying onto your face. Lick at your own risk!

To work (10 miles)
3:30 am to 4:55 am

Weather
-14F, 16 Northeast 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 got a little cold by the end, but with it being International Bike to Work Day and all, I didn’t mind.

From work (10 miles)
3:25 pm to 4:45 pm

Weather
-1F, 7 mph West 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: Cool beans (but I stayed warm).

Friday Commute

commute 008I brought along my cheap Wal-Mart headlight with me this morning in case my headlight died which it did but I was so close to work that I didn’t bother to stop and mount the Wal-Mart light.

Good news though, I contacted Light & Motion on Monday night and they shipped a new light out for me on Tuesday and it should be here any day now. They are letting me keep my old light as well, which is awesome.

The commute started out with clear roads, light snow, good visibility and high psi in my tires. But my journey did not stay so tranquil for long. The snow was soon falling so thickly that right after cars passed me they would seem to disappear in a cloud of snow. I will never understand why a small but significant percentage of drivers refuse to turn on their lights except when they turn on automatically at night. Just because you are in a car doesn’t mean people can see you.commute 011

I hold no such misconceptions, I always assume that cars do not see me and I try to remember to behave accordingly. I lowered my tire pressure so that I could ride at the very edge of the shoulder. Gotta love my tires, when the pressure is low they stick to the road even when the nastiest, brown-est snow comes their way. However, the increased traction means I have to work extra hard in the saddle, so I am currently a tired little bunny.

commute 012To work (10 miles)
3:25 am to 4:35 am

Weather
-12F, 15 Southeast wind, light snow

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: Really good.

From work (10 miles)
3:05 pm to 4:35 pm

Weather
22F, 13 mph West wind, heavy snow

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Got pretty warm, but it wasn’t too bad.

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.

Saturday Commute

file9851344474078

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.