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Brrr!

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

The mercury sat at 11°F yesterday morning at commute time, with a windchill of -3°F. The high was in the upper teens. Today was a bit warmer, 15° with 5° windchill perhaps, warming to around 20°/8°.

This is abnormally cold for us, for this time of year. However, I’ve been riding for a few winters now, and I know fairly well what gear works for me in these temperatures. A few pieces of gear have changed, and a few things need adjustment now that my commute is twice as long as it was last winter, but overall, so far, so good. I used to have to microanalyze every piece of clothing to make sure I was adequately prepared for a cold ride, but now I mostly just get ready and go. It can still take a while to put on multiple layers, hand/neck/ear warmers, boots, protective glasses, helmet, etc.

I’ve had studded tires on the Trucker since last week. I haven’t really needed them for the most part, but I don’t have any interest in switching out tires constantly on the LHT. Plus, I encounter random patches of snow and ice and it’s nice to be able to roll over them without worrying too much. The tires are working fantastically, but they do add a lot of drag.

My longer, hillier commute is a bit of a difference experience in the cold. I have to worry about being adequately protected from the cold a little more, but I also have to worry more about sweating. And, frankly, 30-35 minutes in single-digit windchills in the dark on the way home takes some getting used to. It’s not epic, but there’s a certain sense of isolation that comes with riding in the dark, with far fewer other bikes and pedestrians than I saw just last week. Traffic has thankfully been light as well, though I have had a few run-ins with grumpy motorists.

Overall, I’m still enjoying my commute — in fact, I’m enjoying it more. There’s something I relish about the challenge of snow and ice and cold and darkness. In fair weather sometimes I’ll arrive at work without really anything memorable happening. In the winter, my commute is never boring.

It’s hard to believe it’s not even technically winter yet — it looks like we may have a long one. But, I expect things to warm up before taking a dive into winter proper.

How about you? Have you gotten an early taste of winter? Are you still riding?

9 Responses to “Brrr!”

  1. Reuben VeloTraffic Says:

    Yes, I ride all winter here in Minneapolis. I don’t mind a little cold, but once temps start dropping below zero, it definitely loses a little bit of the fun for me. My favorite part, though, is always growing a beard full of frost.

  2. Jon Grinder Says:

    We have had strange weather, here in Denver: No snow, yet, to speak of (1.5 inches in total, so far), and the temperatures have mostly been above normal. My coldest commute, so far, has been 14 degrees F, last Monday morning, but mostly I have been riding in the relatively balmy upper-20s to lower-40s. It’s spposed to be in the 60s, this afternoon!

    I agree with you about nice-weather commutes being a little routine. A nice snow storm or cold snap makes me feel more like I’m doing something. But, I think that’s just a sign that riding a bike to work has become my norm, after 3-1/2 straight years.

  3. David Crowell Says:

    I’ve found I can deflect a lot of grumpy motorists, in December anyway, by putting battery-operated Christmas lights on my bike. 🙂

  4. Apertome Says:

    Reuben: it’s very rare for it to get below zero here. It does happen, but not frequently at all.

    Jon: you guys always have weird weather in Denver.

    David: I intend to do just that. I just need to find my Christmas lights.

  5. Tracy W Says:

    We’re a lot like you here in Springfield. It’s been uncharacteristically cold for early December. The last three mornings, it’s been 17, 15 and 16 degrees when I’ve gotten to work. I don’t mind it too much down to about 20 degrees, but lower than that and a lot of the enjoyment disappears!

    It’s pretty much dark both ways now, which makes for some less interesting rides most of the time. I find that I’m struggling to find blog worthy content!

  6. Tim Says:

    Although not a “ditto head”, ditto. I’ve had a good time the past couple days cutting through the cold. I don’t always enjoy it per se, but find it very satisfying. And glad at the moment to not be running studs like you and Dave.

  7. Sarah Says:

    Tim – I totally read that wrong and thought you said you were glad at the moment not to be running into studs like Michael and Dave. 😉

  8. Doug Says:

    Depending on the winter, if I were to string together the total number of days I ride on snow or ice covered roads, I’d bet it only adds up to 4-6 weeks worth of days. I keep studs on from November until April. That’s a lot of dry conditions. But I do it for all those little icy patches. It only takes one ice patch to surprise you and take you down.

    You know I’m still riding…well except for this week so far. I’ve been home sick all week. Hope to return tomorrow. We’re having colder than normal weather here in Northern Minnesota. Next Monday it’s not even supposed to get above zero during the day. After a bunch of years doing this, I’ve got the clothing down.

    I enjoy my commute in any weather.

  9. Apertome Says:

    Doug: Yeah, that’s my current philosophy as well. If we get a long warm or dry stretch, I might swap the tires back, but I do like being able to roll over all those little ice patches without worry.

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