Monday, January 7, 2008

Winter Respite

Don't worry, most drivers don't seem to regard these signs either, meaning they think bikes BELONG on the sidewalk.

The ride this morning was great except that I left too late. I keep arriving at work when I should be sitting down at my desk. Arriving by bike, it isn't like I can go straight my workspace -- I gotta de-layer, sometimes shower, change into clean clothes and do my hair. On a good day the process takes about 9-10 minutes; it's much nicer to have 15 or 20. Somehow I need to find that part of my brain where I can re-wire my morning motivation. "Dude," I say to myself, "get up 20 minutes or a half hour earlier and your day will go so much more smoothly." Easy for you to say, smart guy.

This morning I slumbered because I knew I had an ace in the hole. I wouldn't be riding my heavy, studded-tire mtn bike. Instead I would spin in on the new Cross Check SS. Yesterday was heaven on a bike (as far as winter riding in MN) and this morning was pretty nice, too. Temperatures hovered around 30 overnight. No face mask. No neck layer. A single jersey beneath my windshell. No vapor barrier (plastic bag) socks. Glasses instead of goggles. Gloves instead of mitts. And I took the time to adjust my Ortlieb panniers and repack my gear last night so I could leave my posenger bag at home for a change.

The trip was indeed about 15 minutes faster than riding my ice bike. Surprise! The Cross Check SS rides just like my geared Cross Check. And that's what I wanted. The Cross Check is one unbelievably well-balanced, versatile, sexy, hardworking hunk of 4130. A cyclist could do a lot worse than running out and buying one. I hate that "If you could have only one [blank], what would it be?" question. But if I were unfortunate enough to have to part with my other rides, I'd fight tooth and nail for my Cross Check.
Roads were not totally clear. The ice mounds were mostly gone, but a lot of refreezing had occurred, forming sneaky little sheets of ice in the low spots of corners and along curbs. I experienced squirrely tail a couple of times, but managed to take it easy enough to avoid the asphalt bump-n-grind. Geez, it felt great though to ride all the way to work and arrive not the least bit cold or chilled. Feet? Warm. Hands? Toasty. I wanted to keep riding unrushed, at the pace I wanted to ride, seeing all there is to see.

If I leave the house with just enough time to get to work I have to take the most direct route, hold a pace and think about making it on time. It's too difficult to be in the now -- I'm always thinking 10 or 15 minutes ahead. I'm more tense, so I'm going to react more tensely to the stupid stuff that drivers will inevitably do. I have a great stupid driver anecdote from this morning: At a little 2-way stop I like to affectionately refer to as "my favorite intersection" there was a Richfield cop pulling up to the stop sign on my right. I had no stop sign. [Incidentally, I've ranted about a Richfield cop at this intersection before. Maybe it was the same chode.] Sure enough, he didn't fully stop and proceeded to pull out in front of me. He did have the mental wherewithal to look and stop short so I could swerve around the front end of his cruiser, which was nice because I didn't slow down. I typically charge cars. I can handle my bike and as long as I can see them I'm not going to hit them. But dammit I want it to look like I might, so at least SOME of the feeble-brained drivers who cross my path might soil themselves for their lack of attention. (Try explaining that when you finally arrive to the place you're going that is so important you have to treat me like a second-class road user.)

Anyway, what was this post about? Oh, well, let's see. Guess I got carried away. It'll happen. Now I remember -- I actually wanted to admit how, a couple weeks ago beneath the icy blanket of two back-to-back snows, things looked desperate. The darkness of solstice and getting socked in with snow made me suspect the worst -- that it was going to be a long, challenging winter for biking in MN. Then the past few days with temps in the upper 30s/near 40 have changed it all, again. Winter is far from over, but it's also not going to be all ice ruts and freaked out drivers. Maybe I'm just hitting the winter biking stride a bit late this year.

Friends, don't ever let your mind run away with your thoughts and convince you that luck has turned, that all of a sudden things are just gonna suck for a while. Bullshit. Every moment is pregnant with glorious potential and right around the corner is change.

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