Saturday, November 29, 2014

extreme cold warning

It's hard to believe that less than a week ago, I was riding merrily along River Road, chatting with another bicycle commuter about what a beautiful warm morning it was. The trail was cleared of snow (not that there was much snow) and there was no wind. 

The guy was telling me that he works at Epcor, so he doesn't need to climb out of the valley to go to work. "Must be nice," I said, and I told him of the climb awaiting me. I said those words, but as Dr. Suess would have it, "I said them, but I lied them." Deep down inside, I was looking forward to riding up that steep hill and to the satisfied feeling that is mine every time I reach the top. Yes, it was a glorious day for a ride to work!

Today, things are very different. Not only is there about 30 cm of snow on the ground -- more in places because of drifting -- but Environment Canada is warning of extreme wind chills of up to -45 C. 

The warning contains this tidbit:
While anyone who isn't dressed warmly is at risk in cold weather conditions, some are at greater risk than others for frost bite and hypothermia:
  • homeless people
  • outdoor workers
  • people living in homes that are poorly insulated (with no heat or no power)
  • people with certain medical conditions...
  • winter sport enthusiasts
  • people who consume excess alcohol
  • infants and
  • seniors
I had been planning to get on my bike this afternoon and ride to the library to return some stuff. Now I will have to think twice about that. I do have lots of warm clothing, but I need to figure out how to "Be sure to cover your nose to protect it." Maybe today's the day to try out the balaclava.

I'm just glad I don't have to go to work today and that I have a couple of days to try out various clothing combinations so I can be prepared to ride on Monday. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

the wheels on the bus

Yesterday was my first bus day of the season. With 30 cm of snow in the forecast, there was no way I was going to drive into the west end. I wouldn't have minded trying to cycle to work from Crestwood, if I could have teleported there. I know it would have been hard, but there is nothing we winter cyclists like better than a good challenge.

The bus ride into downtown wasn't bad -- about 65 minutes, or only 10 minutes longer than usual. BUT -- the ride home was a different story. It took about three-quarters of an hour just to get from NorQuest to NAIT and more than an hour to get home from there -- total of almost two hours. I stood the whole way; I prefer standing to sitting, but even so, I was elated when it was time to get off.

Not so elated when I saw our street. Thanks to the drifting snow, the sidewalk was piled so high that I had to walk in the road. And as I reached our driveway, I saw a woman in a small SUV trying to get out of a snowdrift. So I got a couple of shovels and we dug her out.

It's at times like these that I am thankful for a big strong 16 year old son. I don't really mind shoveling, but the amount of snow this time was simply overwhelming. It was nice to be able to assign someone else to do the job. 

In spite of the heavy snow, we had a decent turnout for class today: 14 of the 20 registered students showed up for the morning class, and 9 out of 11 in the afternoon. It was a good day of learning.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

first snow

We did have a little snow in September, but this past weekend we got the first real snow -- the 6 cm of snow that stayed on the ground and probably will remain for another 4-6 months. 

I rode around town on Saturday and Sunday, trying out my two winter bikes. Yes, this year I decided to try studded tires, so I had them installed on Silver, my Trek 7.2 step-through hybrid. I am not really sold on them. They're fantastic for riding on relatively smooth ice, but if the surface is bumpy or if there is a layer of snow, it's a different story. I felt quite insecure bumping along  the trails, where the packed snow is full of footprints. It was a little better on the roads and on untrodden snow, but still not entirely comfy.

My trusty old GT Tempest, on the other hand, with its fat Table Top tires, is nothing short of superb. It rides well on all but the very smoothest ice, on bumpy snow, through a few centimeters of fresh snow -- pretty much anywhere. 

So when getting ready for Monday morning's commute, it was Miranda the GT Tempest I put in the back of the minivan. I parked in Crestwood, thinking that if the trail conditions were too prohibitive, I would walk to work, but that wasn't necessary. I hopped on the bike and rode -- albeit carefully -- down into the ravine, along the river and my tour de force: up the hill into Ezio Faraone park. When contemplating my route, I opted for this hill, telling myself that if it was too hard to ride all the way up, I would simply get off and walk -- no shame in that, after all. But I didn't have any trouble riding all the way up, and I felt so good when I reached the top that I had to stop and take a photo.
victory at the top of the hill
Unfortunately, unless you know this spot, you can't really tell that I just rode up a very steep hill. 

As I rode down into the valley, I saw a coyote run across my path and then stand in the bush to watch me pass. 

And I'm afraid I was totally guilty of this:

Twice in one day, in fact. Once when I first arrived at work and then again in the afternoon when I rode an extra 5 km each way to attend a special meeting. In my defense, they did ask, "How was your ride?"

I plan to use the studded-tire bike for errands around town this winter, and if the studs haven't grown on me by the time spring rolls around, I'll offer them for sale to someone who has a different riding style. For me, the fat tires and old mountain bike are a winning combination.

What I wore: camisole top, fine merino wool sweater, cashmere turtleneck, Icebreaker wool longjohns, J. Crew wool skinny pants, MEC Adanac tights, wool pea coat, Icebreaker merino wool scarf, bulky wool scarf, wool gloves inside warm Joe Fresh mittens, thin wool socks, thick wool socks, Merrell insulated boots, Bern winter-lined helmet. Perfect! For the ride to the meeting and back to the car, which was mostly against the wind, I added another wool pullover.  

Temperature - AM -14, windchill -21; PM -16, windchill -24.

In spite of the cold wind, when I reached my car, I was wishing I'd parked at my usual spot, 2 km farther away. Next time!