Monday Commute

file2151245044275I try to bike very defensively. My mantra on the road is, “Don’t give cars a chance to hit you”. I don’t care whether I have the right of way or not, my main concern is making sure that I stay safe. That caution paid off this morning.

Most of my commute is on a state road and there are several side roads that intersect it along the way. Vehicles on the state road have the right of way, all side roads have stop signs at the intersections. Regardless of the fact that drivers by law must stop before turning or crossing the road, I always pause when a vehicle and I are coming up to an intersection simultaneously until I know that the driver sees me. Sometimes I feel silly being so cautious, cars stop at stop signs, right? Not always.

This morning about a mile away from work I noticed the headlights of a pickup truck approaching from a side road. I was about to cross the intersection but paused waiting to see what the truck would do. He never slowed down for the stop sign and turned left-right in front of me. My heart started to pound, if I had not slowed down we probably would have collided.

On the way home I paused at several intersections, but this time I did not feel silly in the slightest.

To work (10 miles)
3:45 am to 4:50 am

Weather
32F, 9 mph West wind, snow/sleet/rain stuff

I wore
Head: head band, rain jacket hood
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: It was so warm out!

From work (10 miles)
3:50 pm to 4:55 pm

Weather
25F, 10 mph West wind, snow

I wore
Head: headband, ski goggles, rain jacket hood
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit glove
Legs: yoga pant, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Nice and warm without overheating.

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Friday Commute

It was snowing quite hard on my morning ride but I stayed on the shoulder and arrived safely to work.

By afternoon the roads were clear so I decided to head to a nearby convenience store and put a little air in my tires to make the biking home easier. But even though I put four quarters in and even though the machine made lots of noise, it refused to pump any air into my tires. It was too cold I guess. So I turned around and headed home.

When I was just past the restaurant, the giant white dog appeared. But this time I knew there was no outrunning him, he was too close when I spotted him. I was quite sure that he wouldn’t hurt me when he caught up to me, but to increase my chance of staying safe, I decided to stop and show him that I was a normal person.

I got off the bike, ripped my goggles and face mask off and took off my gloves. Instead of continuing his fast pace toward me, he stopped while continuing to bark at me. I held out a hand and talked softly and firmly while making no direct eye contact. “Hey now, I know you are a big softie, it’s okay, no need to bark.” He walked up warily, sniffed my hand, barked a few more times for good measure and then backed away. I slowly started to walk with my bike down the road and though his posture stiffened he stayed still. Once I was out of gaze I hopped back on my bike and sped off.

Saw a few joggers out with their dog, you rock!

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

Weather
28F, 12 mph Southwest wind, heavy snow

I wore
Head: head band, ski goggles, rain jacket hood
Torso: thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Between the snow being so beautiful and biking carefully, I kinda forget how I felt temperature-wise, so I am going to guess everything was okay!

From work (10 miles)
3:10 pm to 4:40 pm

Weather
12F, 7 mph Northwest wind

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

Monday Commute

Last night I checked the pressure of my tires and oh my! When I said I lowered the tire pressure I meant it. Both tires clocked in at just above 25 psi! Pretty sure that is a lot less than what the manufacturer recommends as the minimum pressure, oops. I pumped them up to 60 psi, I believe they were originally at 80 psi.

I felt like I was flying on the commute this morning, although it was snowing a bit the roads were clear and my tires actually had some air in them! While at work the owner’s husband came in and started playing around with my headlight, he nearly blinded my boss. Then he asked me lots of questions: where did you get it, what kind of batteries does it use, how long does it last, etc. I love talking to people about my equipment, maybe someday one of them will feel inspired to bike.

Outside it continued to snow lazily through most of the day. When I see those big, fat snowflakes float gently to the ground all I want to do is go outside, lay down in the snow and watch them fall. But since I am such a responsible adult I resisted the urge while I was at work.

I hit the road at 4:00pm, the shoulders of the road were covered in snow,  but visibility was decent so I took the lane. I stopped to pick up some stuff at the grocery store, the guy in the pickup truck next to me asked, “You got snow tires on that thing?” Winter biking is a great conversation starter, apparently.  The side roads I took to reach my apartment were covered in a snow/slush mixture and at 60 psi my tires had more traction than at 80 psi but I still fishtailed a bit. I am guessing that in snow 40 psi will work well. Now I just have to buy a portable bike pump so that I can adjust to the ever-changing road conditions.

