moon struck

a few weeks ago i was at work trying to solve a problem that somehow eluded resolve during normal working hours.  the last coworker left more than four hours ago, and each noise and creak in the building is getting creepier and creepier.  i rode my bike into work this day and as midnight approached my enthusiasm for riding home diminished to the point of becoming dread.  i phone my wife one last time to see if she would be able to pick me up after her work finished.  her work is about 30 miles in the opposite direction so both of us were a little hesitant to make this plan work.  i didn’t want her to go so far out of her way to pick me up, after all i wasn’t stranded, just unmotivated.  motivation is difficult to salvage in this situation, since each passing hour devours more and more of the once plentiful reservoir motivation i had at 6pm.

just after midnight i resolved my work issues backed everything up and had a little “come to jesus” meeting with my self.  no one was sitting outside waiting to bring me home, no one was standing over my shoulder helping me pack up…. just me.  every time i ride my bike to work my plan is to ride to work, and then ride home from work.  sounds pretty obvious and simple, but sometimes laziness takes over and my plan becomes, get home whatever it takes….if it takes hitching a ride, calling home, whatever.   well, this night there weren’t too many options.  i put on my riding clothes, turned the building lights out, and out the door i went.  by the time i left the building it was nearly 1am, 28 degrees and hardly any cars in sight.

the cool winter air was not enough to spark motivation into my tired body.  still, i cranked away at my old bianchi into the unlit bike path in urban longmont.  without cars the night is super quiet…. and with the silence i can enjoy the smoothness of my bike.  after leaving longmont and all the light polution from the north wallmart, it was time to ride the shoulder of the concrete abiss called hwy 287.   after a mile or so down the highway the darkness was only broken by my small cheap plastic handlebar mounted headlight.  usually this light is not nearly bright enough to use as my sole lead, but this night it shined like the most expensive light money can buy.

three quarters of the way home and i am starting to feel pretty good.  still super tired and kind of sleepy but very relaxed.  just about when i had the thought that it was probably a good idea to ride home after all, i  looked up for some reason.  into the sky i right over my left shoulder i noticed the full moon.  alone in the sky with a beautiful halo as visible as the moon itself.  i actually had to stop pedalling get off my bike turn around and enjoy the sight.  there i was one something in the morning standing next to the road holding my bike looking back and into the sky.  it really was a rare moment….and i can’t wait to experience it again.


one cold ride

as i was driving home i kicked off my mountain bike shoes while waiting for the light.  it seemed like a rather insignificant move, until the burning sensation in my toes started to overwhelm me.   all the heat in the world was not going to help me now.  i just had to endure the pain until the blood temperature stabilized in my feet.  it took a few minutes but i assure you that it finally stopped.

i am now sitting here in my house wearing my pj’s and wool socks and an old hoodie recalling the pain from just a couple hours ago.  what happened was not a mistake, nor was it regrettable.  i went out for a really really cold mountain bike ride.  it was about 14 degrees when i started, and about 12 when i finished.  frequently i commute in the really cold, and i’ll often run in the bitter cold as well…. i hardly ever mountain bike in such cold weather.

mountain biking in cold weather is a bit more difficult than running or road biking.  it is difficult to regulate effort in mountain biking. you never really know when you are going to exert yourself.  you could go for miles without ever exerting yourself or you could start right off the bat.  the effort is usually not constant and you are likely to have spells of unbridled frigidity.  what happens is that during the moments of exertation you sweat, and almost immediately afterward the sweat freezes and suddenly you feel a little colder than when you started.  my feet get especially cold for some reason. it must be because i wear my cleats, and they have a hard plastic bottom.  the other difficult thing is trying to get enough air through the balaclava.

it was a cold difficult ride today….i can’t really say that i enjoyed it very much either.  however, after finishing this ride i felt as if i had accomplished something really big.  i feel tougher as well.  i don’t get that feeling with every ride, but when it happens it makes everything worthwhile.

once again the winter season is upon  us, and it is time to toughen up and get out on your bike.  well at least that is what i used to think….back when i was insane.  a few days ago i put on my snow studded tires and headed out the door on a 10 degree morning.  i was actually pretty warm since i figured out how to dress properly.  for the past ten years i have been ‘experimenting” with different clothes and such.  and now i am going to share with you all of my findings:

1. spandex/lycra does not keep you warm.  it does keep you aero dynamic, but small consolation when your entire body is freezing.

