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Archive for the 'Cold' Category

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?

Paragon

Monday, November 29th, 2010

On Saturday, I wanted to do a long road ride. However, I ended up sleeping later than I wanted, and due to the short days, I had to choose a shorter route. I decided to ride out to Paragon, IN, a route I’ve done a few times, but it has been a while. I ended up with 47.8 miles of riding in just under 4 hours. Here’s a map of the route.

It was a chilly ride, mostly in the 30s, with the temperature topping out at around 40 degrees.  Even with the shorter route, I decided to bring lights, since I wasn’t sure how long the ride would take me. I thought I would be back before dark, but I wanted to be prepared in case something unexpected came up.

I started off riding through town. Not my favorite way to start a ride, but sometimes it’s necessary. I rode through Cascades park, which is always beautiful. Most of the leaves have fallen now and I was struck by just how many of the trees lining the creek there are Sycamores. Their white branches are very noticeable without leaves.

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Traffic was incredibly light. I had just my own shadow to keep me company.

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This is, in my opinion, a sign which should never exist. It says “Bike Route End.” I understand that the signed route ends here, but it sends the wrong message entirely. In fact, I didn’t even realize I was on a signed route until I saw this sign. Ugh.

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After that I crossed State Road 37, and had a lovely ride along some rolling hills.

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In the middle of the next shot, in the distance, you can see State Road 37 coming down over the top of a hill.

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The road plunged into a valley and turned flat for several miles. Somewhere along here the road named changed to Bottom Road.

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Here I started a large group of crows who suddenly took flight and swooped overhead.

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I was struck by how scrappy the landscape appeared, below.

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In this area, the road never stays flat for long. In this case I enjoyed four miles of flat, easy cruising, before the road climbed up to a ridge. Here is part of the long climb.

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This “See Rock City Today” shack had me puzzled. Apparently, it’s a thing.

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The road alternated between hilly and flat, for a bit.

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Eventually, I enjoyed a long, fast descent from the ridgetop down into the river bottoms surrounding the West Fork of the White River — the same fork which I crossed the previous weekend in my ride to Gosport. In fact, now that I look at the map a bit more, I see that Paragon and Gosport are fairly close together, with a glorified crossroads called Whitaker in between. It might be fun to string all of these towns together in one ride.

The route had me riding an out-and-back stretch to the town of Paragon. 2/3 times I’ve ridden this route before, I had skipped the town stop. This time I decided to head into Paragon for a look-see, and possibly to top off the water bottles. This ended up being about a 5-mile flat round trip. It would have been easy, if not for the headwind across exposed flat fields on the way out.

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I stopped a small gas station/market in Paragon. I bought some water and as I was getting ready to leave, two kids rode up on BMX bikes, skidding to a stop. They asked where I had come from, and where I was going, and their eyes lit up when I told them I was riding around 50 miles today.  “Welcome to Paragon,” they told me. We then had something resembling the following exchange:

“Don’t your legs hurt?” they asked. I said they did when I first started riding long distances, but I just built up to longer rides. “Have you ever been mugged?” was the next question. No, I haven’t. “What would you do if someone mugged you on your bike?” “I don’t know, what would you do if someone mugged you on foot, or in a car?” “I know what I’d do,” the kids said confidently. “I would beat them up!” (making a punching motion). One of the kids then said, “I’ve beat someone up already. His name was Logan. He’s in high school. He’s a real chump!”

And with that, they headed into the store, and I rolled out. I kept my stops very brief during this ride, since I had limited time.

So now I was back on flat roads, this time with a wonderful tailwind. The return leg of the out-and-back stretch went by a lot faster.

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Once I rejoined the loop, I continued heading east for a while, and I held onto a solid tailwind for several more miles. There were some climbs during this section, but the tailwind still helped.

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Soon I crossed State Road 37 and found myself in Morgan-Monroe State Forest.

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Here’s a shot of my new light on the Bianchi, which also shows the Banjo Brothers handlebar bag well.

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I rode on and soon was on more familiar roads. I told Old 37 back to town. I was riding into the sun much of the way and it was difficult to see at times.

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I especially enjoyed the downhill just south of the Musgrave Orchards, which was a rare treat because I normally ride this stretch of road in the opposite direction.

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The sun was getting low in the sky. I was glad I had my lights, not so much because I really needed them, as because I didn’t feel any need to rush home before the sun set.

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I went through Cascades Park on my way home. It was interesting riding through it in both directions.

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I had an uneventful, surprisingly quiet ride through town, with very little traffic. I gazed over at just the right moment from the top of a hill and saw the sun setting over the horizon.

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Just a couple of minutes after this serene moment, a car passed me too close and the passengers tried to push me off the road! They actually stuck their arms out the window to try to push me over as they passed. Fortunately they failed, and I remained upright and unhurt, but I was shaken by this incident and it certainly broke the peaceful mood of the ride. I tried to get their license plate number, but I couldn’t read it clearly. The bastards got away!

So, it was a very enjoyable ride, until the last two miles or so. It’s hard not to let that one fleeting, terrible moment color my perception of the ride as a whole, but I have to concede that I enjoyed the ride overall. I hope nothing like that ever happens again …

A lovely winter road ride

Monday, February 8th, 2010

I was in a rut, cycling-wise, before this weekend. On Saturday, I headed out for a road ride, even though we’d gotten a few inches of snow the day/night before. I was a little unsure what to expect; most of my riding this winter, except for commuting, has been on trails or gravel roads.

Fortunately, it had been warm enough that the main roads had little to no snow on them. State Road 45 was clear completely. Mt. Gilead, a side road, had some snow, but it wasn’t too bad. Still, I was riding the Trucker, with slick tires, so I had to be extra careful.  Interestingly enough, the hills were the *easiest* part, as they had large amounts of sand and salt on them. The flat sections were largely untreated, and as such has some snow and ice.

In the first few shots, you can see the progression of the road conditions, going away from town.

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Here you can see that I’m enjoying myself. It felt great to ride the Trucker after spending so much time commuting on The Beast.

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More importantly, the scenery was tremendous. I’ve ridden through this area dozens of times before, but it’s never looked like this.

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You can see how thick the sand is, on this steep, winding downhill.

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I made my way over to Bethel Lane, another back road … and the road conditions were OK at first, but quickly deteriorated. Icy snow and snowy ice made for very little traction. I was impressed at how well my slick tires handled these conditions, especially at one point when I stopped and put a foot down, only to have it nearly slide right out from under me.

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At one point, my rear tire suddenly slid sideways. I recovered without falling, but it was nerve-wracking. I just had to go very slowly for a few miles.

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I stopped to take a break for a minute and realized icicles were accumulating on my fenders. I had to break the ice off the front fender, as it was starting to rub the tire.

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I was worried about the hill that I would have to ride down to get to Lake Griffy. The road there was in slightly better shape than Bethel Lane had been, but not by a whole lot. Once I reached the bottom of the hill, the road was clear and I rode across the causeway. The lake was frozen and a lone fisherman was out on the ice.

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The road up the hill on the other side of the lake, back toward town, was clear and easy riding. Well, easy except the fact that it’s a big hill.

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Within a few minutes, I was back in town. It’s a bit jarring to turn the corner after riding past a lake and through a forest, and suddenly see one of the busiest roads in town. That’s one thing I love about Bloomington, though, you don’t have to go far to get to what is essentially the middle of nowhere.

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From there, I rode home, basically following my commute route. Some kind soul had again plowed the bike path. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a vast improvement over what it’s like when left alone. Whoever is responsible for this: thank you!

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All in all, a great ride. Just a bit over 18 miles, but it felt like more, given the conditions.

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