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

Weather
30F, 10 mph Southwest wind, light snow

I wore
Head: balaclava, ski goggles,
Torso: thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: My face overheated from the balaclava but did I bother to stop and take it off? Of course not! Do you realize what a difference decent tire pressure makes? I was so happy to be flying along that nothing in all of creation could have compelled me to stop that bike.

From work plus grocery stop (10 miles)
4:00pm to 5:10pm

Weather
28F, 3 mph West wind, snow

I wore
Head: rain jacket hood, ski goggles
Torso: t-shirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Nice.

Friday Commute

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Okay, this photo isn’t very accurate because road conditions were different, plus I didn’t see a “Sheriff car” but it was the best I could do.

Just when I thought winter biking couldn’t get any better…

All the schools in the area took snow days and my boss decided to close early so I got a partial “snow day” too! And believe me it was a snow day. Starting out the journey home wasn’t too bad.

I made a deal with myself before I left work, if the weather was nasty when I got to the hiking trail I would stop and do some off road biking, but if it was nice I decided it would make sense to take advantage of the clear conditions while they lasted. When I arrived at the trail, visibility was low so I took to the woods.

The snow was a little deeper than last week, in a few places it was up to 10 inches. Biking through 10 inch snow is doable, but starting in it was impossible for me, so I would walk my bike to an area where the snow was not as deep. I took a jaunt through the woods for about half an hour.

Just before heading back to the main road I was struck by the sudden urge to test out a tip I had read online. Lowering the psi of your tires was supposed to give a bike more traction in the snow, and I knew I needed good traction to stay safe on the eight remaining miles. I didn’t have any equipment with me so I took a fallen twig and let air out of my tires until they were decently soft.

As soon as I started off, I realized what a huge mistake I had made. Why in the world had I never tried this before? It made a giant difference in my control over my bike. Fishtailing was almost completely eradicated and when it did occur it was a very lazy and half-hearted fishtail.

Visibility became so low I didn’t dare stay in the plowed lane. Instead, I took the shoulder where the snow was up to six inches deep (I used my fingers to measure depth). I went along slowly and steadily. The falling snow was magnificent and despite the adverse conditions I was thoroughly enjoying my ride. A guy passed me in his pickup and then pulled over to the side. As I came alongside him he asked me, “Are you going to work or are you out for fun?” Neither of these were the precise truth so I went with how I was feeling, “Oh, for fun.” “Holy cow! (He didn’t actually say cow, that is my G rated paraphrase) Be careful, don’t get wasted by a car!” I thanked him for stopping and continued on.

As I was coming up the last hill into town, the sky cleared. And then another car pulled up beside me, a jeep this time. Two guys and the man driving was our county Sheriff. The guy on the passenger side asked me,

“Are you okay, are you good?”

“Yeah, I am great!”

“Alright as long as you are fine…”

At this point the Sheriff gave me a smile and thumbs up.

“Thank you guys for asking, I really appreciate it!”

Oops, I would have said Sheriff or Sirs or something if I had thinking properly, but carrying on a conversation while handling my bike in deep snow is tough! I am pretty happy though, I now know for sure that my local Sheriff is not against winter biking unlike the mayor of a neighboring city.

I arrived home super tired but it is the good, endorphin-filled, satisfied tired of a good day’s ride. It was worst conditions I have biked in so far and I made it and loved it! That feels amazingly good!

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Whoa, who is behind the balaclava? A dark, brooding, mysterious….

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….um okay. You pull off the balaclava only to be met with this…creature.

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

Weather
16F, 26 mph Southwest wind, snow

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

From work plus trail riding (10-11 miles)
12:20pm to 2:35pm

Weather
21F, 18 mph West wind, 33 mph gusts, heavy snow

I wore
Head: balaclava, ski goggles
Torso: thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: two pairs of knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: three pairs of socks, boots
Comments: Overheated a bit when the wind took a break.

Monday Commute

Three weeks of non routine sleeping has finally caught up to me. I didn’t sleep well last night and setting my alarm early to make sure I got to work on time despite the weather didn’t help my sleep depravation.

Let me explain the weather we have been experiencing the past few days.

Saturday morning: nice thick cover of snow, below freezing temperatures
Saturday night: strong winds, temperature rises, results in heavy rain
Sunday: above freezing, very strong winds, most of the snows melts
Sunday night/early Monday morning: temperature drops, decent snowfall
Monday: temperature continues to drop

Weather can have some serious mood swings, I’m telling ya!

So I set off this morning in the swirling snow. The roads were well plowed and other than a few white-outs the ride was uneventful. While the ride itself was uneventful, my mind was slightly off-kilter from lack of sleep. I kept thinking that I heard a snowplow coming up behind me and I would glance back…to see a completely deserted road.

