Saturday, December 04, 2010

How cold is too cold?

Every morning commute this week has been in sub-freezing temperatures. I bundle up in layer after layer, topped off with the bright yellow commuter rain jacket that I have, put on a thin skull cap under the helmet and then some gloves with fleece-lined gauntlets.  With this setup, I'm a little chilled at first but stay comfortable to almost too warm all the way to work.  The key is to not be warm at the start, if you start out warm you will overheat, guaranteed.

As I shot through the underpass, I hit a big patch of frozen silt (from the massive rainfall earlier in the week) which was crusted over with a frozen layer and still had a frozen tire rut from my previous morning commute.  Naturally, the crust broke through slightly about halfway down towards the underpass, my front tire migrated into the very narrow, frozen rut which caused my tire to grab a little bit at speed.  All of this plus my momentum (little real-world physics in action) had the net effect of pitching me towards the flowing stream to my right at an alarmingly quick rate.  Don't forget that the work supplies that are resting in the panniers behind me get in on the action and are pushing me towards the stream with a zeal that they had not previously demonstrated, preferring instead to really just hang out and create more drag and friction.

In a 'cross race, a sub-freezing dunking in flowing water would be a bad, but not wholly unexpected outcome.  For this to happen on a morning commute though, would be an egregious error of epic proportions.  As I yawed wildly toward the stream (which it must be noted lies below the bike path by a few feet due to a built up wall so the true experience would be a dropping through space, a dunking in the stream, and then a darkly comical struggle to climb up the wall and out of the stream while rapidly losing core body temperature and wondering how you were going to replace your ever important laptop and would you have to completely overhaul the bike or would you freeze to death before any of this could be a real concern) I let my brain take over, a somewhat dicey proposition, but there wasn't much choice.  Firing up the old reflexes and remaining relaxed despite the growing inevitably of a frozen bath under highway 321, proved to be a winning combination.  The bike arced gracefully away from the stream and towards the underpass.

I have not, as of this writing, added a wet suit to my layers of commuter clothing.  I do now have a healthy respect for the underpass and will be less cavalier upon my approach until the cleanup of the flood debris is completed.  I feel like I'll have a little bit of a leg up on the competition at this week's 'cross race since it will be cold and wet.  The daily commute is the truest expression of the flauhute ethos, since getting out and riding is the only option.

Remember always, the mantra to live by when you are forced to ride in foul weather, "There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment."  With the right stuff, you can be outside in just about any weather (hurricanes and tornados represent difficult riding conditions that should be avoided unless you live somewhere very flat and a 110 mph headwind presents you with a good climbing interval opportunity).  Don't skimp on winter or wet weather riding gear.  The toes you save may be your own.
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