Thursday, February 2, 2012

Freeze / Thaw

Muddy Winter
This winter I get the distinct feeling that nature is playing games with me. Constantly changing rhythm, it refuses to let me get comfortable, to allow me to settle down into a season-specific "mode" of cycling. With temperatures below 20°F one day and above 45°F the next, I feel as if I am trying to dance while the DJ alternates between the oldies and thrash metal. My movements are awkward and a migraine is just around the corner.

Muddy Winter
But if that's how nature wants to play it, so be it, and there is always a silver lining to be found. For instance, my familiarity with mud has certainly grown. There are so many different kinds: liquid mud, viscous mud, mud that looks like packed dirt but behaves like quicksand, mud with a thin crust of ice over it, mud of a slushy-like frozen consistency throughout, and mud that has frozen in big solid ripples. I've been trying to ride on mud in all of these different conditions as part of a radical campaign to improve my balance, and thanks to the freeze/thaw weather I can experience a complete mud menu over the course of a single week. 

Much less endearing is the unpredictable appearance of ice patches that the changes in weather are causing. The last time I went out on my roadbike, I saw black ice on the country roads that pretty much convinced me it was trainer time despite the lack of snow. Going downhill and hitting a patch like that, I am pretty sure there is nothing I could do to prevent a fall. 

Muddy Winter
With February under way, at least the winter season is more than half over. My ideal conditions for the rest of it would be a couple of beautiful snowfalls (my birthday is later this month and I love snow on my birthday), followed by a swift and complete thaw in the first week of March. Well, I can dream. In the meantime, nature continues the freeze / thaw game and I do my best to keep up. Every winter is different, and I am glad to have a record of this one as I do of the previous two. 

33 comments:

  1. I've heard Eskimos have 22 names for snow.
    There should be names for mud.

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  2. I would love a nice snowfall. Here's hoping you get your bithday wish.

    Normally, come around late December, I start wearing all of my winter bike wear and continue to wear it until March.

    This year, each day, I have to decide what weight of underhelmet cap to wear. Each day I have to readjust the helmet tightener and shorten or lenghten the straps to accommodate the changing thickness of headwear.

    I also have to keep all my jackets and gloves out so I can select the proper weight of each.
    Yesterday, here in Philadelphia it was 67 degrees, warmer than Santa Monica. I'm sure by next week we will have a day with a sub-freeazing high. Up, down and sideways...

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  3. ahh, you are a Pisces, I should have guessed (form another Pisces)

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    1. when you said "followed by a swift and complete thaw in the first week of March" I assumed late Feb... my mistake for presuming! (spoken AS a Pisces ;)

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  4. It's half my fault, half my neighbor's. He and I finally split the cost of a used snow thrower.

    I've gotten exactly one day of usefulness out of my snow tires this year, otherwise it's been all noise and friction. Not sure if I'd recommend them to you; you wouldn't be scared of ice patches so much, but it definitely changes the riding experience. Every year, I am ever so glad to take them off the bike. However, the slightly more aggressive tread also helps in mud.

    March 6 last year, Spy Pond had over a foot of ice on it. I rode out on it, met some people ice fishing, they showed me the hole they had drilled and the thickness.

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  5. I know- I have about 4 jackets at the door and am never sure which one to wear. I do like more consistent weather. I missed out on Weds b/c I was just all punky and did not really plan my day well.. But today and tomorrow I am rearing to go. Ah well.

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    1. same here with the multiple coats by the door!

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    2. Peppy (my fur on your coat, let me show it to you)February 2, 2012 at 5:53 PM

      Me too. Just when I am done shedding all over them, it's time to grow thick fur. But then, time to shed again.

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    3. Maybe it's time to shear you? I can use a new catwool cycling cap...

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  6. Here in Australia the weather has been equally erratic this summer. We think summer has finally arrived, then we will get days of cold and wet weather. The good part of it for us is that there has not been the days of unrelenting heat we usually get. I wonder of northern and southern hemisphere weather patterns are related somehow?

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  7. It's certainly been a muddy one down here in Noveau Jersey, particularly the on the towpath I travel to get to band rehearsals/recording sessions.
    The most interesting challenge, for me, is when the mud is slick enough that my rear tire spins out, and I'm trying to remain upright while advancing at a rate of about one foot forward for ever two rotations of the rear wheel (but I don't want to put my foot down and sink ankle-deep in mud).

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  8. Indeed there is nothing you can do if you hit black ice. You are smart to stay away from it and know when to call it quits for the season.

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    1. What bothers me most about it is the unpredictability, especially in the countryside where the temperature is different from Cambridge/Somerville. I can be cycling for part of the route and it will be fine, and then come across a stretch of the road that does not see sunlight because it is shaded by trees and bang - the hill is a sheet of ice. On the uphill I am at least going slow enough to see it, but on the downhill not so much. I admit that I am simply too scared to take the chance; don't want to spend the rest of the winter in a cast.

