Friday Commute

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Main road on the commute to work.

I worked the later shift today so I got to sleep in!

But the downside is I had to work later than I am used to working so I was tired by the end of my shift. The last hour at work was a rush, I tried to get everything done as fast as possible so that I could head home.

As soon as hopped on my bike and started out under the clear, glittering sky I could relax and breathe again. I love biking at night, especially when stars and moon light the way.

I was climbing a hill when I noticed a car stuck in a snow bank, hopelessly spinning its wheels. The rear of the vehicle was jutting out into the road and as a car whizzed by it honked angrily at the obstacle. A few other cars also passed by, heedless to their fellow vehicle’s predicament. Shouldn’t vehicles be ready to assist their own kind?

Side road on the way to work.

Side road on the way to work.

I was slightly cautious while approaching the car. I instinctively fear sports cars that are revving their engines. But a breathed a sigh of relief when I could see that the driver was an anxious young lady. She rolled down the passenger window and accepted my offer of help. After a childhood filled with pushing a 15 passenger van out of snow banks, helping a little sports car was a piece of cake.  The driver thanked me and drove off. Nothing else exciting happened on the way home so I got to thinking and decided there are at least four reasons why winter cyclists are a better option than the typical motorist for rescuing stuck cars.

1. We are dressed for success. People in cars often are only dressed to sit in a heated car, not push cars out of snow. But winter bikers? We have our boots, hats, balaclavas and layers on, we are prepared to be in the snow and cold (because we are in the snow and cold).

2. We are more observant of the helpless cars around us. Vehicles may miss out on a car in distress due to their great speed, but us slow and steady bikers won’t miss a thing.

3. Bikes are non-obstructive. When a motorist rescues another motorist they must first find a safe place to park their vehicle so it will not obstruct traffic, something that can be tricky in winter time. But when you are on a bike you can just pick it up and stash in the nearest snow bank if need be.

4. Our strong legs come in handy when pushing out a trapped car.

And think of the benefits to the cycling community, I doubt that girl will tell the next biker she sees, “GET OFF THE ROAD!!!” So let’s rescue all the cars we can, they need our help.

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This highly sophisticated design, which utilized a knit glove secured with electrical tape proved unsuccessful.

On a sad note, my first prototype of the highly anticipated insulated bike headlight failed. My light did last until I arrived at home but the temperature wasn’t severely subzero either. Back to the drawing board.

To work (10 miles)
9:30 am to 10:35 am

Weather
15F, 14mph North wind, 22 mile gusts, snow

I wore
Head: head band, ski goggles
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Very nice

From work (10 miles)
8:40 pm to 9:55 pm

Weather
-3F, 8 mph North 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: Perfect.

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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.

Biking and Babysitting

Why would someone wake up before 5:30 on their day off to bike 12 miles to babysit children for free?

(The children are my nephews and nieces + they are the most adorable things ever = I will take care of them whenever possible, under any circumstances)

To say I had a fun day yesterday would be the understatement of the year.

We played zoo for most of the day. My 3 year old nephew and I went to visit the zoo, while my 2 year old nephew was the zookeeper.

A friendly word of caution, beware of taking your pet monkey to the zoo. By the time we left the zoo he had magically transformed into a goat named Gabby. It was slightly disturbing.

When it was time for me to leave my 2 year nephew started crying. (I was in the middle of reading to them, oops.) I asked him, “Don’t you want to see auntie bike away with cool lights?” He nodded yes with a tear-stained face. Thank goodness, because I needed to leave asap to get to worship practice in time.

The bike ride back was epic. I rode in decently heavy falling snow/sleet stuff. I passed cars with their hazard lights on. I battled wind and sudden gusts. There was lightning.

It was exhilarating. I think I might be able to pull this car free lifestyle off! Feel so free and independent right now.

To Nephew’s and Niece’s House (12 miles)
6:10 am to 7:20 am

Weather
42F, 17 mph Southwest wind

I wore
Head: ear muffs
Torso: t-shirt
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants
Feet: socks, sneakers

Comments: warm

From Nephew’s and Niece’s House (14 miles)
5:05 pm to 6:20 pm

Weather
32F, 16 mph West wind, 32 mph gusts, snow/sleet

I wore
Head: ear muffs, ski goggles
Torso: t-shirt, long sleeve shirt
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, sneakers

Comments: My feet got quite cold, since they ended up getting wet. Getting pounded by sleet stung my face like crazy.

Some of My Bike Stuff

Here is some of my bike stuff. I am usually a very frugal person and kinda stingy when it comes to my own needs. It was hard for me to spend lots of money on some of this stuff, but I kept reminding myself of the context. I could either buy this gear or buy a car. So in reality I am saving money whenever I buy something that will enable to go through the winter without paying for a car.

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Tuvizo Reflective Vest

I call these my “safety suspenders”. I have a dark jacket so I wanted something to enhance my visibility.

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Waterproof Helmet Cover from J&G Cyclewear

I hang one of my taillights on the tab on the back of this cover. It makes me feel safer to have a blinking light at head level.

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Glacier Gloves

These gloves are warm but don’t seem very breathable, my hands get really sweaty. I am going to buy mitts soon, I think.

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Light and Motion’s Urban 550

Love this little guy.

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Taillight from Serfas

I just ordered another one of these. I am impressed at how bright this light is and how wide it spreads that light.

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Bolle Mojo Snow Goggles

These haven’t fogged up so far. So nice to bike in snow and rain without it hitting my face. I am buying another one of these without the tint for nighttime biking.

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Avenir Excursion Panniers

These are reflective, which is great.

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.)