Sunday, December 28, 2008

Worlds Collide

When the snow is good, I pick cross-country skiing over biking for my workout. You just never know how much good snow there will be in a season so it gets priority. The snow has been perfect and I have been out cross-country skiing quite a few times and riding, at best, a couple times a week. We’ve had some below normal temps so some of the skiing has been in the sub-zero range but when the snow’s nearly perfect you just go and sort out the cold toes after the fact. The morning of Christmas day was my last day of skiing and it didn’t get above zero until after we were done.

When I woke up the following day, the temp was already 35 degrees heading for 40. That’s 40 above zero. And just to add insult, it was threatening to mist/drizzle/yuck all over our beautiful snow. My plan for the warmth had been to head out for some skijoring since the pooch doesn’t do very well in the bitter cold.

Puttering around delayed my exit and when I let him out to do his business before heading to the ski trails, he came back in soaked after only a couple minutes. Sure enough, what I had thought was a light fog was actually a heavy mist/drizzle. I decided that skiing in rain gear didn’t sound like much fun so I bagged the trip. It was supposed to turn to snow at some point so I figured we’d go the next day.

It never did turn to snow. It stopped raining and then froze turning everything into a very rough skating rink. Skiing on ice isn’t my idea of a good time but taking the bike with the studded tires out can be quite a hoot. Before I got studded tires, I was terrified of riding on ice and parked the bike anytime it was below freezing. But with the studs, I could do so with little trouble. Riding on ice with studded tires is like hitting a patch of road that is covered with sand. You can’t ride it the same as you would dry pavement but by taking it a bit easy you can get through it with no problem. Don’t be stupid and you won’t go down.

So I headed out into the freshly glazed world, happy to have an outdoor workout option. I decided to take a spin around the trails that make a nice loop over here on the western side of the Twin Cities. We have the good fortune of having a great mountain bike trail right in the city of Minneapolis at Theodore Wirth Park. I’ve written about these trails before and ride them quite a bit since they are only a quick 6-mile ride from home. I also thought it would be fun to hit that trail system since two days earlier we skied this same park. How many places have a huge inner city park with both top-notch mountain biking trails AND cross-country skiing trails?

I only had my phone for snapping a picture and dusk was coming on so the shot didn’t turn out that great but an active mountain bike trail crossing an active ski trail (in really crappy shape...) seemed like a picture that had to get taken. So I did.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wide Christmas

I'll be enjoying this year's wide Christmas
I bid you have the best holiday season!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

15 degrees, heavy snow with light winds

15 degrees, 4” already down plus heavy snow falling, light winds. Why?

Upper:

Thin base layer tank top, Icebreaker Bodyfit 260 long sleeve, with a Gore BikeWear jacket for the outer layer. This great for the conditions since riding in heavy snow with 4+ inches already on the ground is one heck of a workout

Hands:

Perl Izumi lobster ski gloves with thin wool liners. This was perfect.

Lower:

Ibex Climawool pants over wool tights over Ibex merino wool cycling shorts over wool boxers. This was perfect.

Feet:

Medium weight wool socks, thin wool liner socks with Lake Winter boots. My toes got just a little chilly on the return ride but the only change I might have made would be to have aired/dried out my feet before heading back but Whole Foods my have frowned on that...

Head:

Wore my down-hill ski helmet with medium balaclava and cycling glasses. I removed the balaclava for the return ride, again due to the extreme effort of riding through this much snow.

Riding pace:

I’m guessing around a 6 mph. pace since the whole ride was on unplowed trails with 4+ inches of snow. The hardest riding I have ever done was today through this much snow particularly on the road portions where tire tracks turn the ride into a controlled fall, controlled meaning I never fell but anyone watching would have assessed me as very nearly out of control.

Etc.:

This was an errand ride of about 7 or 8 miles. I’ll put up another post on riding in these conditions that were about as extreme from a handling perspective as I have ever ridden in. Another ride like this and I would sell my soul for a Pugsley!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Good News on a Friday

 It's an exciting time for cyclists with more folks riding and getting involved in cycling. Two quick links to things I think are worth celebrating:
On the local scene, the National Park Service has some big plans near Fort Snelling where the Minnehaha bike trial makes a feeble connection to the Mendota Bridge. Pete had some questions and posted the exchange that brought the news to my attention. Another example of how easy it is to get involved, thanks for posting this Pete!
On the national scene there is a plan nearing completion for a national bicycle network, an interstate system for bikes. CBS put out this story:
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, working with theAdventure Cycling Association and other groups, recently approved a plan, four years in the making, that lays the foundation for the network. Now it's up to each state to create the routes and put up signs.
Pretty cool, don't you think?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Three More Reasons

Here are three more reasons
I like shopping for beer
at CostCo!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sunday, December 7, 2008

12 degrees, dusk into night ride, light winds

12 degrees, dusk into night ride, lightly snowing with light winds.

Upper:

Thin base layer tank top, Icebreaker Merino short sleeve T-shirt, thin Patagonia long sleeve base layer, Bodyfit 260 long sleeve, Ibex Merino jersey with a Gore BikeWear jacket for the outer layer. This was pretty good for the conditions but I could have gotten along with one less layer, probably the Merino jersey though I may have wanted to add it for the last part of the ride.

Hands:

Perl Izumi lobster ski gloves with thin wool liners. This was perfect.