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  9. There's never any mud or ice on the main roads of Manchester so I'm OK in winter as far as city cycling is concerned.

    As for black ice on the country lanes of Cheshire you sort of get to recognise it and learn to slow down so on the very, very rare occasions you do fall off it doesn't hurt that much.

    I like being a 4 season cyclist and seeing the same lanes and landscapes all year round.

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  10. Replies
    1. the skating seems to be helping too!

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    2. Awesome. I was playing hockey in a dream the other night, no doubt due to that post.

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  11. wimp! :)

    http://martinsj2.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/02_garrigou_a.jpg

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  12. Nice. There is also this - at least I think that is snow and ice he is riding on.

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  13. It has been a tough winter for dressing for sure. Normally, if you get in wrong one day, you can make small adjustments and be good the next, but since we are having such wild swings from mild to cold to warm to bitter cold, I have misjudged a few times.

    My deep winter stuff has been called out a few times, but not like in a typical winter and the bike with the studded tire has barely seen any action this year. The x-c skis are still where I left them last spring.

    I understand why you are hesitant. Broken collarbones are no fun.

    The studded tire on this bike is really for the black ice, but came in handy for this photo!

    https://picasaweb.google.com/jbayley/SnowSunday#5700651564303438562

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    1. Why is it that whenever I hear of someone crashing due to ice, it is always the collar bone that breaks?..

      I have yet to use studded tires, despite 2 truly snowy Boston winters. Maybe next year!

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    2. The collarbone is pretty vulnerable in any sort of crash. Mind you, I've racked up six ice-patch crashes since 2007 without breaking anything (not even the bike!) perhaps the danger isn't really that great. The winter conditions you describe are what Vancouver is like most years. It warms up and gets wet during the day and then it can get cold enough to freeze at night which is when most of my riding is done.

      The only broken bone I've ever suffered in a bike crash was a tiny hairline fracture. It was one of the first times I went mountain biking and I hadn't yet learned the "momentum is your friend" lesson. I had a low speed topple right were there was a pointy rock to catch with my hand...

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    3. "I've racked up six ice-patch crashes since 2007 without breaking anything"

      Impressive. You must be one of those "knows how to fall" people. Me, not so much!

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    4. WRT knowing how to fall, practice makes perfect, and some of us were lucky (?) enough to get our practice when we were young, stupid, flexible, and fast healers.

      I've only fallen once on ice, and that was a result of riding too slowly on rumpled uneven ice (to the point of being terrain or topography). No speed means hard to stay balanced, and punching the pedals on ice to get speed just breaks the studs loose, and away goes the back tire, and still no speed.

      It's also unclear what role decades of experience finally plays, versus choice of a bike with a long back-end that is slower to come around in a skid and gives you time to react, instead of falling down. More than once, on snow or ice, I've stayed upright by steering into the skid, and I've got photo evidence of at least one 2-wheel skid.

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    5. The typical black ice thing is front wheel goes sideways and rider lands on side - collarbone pops. 6-8 weeks in a harness and sling. Now in addition to our lack of snow this year, and wildly fluctuating temperatures, it's also been very dry - so we really haven't had much black ice - so far. While it was well below freezing this morning, the roads were very dry and ice free. BTW, I'd be happy to loan you a bike with a front studded tire to try out, if you'd like. Riding with studs will make you one (it's hard work - makes you stronger)

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  14. I admire your ability to keep up with bike maintenance during the slop of the winter. Your bikes remain clean and lovely in contrast to my grimy winter steed! I've definitely need the studded tires here in Maine--lots of ice patches on my route to work.

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    1. At the risk of ruining your impression of me, I don't do any maintenance on my city bikes. Zero. The rain washes the dirt off, and the chaincase & hub brakes keep things functional. It's fantastic.

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  15. Studded tires really help with ice patches. I have a 30 km commute that I do every workday and I haven't fallen once due to ice when using studded tires. In the same conditions using slicks it was more of a 50/50 chance to fall (when I didn't see the ice). Of course you can't expect to ride the way you do with slicks on asphalt but studs do help.
    I have always fallen on the ice leaning into the curves, with cleats I stay in a riding position and pretty much fall on my hips, elbow and leg. Handlebars take some of the fall as well.

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  16. Collarbones heal quickly and it is very rare that they require medical care beyond a sling and rest.

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  17. As a long time mtn biker and former dirt biker (the motorcycle variety),I love riding in mud...as a new-to-utility\road cycling cyclist,I'm learning that I don't always love it,LOL! :p

    The Disabled Cyclist

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