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December 13, 2017

10,000 Miles

   First ride with me new studded tires.  The roads and trails were all free of snow and ice so today I would feel what the ride was like on normal ground.  There was a decent amount of resistance and I could feel my ride was sluggish.  This I expected.  I also noticed they make it harder to turn and increased my turning radius.  That I didn't expect. 
   The ride into work was into a mild headwind from SSE—my direction of morning travel.  However, the morning ride completed mile number 10,000 since my record keeping began in July of 2014.  Most of those miles, +7,800, were completed this year and last.
   Winds shifted during the day so that by the time I left work they were NNW—my direction of evening travel.  In addition, wind speeds picked up to 20 MPH (32 kph) with gusts of 29 MPH (47 KPH).  I have ridden in heavy winds before but this wind was particularly strong.  There were gusts I felt like I had to lean into.  The northern stretch along John Nolen was a slow trek.
   On the way into work I had to stop and wait for a train... twice.  I saw the train riding the trail along University.  While I was only travel about 15 MPH (24 kph) I was beating the train.  I had to stop and wait for it near the intersection of Shorewood Blvd and Locust as the trail switches briefly to the north side of the tracks here.  I then had to wait again at the intersection of Highland Ave and Campus Drive.  I captured a few pictures while waiting, including this one of a fellow cyclist and a couple pedestrians waiting on the other side of the tracks.
   This morning I got loaded up and was ready to ride to work with my new studded tires and... the back tire was flat.  Well that's what I get for thinking I could change a tire.  So I had to get redressed, then throw the bike rack on, and drive to work.  I bent my the heck out of my front sprockets back in early September and it has needed replacement ever since.  The last time I was in the shop they also said my chain was at the end of its life.  Seems I can stretch a chain in 3 months, although to be fair I put 1,500 miles on it in that time period.  So I called my bike shop and they had time to look at my iron horse and get it fixed up.  I was told I probably pinched the innertube leading to the flat.  They also replaced my bent sprocket and I would be good to go.
Studded Tires

Studded Tires

   It snowed last night... sorta.  We had enough snow to make the roads white but not completely cover the grass.  It was enough to make ice, so my ride into work was slower than normal as I kept my speeds down on questionable patches.  When I got home my new studded tires had arrived a day early.  Could have made use of these this morning but better now than tomorrow.  I made quick work for getting my tires swapped out.  Now the iron horse should have better footing and allow me to ride the remainder of the winter.  Last year I didn't ride the first two weeks of the new year because of ice.  This year I don't plan on having that kind of downtime.
   The studs do make a clicking noise when you ride on clean road.  It's kinda like having punk rockers strapped on your wheels.  You know they were there and they will tell the ice what the ice can go do to itself.
Andrew Que, December 10, 2017

Andrew Que, December 10, 2017

   Meeting up with Mary to have her help me with some paperwork.  She wanted to meet at a restaurant a couple miles away and I decided I was going to bike it.  Pictured is me back from my ride.  The temperature was 19°F (-7°C).  I have on my fleece thermal shirt, a second winter shirt, fleece lined fitted pants, neoprene shoe covers, ear muffs, and a helmet cover.  That and my leather mittens is all I needed for that ride.
   This evening I accidentally dropped by soup bowl in the sink and it broke.  I have a single plate, knife, fork, spoon, and until then bowl.  I don't recall when I picked up this particular bowl but I am sure it has been with me more than 10 years.  So I decided that 10:00 pm was a fine time to bike down to a local discount store and select a new one.  The temperature was 18°F (-8°C) but very little wind.  I thought I might get a few more glances showing up on a bike with a face mask and goggles, but this is Madison.  I wasn't even the only cyclist on the bike rack at 10:00 pm.  I'm going to have to try harsher weather if I want to have anyone do a double-take.
   Pictured is Wingra Creek under the John Nolen bridge in Olin Park.  The creeks are iced over now but the lakes are still fairly open.
   Another chilly morning with my ride to breakfast being 19°F (-7°C).  My thermal pants were soaked by the time I was finished with breakfast.  They don't seem to breath at all.  However they were not uncomfortable for the remaining ride.  I might have to switch into something temporary during breakfast to allow them to try.
   It was either last year or the year before I bought a bike benefits sticker.  It cost me $5 and gives me a dollar off on a slice of pizza at my lunch pizza place (25% off) and 10% off at my breakfast place.  I've used the pizza benefit at least 40 times in the last year, and the breakfast benefit at least 30.  The stick has more than paid for itself and it made me wonder how it manages to benefit the restaurants I used it.  When I asked my breakfast place they said it didn't—it was just to encourage people to ride more.  I like that idea, but I wonder about it.  As for me, I would be riding anyway so the having the sticker doesn't affect my decision to ride.  However, I am often not the rule.  So I wonder how many people consider riding somewhere over driving because they know they can get is discount.
   There was a wonderful sunrise this morning, and despite the fact I was not yet warm I had to stop and get a couple of pictures.  We are forecast to get a little snow tonight and I will be happy if it happens.  The temperatures are low enough but the landscape doesn't much look like it.  The small bodies of water like, Wingra Creek, are icing over.  But the larger bodies of water like Lake Mendota and Monona are still completely open.
First Signs of Snow

