Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Stubborn Season

Commuting on a bike.

In Iowa.

In December.

Sometimes it's a mirror I'd rather not see.

Think about it. There's the gear collecting and bundling: heavy tights, thick wool socks, wool sweater, windproof jacket, two pairs of gloves, hat, and facemask. Then there's the routine of firing up a cluster of front and rear LEDs that could distract low-flying air traffic. Then there's the ride: two miles at about 10 miles per hour, picking through slush stalagmites, plow droppings, and black ice.

Twenty-five minutes of preparation for fifteen minutes of misery.

Then I have to peel all those layers off again so I can change into work clothes and sit in a cube for eight hours.

Then, I do it all over again in reverse.

Without special studded tires -- at about $50 a pop for the heaviest, most sluggish-feeling rubber you'll ever turn over -- it probably wouldn't even be possible. And let's not even talk about gunked up bearings. Crusty chains. Frames eaten out from the inside by salt and rust. Frozen cables. Brakes that barely qualify as a cruel joke thanks to ice-glazed rims.

People ask me why I do it, and I honestly don't have an answer. I just shrug.


PsySal said...

Ah yes! You need to build yourself a fixed gear for winter. It's truly awesome!

I live in Calgary and ride all winter (I am car-less, but my commute to work is considerably shorter than yours).

Reasons why snow is nice:

1- Quiet
2- Fewer cars
3- Lets you enjoy the outdoors even in winter, when you'd ordinarily be cowed into staying indoors.

Christopher Johnson said...

My bike commute lasts almost 90 minutes, but today it didn't happen. I was dressed and mentally prepared for the forecast of 31 degrees. At 6 am, when I saw that it was actually 25 degrees, I wimped out. This is Texas after all, and it'll be warmer tomorrow. Thanks for being stubborn.

cr said...

I too ride year round in Calgary. I ride a $300 single speed cruiser w/ coaster brakes. Full fenders and chain guard with good mtb tires.

The beauty of this setup is that there is no prep time. I wear my street clothes and arrive clean and dry at work. I dress for the weather, usually meaning long underwear in winter. Adding layers as required by the cold. My ride is 6 km round trip, a little longer than yours (if I read 2 mile correctly)

The other beauty of this bike is that the seat is low, meaning I can put both feet down and make a steady platform if I start to slide out, I've used this technique many times on black ice when I surely wood have been down on a regular bike. Knock on wood, I have yet to go down on this bike.

In fact, I now long for winter, rutted rough deep snow conditions as it's alot more interesting riding than the non snow months.

Yet another advantage is I can park this ugly beast anywhere don't have to worry about it being stolen, as it is cheap and probably not interesting to bike thieves.

I often look at riders fully decked out in all their gear and sort of smirk, as I was once one of them, thinking all that gear was necessary, but it definitely isn't if the ride is reasonable distance.

The DINKs said...

23 degrees, snowing, and a foot already on the ground this morning in Boulder. In my case, stupidity smashed right into stubborness, and I rode. And then I slid. On my back like a turtle. Until my bike and I hit a snow bank.

I am ordering snow tires this afternoon.

jacquie phelan said...

The title says it all...Yesterday was the third day of a little cold snap (here in San Francisco area 35 degrees is 'hardship') and nearly no one came to a free reading by Kay Ryan (US Poet-in-chief). Weather wimps. And that is assuming that everyone drives.
I despair to think I'm not going to see the day when cycling around for transport is normal in this wide fat ol' country of ours.