Lower:

Craft Windmaster bib tights over thin silk tights over Ibex Wool cycling shorts over wind front briefs. This was pretty good but a little chilly on the knees. Knee warmers would have been a welcome addition or perhaps thicker base layer tights.

Feet:

Medium weight wool socks, thin wool liner socks with Lake Winter boots. I also put in a  chemical heater pack under my toes on each foot. This was pretty good but my toes were a little cold at the end of this 2.5 hour ride.

Head:

Wore my down-hill ski helmet with medium balaclava and cycling glasses. This was nearly perfect but I did have to adjust my glasses to be outside the balaclava to prevent the cold from following the temples in and freezing my ears. Also, this was the first ride this season where I did have to cover my face. This is a loose-fitting balaclava and it allows my breath to come out the top which fogs up my glasses. It’s mostly OK when I am moving except for the occasional brief fog up when I look behind me but I have to pull it down right away when I stop or the glasses fog up on the first breath.

Riding pace:

I’m guessing around a 10 mph. pace since the whole ride was on unplowed trails with 1-2 inches of snow mostly with other tire tracks and footprints both of which make the riding a bit harder.

Etc.:

This was about a two and a half hour ride just for the fun of it and it was a very good ride. I did make one rookie mistake though; while I did bring water in a thermal bottle, I didn’t bring any food and nearly bonked about a half hour from home. The ride was just under 20 miles which was about the same as a 50 mile road ride in good conditions in terms of effort and I would never do a ride that length without some kind of a snack midway.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Silence of the Studs

I put the studded tires on too early (as usual) due to my paranoia of hitting a patch of ice and going down. I don't mind riding them on dry pavement. In fact, when they are new it helps get the studs to fully set making them less likely to pull out as I ride through the winter. Since part of my motivation to ride is for fitness, riding on tires with a higher rolling resistance, especially those with studs, just makes for a better workout.

Eventually our first bit of snow arrives and I head out to roll over that patchwork of snow and ice. I look forward to the first snow ride of the season as it marks the end of fall and the beginning of the winter riding season. It’s one of my favorite rides of the year.

Riding studded tires on dry pavement sounds like an old 78 phonograph record with the sound turned up and no music. As I roll around the trails, I don't often need to ring my bell or to alert folks with a polite "On your left". Most pedestrians turn around to see what in the heck is coming at them and give me plenty of room. I like to think it’s to insure my safe passage but it’s just as likely they are making sure they don’t get rolled over by an errant bike. Safely past, it’s just me and my old 78 spinning along down the trail.

Until I hit a patch of snow...

Then those studs become deadly silent. No sound what so ever. Road tires on dry pavement have a certain smooth hum, a supple sound track of soft rubber gripping the pavement. Mountain bike tires sailing down a hard-packed single track sound like an old man's slippers on a sturdy wooden staircase. A syncopated, soft padded dance step.

Studded tires on snow make no sound. No sound at all.

Being accustomed to the reassuring audio cue that my tires are providing a connection to whatever surface I am rolling over, the silence is deafening. It's the same silence one hears when a pebble tossed into a well has yet to hit the water. Time suspended, waiting for the echo of that distant plop.

My late fall rides have that old 78 as a constant sound track so I anticipate it being there. My ears strain to pull it in but all I hear is the winter quiet surrounding me. It finally ends when the studs once again find direct purchase on bare pavement and the old 78 spins up again. But the sound is short-lived lasting only until I roll over the next patch of snow. Then it’s quiet again. The snow brings back the magic of winter biking and wraps me in a suspended silence.  

Monday, December 1, 2008

21-23 degrees, 6-13 mph winds, sunny

21-23 degrees, 6-13 mph winds (that seemed stronger coming across the lakes), sunny

Upper:

Icebreaker Merino short sleeve T-shirt, Bodyfit 260 long sleeve, Ibex Merino jersey with a Gore BikeWear “Tool jacket” for the outer layer. This was pretty good for the conditions but my back got a bit sweaty since this jacket has windblock all around not just in front like the Ibex jacket I have been wearing. See jacket comparison below.

Hands:

Perl Izumi lobster ski gloves with thin wool liners. This was perfect.

Lower:

Ibex ClimaWool pants over medium weight merino wool tights over regular cycling  shorts. This was a little chilly at the start but after I warmed up it was very good but still on the chilly side.

Feet:

Medium weight wool socks, thin wool liner socks with Lake Winter boots. This was pretty good but my toes were just a tad chilly after a couple hours.

Head:

Wore my down-hill ski helmet with medium balaclava and regular glasses. This was nearly perfect but my cycling glasses would have been a better choice.

Riding pace:

I’m guessing a 14-16 mph.

Etc.:

This started out as a quick errand trip but it was so nice I ended up riding for a few hours. The nice thing about the Minneapolis area is that I can ride for hours and almost never be off a trail or at least a dedicated bike lane.

The Gore BikeWear jacket was my main commuting/skiing jacket last year and I wanted to compare it to the Ibex jacket I picked up this fall and have been wearing for all my riding. The Ibex jacket has a wind resistant front with a more breathable, and not wind resistant, wool back. The venting in the back has made controlling my body temp much easier and I expect to take this jacket down into the single digits (we’ll see…) though I had expected to use it only for rides above freezing. Since even with a strong tail wind, I always have wind at my front it makes sense that this is working so well. I wouldn’t wear it cross country skiing in lower temps since I can’t always be certain a tailwind won’t hit me that I can’t out run like I can on the bike.