Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Biking in a Winter Wonderland...

Well, it seems that winter has come a bit early this year. I've now got two fixed gear bikes that will, hopefully, carry me safely through most of what's in store for the next four months. The Kona Lavadome on the right is a converted mountain bike with studded tires. This is the "last-resort" bike. Next to it is my recently adapted Miyata, my first road bike from the deceased Scattalon Cycles in Hamilton, purchased in 1991.

The Lavadome sees the streets and bikepath when there is snow/ice still hanging around. I wish the path along the river was accessible year-round, but alas it's only the first few snowfalls that I'm able to navigate. I have to say that 20km on this rather plodding bike is a bit much when the temperatures start to drop. I usually sweat enough by the 30 minute mark in my ride that a chill begins to set in for the remainder.

One thing I do like is having the paths to myself. There is a certain satisfaction in being the first one to blaze a path in the early morning. Being the only one around lets me indulge in one of my favourite riding pastimes -- singing songs off key. Today's recurrent distraction was REM's Superman. Crazy Dominique is a strong proponent of the benefits of singing while on the bike, and who am I to argue with the likes of her?

When the roads are clear, I'm riding the Miyata. The hub is threaded on both sides so I'm riding a 53-21 ratio in these conditions. When the weather is better, I flip it around to 53-19 which gets me to work about 5 minutes faster. Either way, this bike is a lot faster than the Lavadome. It's not about speed for me, it's about time outside. Anything above 45 minutes and I start to cool down.

My feet in particular seem to be the limiting reagent. I bought a pair of Lake Winter Cycling Shoes which get me an additional 10 degrees of temperature resistance, but below -10C I have to add on neoprene booties and shoe covers that steal me another 5C comfortably. Below -15C, it gets a little annoying. I survived at -26C last winter but this year I'm considering working from home below -20C. We'll see how that pans out.

The Lakes list for some ridiculous price, but I got them for 50% off at Performance Bikes online. Shop around! I looked at the current product line at MEC and they don't compare to these Lakes.

I got home tonight about 45 minutes after the snow started falling. My handy chain-saw oil dispenser is sitting on the table, ready to minimise the damage from the salty roads. Despite most people's misgivings, riding in this weather is not a big deal if you're dressed for it, and there is no evidence that it is any more dangerous, for experienced commuters, than driving a car in the same conditions or riding in the summer. However, it is a sad fact that you will get harassed by drivers who will lay on their horns, claiming, rather ironically, that you shouldn't be on the roads for safety reasons. Yes indeed, nothing makes my ride safer than having someone sneaking up behind me and blaring their horn at close range. Sometimes the horn isn't enough, a fish-tailing deliberate swerve into your path as they pass by is employed to increase your safety. Grrrrr...

Today's ride home was brought to you by the letter "V". Fuel for keeping me warm and transporting 200lbs of person, bike, gear, and lights 20km was supplied by Mealtime Matters delicious Thai Vegetable Curry. And a great deal of coffee.
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The Vegan Vagabond said...

I have a miyata too! Love it. Also a single speed.

Glad you liked the tofu.

the original big ring said...

what's with all the spider man clothing????

I figured you more of a Hulk kind of guy - you're a doctor, crazy experiments go haywire and then a mild manner guy turns into . . . . the Hulk. Peter Banner??

fritZman said...

I hear ya on keeping the feet warm.

I've got a set of Lake winter shoes as well depending on the layers, I'm good to about -20 windshield in the open country roads.

For maximum protection, I use Defeet wool cycling socks, Lake boots (with a thick wool footbed), an old set of traditional wool socks over the boots, and then MEC bootie shell cover.

That usually keeps me warm for a good hour or two.

The Vegan Vagabond said...

Rather than use bike shoes, I just use my winter boots - gortex hiking boots - and with some warm socks I'm okay no matter what the temperature.

Papa G said...

I ride my SS Cannondale mtb. I will post some pics soon. Like the Vagabond, I do not wear bike shoes. I wear a pair of Columbia winter boots which keep my feet toasty warm.

I do admit that it is a bit of a slog riding an mtb in the winter. I am looking for an old road bike that I can convert to ss, with a flip-flop hub.


Peter M said...

I tried winter boots but for my ride I really prefer clipless. Fritz, I have a few questions for you on the topic I'll send offline.

As for the Spiderman attire, it should be obvious. Spiderman is the coolest superhero out there (though Batman has his moments). Spiderman once took out the entire X-Men team you know!

Have you noticed how many superheroes are scientists:
Spiderman, Batman, Hulk, The Beast, Charles Xavier etc.

Reminds me of one of my favourite Simpsons quotes:
Marge: Homer, there's a man here who thinks he can help you!
Homer: Batman?
Marge: No, he's a scientist.
Homer: Batman's a scientist.
Marge: It's not Batman!

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