Today was my first bicycle commute. I know, tacky title. The Catholics among you are thinking its blasphemous and the less catholic amongst you are thinking “stupid spell checker”. Perhaps some of you are thinking the title is a nod to Robin in the sixties Batman series. It is all of the above, actually. Today I did ride my bike to work and back home and therefore it was my first bicycle commute for the year. I love the Batman show, and I really did get the title from the stupid spell checker.
The ride was a bit of a battle as it was not as warm as it looked outside, and the wind was a stiff headwind almost all the way in. It was even tough getting up any speed going downhill; that is the kind of wind it was.
Traffic, on the other hand, was not bad at all. Seeing as it was the day after Easter there was no school, therefore no school bus traffic. Additionally, my ride in almost doesn’t require any left hand turns; I turn left out of my driveway at the beginning of the ride, and my final turn into the parking lot is a left hand turn.
The ride in usually takes me about an hour. The ride home an hour and a half. Why the difference? Mostly this is due to elevation, I think. My home is at a higher elevation than my place of employment. Therefore, overall, my ride in is more downhill than the ride home. Additionally, on a typical day, the wind is stronger in the afternoon than it is in the morning. If I recall my earth science correctly, this is because of the uneven heating of the earth’s surface throughout the day. First thing in the morning everything is at a relatively constant temperature and therefore less wind.
While there is never any problem finding a parking place at work, there is even less with a bike.
One less car in traffic, too.
In addition to having a great ride home, I picked up twenty-six returnable cans. That is right; I made $1.30 instead of paying for gas. It is like taking bicycle commuting to the next level; making money while riding, not just saving money.
I had a great ride in and an even better ride home. Overall, I cannot think of a better way to start and finish the workday. I wish more people would commute by bicycle. What is keeping you from biking to work? Leave a comment and let me know!
A few years ago, my father gave me a brand new saddle that he had no use for. I tried it out for a couple of weeks and decided it was an alright saddle for me. I used it daily for the aforementioned two weeks for commuting and probably a couple of ten to twenty mile rides.
Then came the real test: a 150 mile overnight ride from Rome, NY back home via the Erie canal trail. I drove a bus load of young campers to camp on Delta Lake. I had my bicycle in the back of the bus and I was determined to ride it home, leaving the bus for another volunteer driver to bring the campers back the following weekend. My plan was to take a half a day off from work and get there after lunch.
Oh my God! That saddle killed me! I couldn’t sit for a couple of weeks after that ride. I had serious numbness where no guy wants it. I thought perhaps I may have even sustained some permanent nerve damage, or something.
I was able to sell that saddle on Ebay. I still can’t believe that someone would want that vile tool of torture. But, we do know that everybody is different and everybody has different preferences. There is no one perfect saddle that will fit everyone the way they want it. There are in fact, many different models ranging in size from short and wide to long and skinny; in firmness from hard leather saddles to comfy gel filled saddles.
Still, even with this knowledge, I still can’t believe that somebody can ride that particular saddle with any degree of comfort. My mind just can’t grasp that concept.
With the cold weather setting in and the days getting ever shorter, I had to find a method to get my miles in without endangering my life. What I have found is that if you go out way late at night there is much less traffic. The later you go the less traffic there is.
I sat down with my wife and came up with three separate mile loops that I can ride near my home. I can do multiple loops around each of these routes. If something does go wrong, I am never far from home.
This means, that if I cannot simply pump air into a flat, instead of fixing it in the cold and dark, I can simply walk my bike home without having to worry too much about hypothermia setting in. Hypothermia is probably the biggest concern of cold weather riders. Staying warm while on the bike is just a simple matter of dressing appropriately. But if something goes wrong… it doesn’t take very long for your sweaty body to start getting chilled. Stay still for very long and you are flirting with disaster!
As far as traffic is concerned, I have ridden as far as twenty miles on my local loops and I only saw four cars on that ride. Depending on the road I am on, when a car approaches I generally will pull right off the road and just stand there waiting for them to pass. I do this for a number of reasons; oncoming cars can be blinding, drivers from either direction are not expecting a bicyclist to be out in the dark, and while their headlights make it easier for them to see, they generally screw-up my visibility.
The take away: don’t let either the cold or the dark keep you off the road this winter.
