bridge in the am on wed 1-26-11

damp winter morning

Leaving work earlier this week, the guard in the building said “did you ice skate last week?” I said no, asked if she had. And then I realized – she was talking about the bike. We had a day last week that was slick, so I rode my beater mountain bike that I turned into my crappy weather bike. It has the rack and fenders, and I put my studded tires on it also. It gives me a lot of peace of mind on those relatively rare slick days.

A coworker leaving at the same time commented something along the lines of, “people don’t think the bike can go in bad weather.” And it’s true, the slightest bit of rain and people at work exclaim “you rode in this?”

Meanwhile it’s the wind that gets to me. The wind, the wind!

But yesterday was fairly epic. Not as much as the 7″ of snow I rode in one day a couple years ago, of course, but still noteworthy. I am fairly obsessive about reading the weather reports in the winter – my favorite is a blog-style reporting, and they go into all kinds of technical detail regarding their forecasts. More detail than I’m interested in, but I find it interesting to read anyway. And it leaves me with a much greater understanding of the variables, and the timing, and that helps me make my decisions regarding my riding.

Yesterday I knew it would start out rainy and end up snowy, so I rode my beater to work. I left around 3:30, 30 minutes later than I had intended, and probably 60 minutes later than I ideally would have left. It was sleeting when I left. The roads were wet but not slippery, but that sleet…it’s painful. Little ice shards finding every piece of exposed skin they can!

tunnel on van dorn afternoon 1-26

really wet in the afternoon

And I got soaked. My feet were sloshing in my boots! (I obviously need to do something about those boots…) Every piece of clothing was pretty much getting soaked through. This isn’t a big deal in the summer, but it was worrisome in the winter.

To my surprise, my feet, sloshing in the boots, stayed warm. My feet are what I struggle with on the bike in cold weather, so this was counter to my expectations! My hands, however, were painfully cold. They never get cold! So this was also counter to expectations. I switched gloves at one point a little more than halfway through, but those gloves got soaked very quickly also, and the hand-chill continued. Luckily my trip isn’t that long…

The forecasters had warned that once the snow started it would fall fast and furious. And they were right. The painful sleet started mixing with snow about halfway home. It turned to snow more and more as I went along, and the slushy mess started accumulating a little in the street.

The studded tires are amazing. I didn’t slip at all, and probably had better traction than the cars around me. The snow was so wet that the cars would almost completely displace the slush, so mostly I followed in car tracks and had a pretty easy ride.

All in all, it was more physically challenging — cold hands, more resistance from the studded tires, and the slush — but still not what I’d think of as extreme. No, the people who had truly epic commutes were the ones in cars. Nine hours to get from DC to Herndon?! And that wasn’t even the longest commute I heard about from this storm!

Today is a snow day for me. This means I burn a vacation day, but sometimes I don’t mind.

Three things:
1. Snow day!
2. Studded tires. 🙂
3. This morning I watched a dog across the street run and cavort in the snowy parking lot. So much joy!