Saturday Commute

011While biking up a hill to work this morning my back wheel started to give me problems. When I was almost to the crest of the hill it refused to turn at all and I ground to a halt. So I dismounted, took off my goggles, helmet and gloves to see what the issue was. I unhooked the rear brake and found an ice-covered pebble jammed in one of the brake pads. That would do it. After removing the ice chunk and putting my brake back on I was able to arrive uneventfully to work.

At work I was introduced on two separate occasions as “the girl who bikes in winter”. Hey, I will take it. It will be interesting to see if this phrase sticks to me even in the summer.

I didn’t attach my pannier properly on the way home, so mid-ride it started falling off and I stopped to fix it. In a field nearby some miniature horses and donkeys were standing by their barn, getting as much shelter as they could from the storm. One of the donkeys was braying loudly, demanding that someone rescue them from the snow.

When they noticed the curious creature stopped by the side of the road they all lined up to gawk at me. It was quite cute.004

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

Weather
-3F, 14 mph Southeast wind

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava, head band
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.

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

Weather
18F, 8 mph Southeast wind, 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: We had such a heat wave this afternoon, I probably would have stayed warm in a t-shirt and shorts. Probably.

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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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.

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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).

Saturday Commute

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Graveyard in winter.

One of my coworkers was complaining about her car today, so I suggested she use a bike instead. She instantly protested, “That’s just for you, only you bike in winter.” But I had a great comeback. I had noticed earlier in the day that one of the newspapers on the stand had a front page picture of a guy biking through the snow.

She was completely speechless when I showed her man on his bike, riding through the snow. It was then that I realized that she really, truly thought that I was actually the only winter cyclist. (AH!) Maybe I should print out pictures of people biking in snow to show to when questioned about my winter biking activities. “Yup, I bike in the winter just like all of these people.”

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My little Urban family, with the newcomer below my 550.

Guess who came in the mail today? My little light’s big brother. I opened the package to find a Urban 700 inside, which is a newer model than my Urban 550. Cool beans.

I may have been disappointed with my headlight’s performance in the cold, but at least there was stellar customer sevice behind the glitch. I could not be more impressed with how Light & Motion dealt with my battery issue.

Now I will have to find out how the 700 does in the subzero, it is predicted that next week will give me a few opportunities.

To work (10 miles)
3:30 am to 4:40 am

Weather
16F, 6 mph Northeast wind

I wore
Head: headband
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: I feel like as winter progresses my body is getting better and better at staying at an ideal temperature no matter what I wear. This was great.

From work (10 miles)
3:20 pm to 5:00 pm

Weather
13F, 10 mph Northeast wind, light snow

I wore
Head: headband, ski goggles
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: My lower face got cold from the snow/wind combo, but not cold enough to actually stop and put a scarf on.

 

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

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Leaving my driveway.

I had the best ride home ever!

I woke up at 2:30 to several inches of fresh snow with more gently falling.
I rode to work and the snow continued to fall.
I worked through the morning and the snow continued to fall.
I worked through lunchtime and the snow continued to fall.
I got back on the road and guess what? The snow continued to fall.

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Leaving work.


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This is the river I cross every day I work. (Hint: the river is the area of snow between the two rows of trees, not the metal railing.)


It wasn’t a heavy snow, just a steady downward float of the fluffiest, lightest snowflakes imaginable. In all we got 15 inches. Visibility on the road wasn’t stellar at first so I plodded along in the several inch deep snow of the shoulder. Sure, it was slow but I felt safer there and going through snow is more interesting than using the plowed road.  About halfway home the snow stopped and the sun came out. There was a hint of a rainbow in the sky. I was having a nice ride and enjoying the landscape until my world was forever changed. By snow dunes.

Snow dunes are little magical piles of snow crafted by wind blowing over open fields. The conditions we had today created beautiful deep snow dunes.

I found out what my natural reaction is to seeing snow dunes on the shoulder on the road. I want to destroy them. I went charging through those wind-shaped piles of snow as fast as I could (which was not really that fast). Oh my! Why use artificial snow on ski slopes when the snow would be of greater use making snow dunes for bike riders? I kept finding myself giggling while flying through the mounds of snow.

I was chugging right along when I suddenly realized that I should try to take some pictures. I took off my gloves and got out the camera. While I was fishing around in my panniers to find something to use as a reference point for the picture, I saw a snow plow in the distance. Oh great. So I snapped a picture quickly, grabbed all my stuff and dragged my bike to the other side on the road.

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The picture I took just before the snowplow destroyed all traces of snow dune existence.

If I thought I was good at destroying snow dunes I quickly found out that snow plows are weapons of mass destruction, destroying entire communities of snow dunes in their wake. I re-crossed the road and all my fun had been plowed away.

But it was awesome fun until then and a great workout as well!

(Light update: my light made it the entire ride to work, yay! But it was almost dead. I contacted the manufacturer and they will get back to me tomorrow, crossing my fingers for a good outcome.)

To work (10 miles)
3:35 am to 5:00 am

Weather
0F, 17 mph Northeast wind, snow

I wore
Head: 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: My legs have been staying warm lately which is really nice of them.

From work (10 miles)
3:20 pm to 5:00 pm

Weather
-3F, 10 mph Northeast wind, snow for half of the ride

I wore
Head: 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: I should have worn my headband as well, my ears got a little cold and currently feel sore.

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.

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.