So many people have asked me, “Why are you starting a blog”? Well, mostly it originated as an idea to have a place for the MCC Bicycle Club to write stuff and to have a web site where we could store stuff. Stuff like newsletters, application forms for rides and various activities like that.
Well you know, if you start reading about starting a blog, it won’t take you long to find out that it is better if you own your own site. Owning your own site allows you to monetize the site if you would like to. The “free” sites don’t allow you to do that. Additionally, they actually own and control your stuff. So, while my goal is not to make money – at least not boatloads of it – I won’t be very upset if it happens. I would like to make enough money to pay for the site. At this time, that would be a whopping $100 for hosting and a domain name. Reading about bloggers that bring in more money monthly than I do annually working a full time job makes me believe that it is not unreasonable to think that I might make upwards of $100 over the course of a year. I mean, I really do intend to try to make some money. It’s just that my target goal is pretty low.
I will be adding links to my EBAY stuff for sale. I will be selling pannier kits for making money with your bikes as well. I think I will try my hand at some training videos and or books as well. Overall, it will be a very eclectic collection of stuff. The opportunity to strike it rich exists, but I think this will be mostly a not-for-profit operation. Breaking even seems like a reasonable goal.
What do you think? What sort of stuff would you like to see on this site? Leave me some feedback in the comments section, please!
Riding in extremely cold weather is not really a problem if you prepare properly. That is because when you are riding a bicycle, you generate quite a bit of heat. If you dress appropriately, you will actually be staying pretty warm while riding. The exceptions are, of course, your extremities. Keeping your toes and fingers warm can present a challenge.
As far as your core goes, dress in layers and try to make the bottom layer a wicking material and one that maintains its thermal qualities even when wet; like wool, polypropylene… I actually like to wear the quick drying swim shirts that are designed to protect you from the sun in the summer. They typically are long sleeved and quick drying. Over this, I will wear either a polar fleece or a wool sweater. Sometimes I go with a cotton sweater but that is not as good since it loses a lot of its thermal properties once it gets wet. On top, I wear a bicycling jacket. It is simply a fancy windbreaker with lots of reflective material. I wear it year round, so it is nothing super warm. In fact, I have the vents open on it most of the time. It really is just to break the wind. The other layers do all of the insulating.
In keeping your hands warm, I have found that wearing mittens is far better than gloves. However, I sometimes wear gloves inside of my mittens. In this manner, if I need to remove my mittens for some finger dexterity I still have a layer of protection. I wear large military surplus artic mittens. They are bulky, but they are not really a problem for manipulating my brakes nor my gear shifters. I have bar end shifters and just regular old hand brake levers on my bike. Grip shifters or shifters integrated into the brake levers might prove more difficult. You can also purchase big bag like things called “bar mitts”that go over your handlebars. http://cozywinters.com/shop/bar-mitts.html?VS=Bar-Mitts-LGBSHIM&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=PLA_HeatedGloves_BING&utm_term=4581596233548553&utm_content=Heated%20Gloves You put your hands inside the bag and have the freedom to move your hand around within the confines of the bag.
Layer up on your feet as well; wear two or more pairs of socks, preferably wool. I can get away with this because I wear bicycling sandals that fasten with Velcro. I can adjust them to fit comfortably with no socks to probably four pairs of socks. Although, I have never worn more than two at a time so far. Additionally, if it gets brutally cold, I will add plastic grocery bags over my socks to cut the wind and trap in heat. You could also purchase neoprene booties. In years past, I have replaced my pedals with winter pedals that could accommodate my Sorel boots. No problems with the cold, but I did not like this solution so much.
Please wear a helmet. Fit something like a wool cap or polypropylene under it to keep you warm. But, do not leave your helmet at home. In cold weather, you are more likely to need the protection of the helmet due to icy conditions. I hope that you never need it. However, you are more likely to hit a patch of ice and go down, or heaven forbid, a car could hit an icy patch and take you down. Either way, wear the helmet just in case.
If you have no ride stopping events, you will finish your ride saturated with sweat and actually toasty warm. The biggest danger is if you have a flat or other mechanical mishap. Your heat generation will stop and the sweat that you had worked up will start to work against you. This is when hypothermia becomes a real danger. Keep moving and keep warm. At any rate, don’t let the cold weather keep you off of your bike! Get out there and enjoy a cold weather bicycle ride. See you on the road!