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.

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I bought a camera!

Yesterday I went shopping with the gifts cards I received for Christmas. I decided it was high time for me to own a camera. Currently, my photography skills are abysmal but hopefully that will change with time and practice.

I snapped a few pictures while I was on the way up to visit my little nephews and nieces.
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Not Snowshoes

As a total winter biking newbie, I learn new things constantly. Today was a day of discovery.

A while back I found out that biking on trails covered with fresh snow up to ten inches was hard but crazy fun. Unfortunately, soon after my discovery winter decided to intervene and cut my fun short by dumping a few feet of snow into the mix.

But this morning the sun was out and I headed to the local fairgrounds to do some experimenting. I thought that it was possible that the slight thaws we have experienced the past few weeks might create a stable base to ride on.

Yeah, no. You know that when your bike is stuck far enough in the snow so that you can sit on it safely without moving that you will not be going far. I had a blast though. There was a trail that was groomed for snowmobiles and walkers that was hard packed enough to ride on. So I did bike on that path and tried to use it as a launching pad to gain enough momentum to transition to the surrounding snow.

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Surprise! My bike does not look like this.

The result was comical. My front wheel would promptly sink and become immobile and the remaining momentum would cause the back wheel to buck into the air like an angry horse. Thankfully, the fairground was deserted.

My bike is awesome in snow. It is not fazed by slush or ice. But it is not a pair of snowshoes.

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.

I would be missing out.

Last night my mom called me to tell me when she would swing by to pick me up for my brothers’ basketball game. A little while after we hung up I realized that I didn’t need a ride, this game wasn’t in some far off city, it was in a nearby town that I know well. I think I floored her when I called her back to tell her that I would bike to the game, she still doesn’t understand that I genuinely like to bike places.

It always feels awkward going somewhere dressed to the nines in my biking gear, but I was able to slip into the bathroom quickly and change into normal attire. Holding one of my little nieces during the game was super fun. Watching my brothers lose the game after a valiant first half was not so fun.

After the game I changed back into my somewhat damp outfit and got back on the road. I had not traveled far when a truck pulled over in front of me and a family friend who had watched the game motioned me to stop. He tried to convince me to throw my bike in his pickup.

“It is so cold out. Where are you headed?”

“Just back to my apartment.”

“Ha! That is over 10 miles, let me give you a lift.”

I attempted to pacify him by stating that I was not cold, that I love biking in
winter and that I would be just fine. He was not buying it. His frustration was obvious, why couldn’t I just be a normal person and do normal people things like ride in a car?

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity I was able to bike on. But during my ride I thought about what normal people doing normal people things may miss out on while rushing home in their heated cars.

They miss the clear, black sky with the stars dangling so close to earth.

They miss the happy crunch of studded tires through ice and snow.

They miss a time of calm reflection.

They miss the simple joy of watching the glittering snow.

They miss breathing in the crisp cold air.

They miss the warmth of muscles working together to climb a hill.

They miss the exhilaration of coasting down a giant hill.

They miss the sound of the wind rushing past their ears.

They miss the peace of a landscape covered in white.

They miss the little bunny tracks sprinkled alongside the road.

They miss the feeling of well-being that comes after a hour long ride.

You can’t pry me off my bike, I would miss out on too much.

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.

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.