But I kept coaching myself that I couldn’t become complacent (I used the example of the villagers in “Peter and the Wolf” to motivate myself) because the next time it would be an actual snowplow. The phantom snowplows continued to stalk me for the entire ride. (Can I get a restraining order against them?) Of course the only snowplows I ended up seeing were coming from the opposite direction.

The last two hours at work were a struggle, my eyelids kept asking pesky questions such as, “can we close now?” “what about now?” “who are you to tell us not to close?”. Thankfully I was able to get out of work right after three. Once on my bike I got my second wind, sadly, it turned out to be a mere cat’s paw. My solution to low energy? Low speed. I cheerfully, slowly trudged along, breathing in the brisk air.

A couple of guys in a pickup truck slowed down and the guy on the passenger side stuck his head out, “Are you alive?”. Now I realize that I was moving at the pace of something dying, but I thought it was obvious that I wasn’t dead quite yet. While I was still processing this he repeated, “Do you want a ride?” Ah ha! That makes more sense! After thanking them and declining the offer, I pedaled home.

To work (10 miles)
3:40 am to 4:35 am

Weather
25F, 24 mph West wind, 36 mph gusts, snowing

I wore
Head: balaclava, rain jacket hood, ski goggles
Torso: thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: two pairs knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: three pairs of socks, sneakers
Comments: My boots were still slightly damp from Saturday’s escapade, so I wore my sneakers and as many thick socks as I could manage. My feet stayed warm, yay.

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

Weather
10F, 8 mph Northwest, 17 mph gusts

I wore
Head: balaclava, rain jacket hood, ski goggles
Torso: thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, thermal underpants, rain pants
Feet: two pairs of socks, boots
Comments: My face felt cold when there were gusts of wind but I was good other than that.

Friday Commute (with bonus side trip )

I worked late today which was nice because I got to sleep in until 6:45, but it also weird because I am not used to getting to work at 9:45 am. During the middle of my ride to work I took a water break and realized I was going to arrive super early to work. I further realized that I was right next to a hiking trail covered in pristine white snow. Even though I was pretty sure the snow was too deep to actually traverse in I decided to try anyway.

Oh my! Why have I not tried this before! My mountain bike and I had such a thrill plowing through the 5 to 8 inches of powdery white snow. We went for about half a mile into the quiet woods when I decided it was time to turn back. I am so doing this again!

The rest of the ride to work was uneventful, the giant white dog chased and barked at me but that is pretty typical. But what happened at work was not typical. Get ready, Justl.

In the middle of my work day, a coworker tells me there is a giant white dog hanging around outside, instantly I know it is “my” giant white dog since he lives close to the restaurant. I go outside and slowly move toward him, avoiding direct eye contact. I reach out my hand, he sniffs it calmly then looks up at me with big sorrowful eyes. He seems a bit shy so I stand still until he walks away. Before this I was quite sure he would never actually hurt me, but it is nice to confirm that.

I am not absolutely sure, but I think he came over to apologize. My thought is that he made a New Year’s resolution to not bark or chase me anymore, but when I came riding by at an odd time of day he was so excited that he forgot. I could be wrong of course…

To work with side trip (11 miles)
8:20 am to 9:35 am

Weather 22F, 6 mph Northwest wind, snowing

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

Comments: My ski goggles always keep my face super warm, which can border on too warm.

From work (10 miles)
8:30pm to 9:25pm

Weather 14F, no wind

I wore
Head: balaclava, rain jacket hood
Torso: t-shirt, rain jacket
Hands: two pairs of knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Felt a little cold at first because my jacket was still damp from my morning exertion in the snow.

Monday Commute

We got a little snowfall overnight and the temperature has started dropping again so it almost feels like we are back to winter.

There are many health benefits to winter biking but I have discovered a health hazard as well. The main road I bike on gets salted to death and on dry days like this afternoon every time a car passed me a chalky, salty dust came into my nose and mouth. I am guessing that is not super healthy. Oh well, I suppose toxins are just a part of life….or I could buy a gas mask.

To work (10 miles)
3:50 am to 4:45 am

Weather 29F, 8 mph West wind

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

Comments:  I couldn’t find my boots this morning (I think I left them at my parent’s house) so I just put on a thick pair of pink socks over my knee highs.

From work (10 miles)
4:00pm to 4:55pm

Weather 23F, 7 mph Northwest wind

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

Comments: My torso overheated a bit so I unzipped my jacket partway.