Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cold in My Bones

I just can't shake it. I am not psyched for this winter riding season. I followed a friend's advice and invested in some new winter garments. Ibex woolen goods are awesome, by the way, and if you haven't explored the merits of wool -- be it thrift store surplus or flashy new superwool duds -- you need to do it. I'd say don't believe the hype, but there are countless merits to wool and, in my opinion, when you're using a fabric in a high-output activity like cycling, polyester quickly creates a not so pleasant sauna-like environment just beneath a shell. While the few items I added to my winter riding wardrobe have helped me dial in my layering better, there seems to be something missing. Maybe it's what Bob, Bob Seger that is, called the "fire down below."

It hasn't even been that cold yet. My chilliest morning commute was 15F so far. It has been gray and windy. The wind always takes it out of me, particularly those days when we get a wind shift that delights me with a headwind both ways. Maybe it's my longer commute, too. I tacked on another 20-30 minutes when we moved which translates to 30-40 extra minutes depending on weather and road conditions in winter. I see the family for an hour of frenzied activity in the morning. By the time I arrive home from work the kids are in bed. April's tired from work and shuttling the little ones to preschool and babysitters. There's a kitchen to be cleaned, a little quiet time and then a nagging reminder that it's time to go to bed and do it all over again the next day.

When I went back to school a couple of years ago I shifted into night owl mode. I'd stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning reading and studying and somehow still manage to get up at 7 to go to work or class by bike. I am convinced now that the inertia of excitement carried me through a lot of that period because I can't get by on 4-6 hours of sleep anymore. And I am less than zealous about leaving the warmth of the covers in the morning.

Maybe, too, it's something about my bike commuting. When you start riding your bike everywhere and looking for ways to curb your dependence on an automobile there is a lot of newness, creativity. Some of that has worn off. This is my third full winter of bike commuting. I sold my truck a year ago. I ride to work and anyplace I need to stop on the way home. It's just what I do. It's what I have to do and there's not much fuss to be made about it.

Am I happy I do it? Hell yeah. I believe in the commitment and all its benefits. I think I'm just tapping more into another side of it -- the occasional physical discomfort and the time commitment. An upside is I spend well over 2 hours a day on my bike and log about 160 miles per week. One downside is I spend well over 2 hours a day on my bike. I'm beginning to envy folks whose commutes are say 5 miles or so one way. 'Cause lately 16 miles has felt like a haul.

Temps are predicted to dip to around 10F tonight. We got a little snow and things were a bit slippery coming in this morning. I'm gonna ditch the clipless and switch over to platform pedals for a while. Ride in hiking boots. Maybe go for a foot down in the corners, try to have a little fun. After all, winter hasn't even begun.


Pierre said...

And I thought I was the only one. My commute may not be 16 miles, 13 miles, but similar to your previous school and work schedule, I was commuting 16 miles each way and loving it. I spent nearly 3 hours each day dressing, commuting and showering. Often I wonder how I did it. I still love commuting but there is the dread I feel that if only I could stay in bed for another hour, maybe that'd make everything ok. Again like you said we need to tap into the fun portion of riding and try to add some, dare i say, danger to our commutes.

burnt said...

Bicycle commuting is always better than not bicycle commuting. However, you have a long winter haul. I feel your pain. I think winter riding is the best but when you have to have to have to have to go relatively long every day it's going to get old.

I have an ideal commute to the University. I can ride 5.6 miles (boring and lame), 6.6 (short and sweet), 7, 7.4 (fastest), 9, 10.3, 15.7, 23.7, etc. ad nauseum. Most of these routes take me along some portion of the Mississippi River gorge which means I have the prettiest urban commute one could hope for. And if I'm not feeling it I can bail on a short route to work/home.

So, my helmet is off to you. Good to see you at CRC the other day.

Linden said...

Hang in there John...

Although I am one of those softies with a short commute, and I'd be complaining if I rode as far as you do.

Platforms rule in the winter! Of course, they are all that I ride year-round.

This is my third year using NEOS overshoes, and I am totally a believer. I got some cheap at Sierra trading, but Campmor has Ok prices too. Keep you hikers dry and comfy for walking around at work and use these like a hard shell for your feet. When I can afford it I'm gonna get the "trekker" model for snowshoeing... hope for snow!