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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Into the Cold

Perfect riding weather seems to vary widely from person to person. I have friends who have rules, no riding alone, no riding in the dark, no riding below 50ºF, not in the rain, and so on. I used to have some of those limits myself, with the result that the bike might not get ridden for a few months.

I started out with some of those rules, but it's so damned limiting. Next thing you know it's Valentine's Day, you're fatter than ever and your bike hasn't been out of the garage in months.

I confess my heart isn't always in it, especially at the change of the seasons when the body isn't acclimated to the new realities. I remember when I was a kid riding the bus to school, we had a cold snap that lasted several days where the daytime highs weren't out of the single digits. I got off the bus one afternoon with my coat unbuttoned, no scarf, no cap, no gloves, just relishing the sunshiny 22ºF weather. Once you get used to 6ºF, 22ºF feels like a heat wave.

We've had the opposite this fall, a total Indian summer, the Poet Laureate of Lobsterland was still harvesting chard and rhubarb in the middle of November. So when the cold snap it, under its new nom de guerre 'polar vortex' hit, I was still used to preparing for rides with the question of pants or no pants?

I've got it down to a science, or nearly: above 60ºF, cycling shorts, Chacos and a Hawaiian shirt, that's all I need for a ride. Below 60ºF, the Chacos lose out to Brooks Adrenalines, and I might wear pants over my cycling shorts. Below 50ºF, now we want sleeves, probably a long sleeved t-shirt under the Hawaiian. If it rains, we're now getting into the Rain Suit Zone where I'll put on my waterproof over-layer that was probably designed for wrestlers trying to cut weight. If it's warm and you get rained on, it's just supplemental sweat. But cold and rainy, that's another story. Below 30ºF, you won't get rained on because it will be snow and sleet, and that's actually easier to deal with. Jersey gloves start to come in by the mid 40s and so do balaclavas. Layers start to include wool, thermal underwear, wool socks.

Monday was full bore cold weather gear. Screw those Brooks running shoes with their mesh tops, I wore my Red Wing Oxfords, wool socks, Carhart thermal underwear, a long sleeved T, the sleeves from my Pearl Izumi cycling jacket, a virgin wool sweater made in Canada (I think meant for crab fishermen), and a Hawaiian shirt because you gotta keep it real. I had a balaclava, cycling gloves for padding, jersey gloves, and the lobster claw military surplus sniper mittens Corinna got me for Christmas a few years ago.

And I was still pretty chilly when I got to work. Should have put in chemical warmers in my toes, I know that lesson, be out for an hour in the teens, you'll be glad for Toasty Toes. Might have benefitted from them in my mittens, too.

Got home, had the hardest time warming back up. Finally took a hot shower, put on my one-piece thermals, sweatpants, wool socks, a sweater and then realized the thermostat was set to OFF. Corinna's tinnitus makes my CPAP unbearable, so she sleeps in the basement by the furnace that's not much better on that front, so the thermostat sometimes gets set to nevermind.

Anyway, I got my epic on, just under 26 miles round trip with temperatures never going above 20F. Hardcore points, cool points, bike commuter points, headwinds coming home points: whatever they are I guess I earned them. But my schedule basically doesn't allow me another bike ride this week, at least not a commuting ride, so Monday was now or never on that.

It was 17ºF when I rode out in the morning, all layered up. Northwest winds meant a tailwind so it was cold but at least the wind was at my bike. Coming home in the evening, the thermometer was officially two degrees higher but that northwest wind in my face, it felt way colder. Going down hills my sinuses ached from the cold where the balaclava doesn't cover.

I was cold but I was also struck by the image of Westport Presbyterian being rebuilt. It burned a couple years back, and they've been reconstructing in fits and starts. One of those churches that didn't draw so many to service on Sunday morning but did (does) tons for the community.

I'm not sure I really got the shot, but I parked my cold bike and walked about around the site for a few minutes and tried.

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