First Signs of Snow

   Nice chilly morning for a ride into work.  There were snow furies last night and a tinny bit of accumulation.  We are past due for a snowfall with accumulation as we typically have one between the end of October and the start of December.  Aside from one day were I was pelted with sleet, this is all the frozen accumulation I've seen.
   Temperature was 19°F (-7°C) this morning with a tailwind of 9 MPH.  This time I used my fleece lined thermal pants and I think I've found their ideal temperature.  They were comfortable during the ride, but quickly became wet once I stopped and sweat built up.  I initially tried this ride without a face mask, but a little over half way I stopped and put it on.  Even though I had a tailwind my cheeks were getting cold.
   I found it rather funny that this afternoon I had to go to a client site and noticed how cold it was outside.  My work clothing is not for operating outdoors.  I was cold even in my heavy winter coat (which I keep on my bike for emergencies).  Interesting the difference between being dressed and mentally prepared for cold weather vs just traveling quickly though it.
   On my ride home I would have a headwind but at slightly warmer temperatures.  It was slightly cooler than Tuesday evening but far less wind.  I put on the face mask right away but skipped the goggles.  My eyes watered up in several places along the ride and the goggles would have helped, so in the future I may use them if traveling into the wind.
   So far the cold weather riding has been going well.  I am far less a mess when I get home than I was last year cycling at these temperatures.  My record for coldest long ride was last year on December 13 when the temperature was 7°F (-14°C).  My coldest this year so far has been 12°F (-11°C) on November 10th.  This beats all of January and February of this year as both months were unusually warm.
   Comparison between miles ridden this year vs last year (less December).  I've cycled almost 1,000 miles more over the same period this year.  However, my summer miles are not as high as last year.  Seemed I started riding hard in the fall, and the vast majority of those miles were commuting to/from work.  The last 4 months have log over 2,000 miles alone.  I've estimated that in over those 4 months I saved at least 59 gallons of gasoline, or about $140.

December 05, 2017

A day of high wind winter cycling

Wind Gear

Wind Gear

   I knew today's ride was going to be a something and I wasn't let down.  In the morning the temperature was 32°F (0°C) and that would be the highest I would see it.  Winds were already at 23 MPH with gusts of 37 MPH.  I didn't so much bike to work as I did blow to work.  One of the gusts hit me from behind while I was crossing an open parking lot and it was like someone gave me a kick assist.  I made the 14.6 mile ride in 57 minutes which is a time usually reserved for nice summer weather.
   At work I listened as the wind tried to blow the building away.  At the end of the day it was time to take the real challenge and ride home.  Winds were pretty much directly from the west at 26 MPH gusting to 33 MPH.  I decided to try something new.  I wore both my thermal shirt and my cool weather shirt.  I have ridden with my thermal shirt at 25°F (-4°C) in some pretty good wind, but not in wind like this.  So I decided to double up to see how well that would work.
   In the past my only problem with really cold cycling has been my cheeks.  So I would be trying out a new neoprene face mask.  It just covers the front of the face, and ears.  There was just a cutouts for eyes and nose.  The mouth had a mesh like setup but I knew it would restrict my breathing too much.  So I cut out the mouth.  On inspection I could see I cut more than I wanted so I used some heavy black duct tape to build a wind guard.  In really strong winds and deep cold I have problems with my eyes watering.  So in addition to the face mask I put on a pair of goggles.
   Just loading up my bike was enough to freeze my fingers and it was only 27°F (-3°C)—a temperature I would normally be fine at.  Soon I was facing the wind, and it packed every bit the punch I figured it would.  Didn't take long before I was generating a good amount of body heat.  The wind was mostly head-on and even going through town I had a lot of resistance.  My face mask and goggle, however, were doing exactly as I had hopped.  It was cold out but my face was not. 
   There were a couple of problems with my setup though.  The face mask and goggles were too tight which was hurting my neck.  I also couldn't breath out of my nose at all.  That wasn't much of an issue since I breath out of my mouth when cycling.  Still, not the best setup.
   Tonight was sushi with Pokie so we enjoyed that.  Then it was back to riding home.  The temperature had fallen to 25°F (-4°C) but the winds had dropped down to 16 MPH.  My adjustments to my face mask and goggles worked and those were more comfortable.  My heavy thermal pants so far have been too warm for every ride, but I decided to try them with this wind.  Seems I have found a temperature they are functional.  They made a very good wind break.  With the double shirt and face mask my ride home was as comfortable as it can be in those temperatures.  I tried out a thin beanie to keep my head warm but ended up taking it off as it was too hot.
   My average riding speed in the winter is around 13-14 MPH.  On my morning ride I came in at 15.3 MPH.  On the way back my ride was at 10.4 MPH and 11.1 MPH.  Some of the strongest winds I have ever encountered on my work ride, but good to know I can work through them.  There is more cold weather to come and winds to go with it. 
   Pictured is me in my cycling gear after having returned home. My goggles have fogged up because I have stopped, but this is the outfit I successfully used to take on the wind.
  Ridiculously warm today for December.  The forecast had been calling for a very warm day and I really wanted to ride.  However, there was also rain forecast for the entire day.  I decided the temperatures were too nice and I would ride regardless.  When I looked outside about 5:30 am I could see the ground was wet but it wasn't raining.  I put on my rain gear just in case.  As I packed up my bike I heard it start to rain, and then downpour.  But by the time I got to the door with my bike to leave the rain had stopped.  As it turns out I wouldn't have rain the entire ride into work.  A few drops here and there, but not even drizzle.
   Despite being 6:00 am on a December morning the temperature was 50°F (10°C).  There was a 12 MPH wind from the south but still a very comfortable ride.  My thermal pants are too warm for 50°F so I decided to try a new pair of non-thermal spandex pants with my cycling shorts over top.  In my rain gear I was too warm, but I think this setup will be functional.
   When I left work the temperature had climbed to 61°F (16°C).  The wind was still from the south and had increased to 16 MPH with gusts of 21 MPH.  Since I was headed north-west I had a nice tailwind in places.  Haven't had a ride this nice since October and wasn't expecting one until April or March.
   Tomorrow the nice weather is over.  Temperatures will plummet tonight and winds are forecast to be vicious.  I plan to ride as you have to take the good with the bad.