2. in general, stay away from tight fitting clothes. it prevents your body from “free convection.” in other words the warm air your body produces can not circulate around to warm other parts of your body. most importantly, is that tight clothing inhibits blood circulation.  when you body is cold it needs all the blood it can get.

3. tight shoes should also be avoided.  pretty much the same reason as tight clothes.  i started riding with platform pedals in the winter because my road shoes were too tight.  since i have platform pedals i can wear my hiking shoes and nice wool socks.

4. never wear cotton.  cotton will kill you. [period!]

5. protect your face.  my face tends to get cold without me knowing it.  i usually wear a balaclava when the weather gets sub 20.  however, i just noticed that i have this weird skin discoloration around my forehead. as i was riding in the other day i just realized that it must be from frost bite on my face.  this happened years ago when i used to ride in to boulder in 0 degree weather.  i used to use a balaclava with my sun glasses.  as it turned out the coverage from most head covers leave lots of exposed skin.  the part under your eyes is not too critical, since it gets warmth from your heavy breathing.  the parts of your face that are exposed above your eyes are the most endangered.  when the weather gets below 10 or so,  i use ski goggles to cover those unprotected areas.  i am currently looking for a balaclava with eye holes [let me know if you find one].

6. always protect your eyes.  use clear or yellow lenses if there is no sunshine, but always wear something.  defog them as well.  if you are using a face cover [balaclava], your breath will fog the glasses.  rub some dish soap over the lenses before you go out, this sometimes helps.

7. blocking the wind is almost equivalent to blocking the cold.  i have not had any luck with “wind stopper” material. i have have luck with gortex.  i have this great big gortex cycling shell that i can put over anything.  it should be a size or two smaller, but i bought it on sale, and i will wear it as is…thank you.  it has the vent in the back and zipper arm pits. i think these features are almost essential. i’ve tried to wear rain jackets without vents, to block out the cold, and it was like being in a pressure cooker.

8. go ahead and wear rain proof pants.  these are the light wind breaker type shells.  i have a pair of really cheap ones that are great for cycling.  i really like cheap, because you don’t have to worry about ripping them or getting them dirty.  anyway, same idea as the previous topic. you want to keep the wind from blowing away your heat.  there are some wind stopper tights that may work for you, but what i have found is that having anything tight on your legs slows your circulation and makes your feet really cold.

9. something warm inside.  i wear micro fleece. this is not tight fitting, but not real loose either.  it needs to fit more like a shirt, and less like a jacket [does that make sense?].  i have a pair of micro fleece long underwear and a micro fleece top, that i wear under my wind shells.  i have used this combination from about 10-32 degrees f. when it gets less than 10 i may throw on a an extra long sleeve poly top.

10.  finally, the most important tip.  for your hands i would recommend a bran new pair of ski gloves.  again make sure they are somewhat water proof, and fairly loose fitting.  the important part is that they are new.  old gloves loose their r-value.  especially if they have been washed or wet.  i used to wear the same pair for years… every year my hands seemed colder and colder. i tried liners and covers…but nothing worked  until i bought a new pair of burton ski gloves.  my hands are now the least of my problems.

so these tip are for those who want to ride no matter what!  actually these tip are only good for about sub 30 temps.  it might be a little too much for the higher temps, depending on how much you like to hammer.  also remember that a warm body performs much better than a cold body.  so the fact that you are warm may make you want to go faster.