Thursday, January 22, 2009

A reason to ride

OK, so it's really cold outside, but I will be commuting more often in the coming days.

Why? The clutch went out in my truck. Drat.

I would have definitely driven today if they truck had been functional, but I could either spend a day not at work, or bike in--and when there are expensive truck repairs coming, I would much rather have money coming in.

Anyway, on to the ride! It was about 14 degrees when I left home today, and the pace was slow. The primary factor slowing me down was the fact that the bike path was covered in snow. The snow was full of footprints. The footprints were frozen fairly solid. Lovely.

This experience was much like riding across very rough gravel--slow and bumpy, though unlike most gravel the bike would sometimes start to wander (I guess this can sometimes happen with skinny tires and narrow gravel). Here is what I rode through for six miles this morning:

Surprisingly, I got a bit warm on the ride in, so I pulled my balaclava down so it didn't cover my mouth after the first 2-3 miles. By the time I got to work my mustache had ice in it from my condensed breath. That's definitely different.

It takes forever to change clothes at work when you are wearing 3 pairs of socks, 1 pair of wool thermal underwear, 1 pair of wool semi tights, 1 pair of fleece sweatpants, 1 wool base layer, one fleece jersey, one lightweight wool jersey, one medium wool jersey, and a wind shell. On the other hand, my hands didn't get very cold, and I think it was due to keeping my core temperature up. I can't keep my hands any warmer than they are without a big investment in very nice gloves, but the ones I have are probably good for another 5 degrees if I am careful. Not sure I want to test that, though.

The ride home looked a little different than the ride in. It's pretty difficult to take good snow trail pictures at night, so I decided to not take good ones and see where that got me:

You can tell that a few other dedicated (or des[perate?) souls have ridden recently as well, though the most definted set of tracks in the left side of the pictures is probably mine.

Tomorrow I am planning to ride my full suspension mountain bike in and see how it does. I think that it will handle the snow better than the Long Haul Trucker, since I put the 2.35" Nevegal/Blue Groove combo back on. Wide tires should be good for snow. Not as good on ice as the studded tires, but there was very little ice on the trail today.

Here's a little tire comparison for what I like for different conditions:

On the left is the front wheel for my road bike, sporting a 700x23 Vredestein Fortezza. Good only for smooth paved surfaces, and I only use that bike when it isn't raining--not due to the tires though, but due to a lack of fenders on that bike.

In the middle we have a 700x35 Nokian Hakkapellita. Performs well on ice, but is very heavy and very slow on clean dry pavement--about 30% slower than usual when running this tire.

On the right is a 2.35" Kenda Nevegal (26"). Grips dirt like nothing else, not too horrible on the rolling resistance, and hopefully does a better job of floating over snow than the Nokians. We shall see tomorrow. Later today, technically.

Get out and ride!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


OK, so I kinda fell off the radar there for a while.

I just ran out of things to talk about. Commuting was beginning to seem like more of a chore than an enjoyable activity, and I didn't much feel like discussing it.

Winter riding is all exciting at first, but after the first month or so biking home in the dark really starts to get old for me. No people, no sunlight, just pedaling ever onward into the blackness.

I've still been riding some, but not as much. A couple days were just too cold...when the morning temp is zero, I just can't make myself go out the door.

I finally got around to swapping my pedals for platforms, at least. My feet were definitely warmer yesterday in boots, but we'll see hwat happens when there's a really cold day. It's above freezing this morning, that's like a miniature heat wave.

I meant to get pictures of my commute in snow yesterday morning, but...I forgot my camera. There was about an inch on the bike path, and I discovered that there are a few other people who bike to work in such conditions. Four or five of them, along my route. Even someone in my apartment complex, but they seem to go the other way, so I don't ever encounter them.

Well, this was an exciting first post. I'll see what I can do about posting more and better.