Thursday, December 12, 2013

Winter Round II 2013/14

Starts with a deep freeze then covers us with snow.  Need the snow.  Nothing better than a visual to remind us on how bad it really is.  But snow can be fun and if you live in the ice age area like I do there is not much to do about it but move to warmer climes.

Wednesday December 4th, 2013 AD, was the last time it was above freezing in Des Moines, Iowa.  39F at 430 am with dropping temperatures throughout the day.  And freezing rain.  Managed to get home ice covered without crashing.  Then every day the temperature got lower and lower and the wind from the north and west got stronger and stronger.  Saturday morning it dropped to -2F when I rode to my barber at 745 am.  The saving grace is that the wind had stopped.  Yes, I can feel the difference between -2F without wind and  12F with a 25 mph headwind.  And the lack of wind made the Big Wheel Rally a success.

Was not planning to go to the BWR.  Mary and I spent too much time battling the coldness that week.  But we made a late appearance mainly because it was almost 20F without wind.  I rode the Mongoose Beast single speed heavy fat bike.  Nothing gets me warmer than riding that thing up a hill.  This was the first time I rode that bike up a hill, Ingersoll Avenue.

The next day snow fell and piled up over 4".  Having paid a princely sum of $207.11 for the bike brand new and delivered to my house I decided that it should be tested in the snow.  About 230 pm I left the comfort of home and rode the Beast to Methodist to visit a friend in the hospital.  First time that bike saw snow.  First time I have ridden in major snow since February or March.  And the Beast performed better than I imagined.  Rolled through the big stuff with ease.  Rolled over buried curbs with a graceful bump. No sliding.  No crashes.  No emergency "abandon ship" moves.  Not bad for a cheap bike that is geared way to steep.  Have yet to swap out rear cog for something with more teeth for better acceleration and hill capability.

By the time Monday's alarm went off the snow had stopped.  We set the alarm 30 minutes earlier to give us more time to ride to work as we did not know exactly how bad the snow would make the trip worse.  I grabbed the Red Phoenix, my Trek FX 7.5 hybrid, a proven winter warrior.  The commute to work is no time for fun and games or messing around.  And when the actual temperature is 6F with headwind and a significant layer of fresh becomes a life or death situation.  That bike still has it relatively fresh knobbies from Boulevard Sports that I purchased in the Spring or perhaps late winter last year.  And since it usually sits in storage from March through September there is still pretty of tread for snow.

I opted for riding downtown to Ingersoll since the snow could have been deep in sections on the trail.  Faster to ride on freshly plowed streets than an unplowed trail.  If I was still working at 6200 Park Ave I would have taken the trail all the way to Orlandos.  But now that my commute is twice as far, speed is of the essence.  No issues.  No collisions with snow plows.  Going down Ingersoll from Polk Blvd to McDonalds seemed a bit scary but the bike handled well.  Got to keep speed in check without locking up the front brake.  I did see two bicycle commuters that morning.

When I worked downtown at PFG those that rode bikes to work in the winter would leave the salt brine at the bike rack.
I really hate riding on the streets after a snowfall.  The city dumps too much salt and sand on them because Iowans refuse to get proper tires for their cars and trucks for these conditions.  And salt and sand are the mortal enemies of metal mechanical parts.  Chains are the first to crap out.  Always get dirty and begin to rust.  Need to purchase and install rust proof chains.  And the roads are wet.  I do not want to get wet when it is 5F outside.  Clothing gets dirt too.

Look at all the salt that the bike picked up downtown, Ingersoll, Buffalo Rd and Westown Pkwy!  Good for the environment, I think not!
I took the trail home after work.  They were clear of snow.  Even Clive removed snow from the Greenbelt although they left about a half inch on the surface for some reason.  Windsor Heights did the best job but then again they have the shortest section of trail to clear.  If you look at a trail after a snowfall you realise how many people use these trails.  Failure to keep them clear in winter is depriving people of something they cherish for quality of life.

Tuesday I decided to ride the Beast to work.  Why not?  The alarm is still 1/2 hour ahead of normal.  If I average 7 mph it still will be less than 2 hours one way.  Trails are clear.  The bike is designed for crap conditions.  They only draw back is that the bike is slow and heavy.  But if I take the trail all the way to 128th St I will only have one hill to climb.  Long but not that steep.  Add three miles to the commute but avoid the big hills I normally take.  The muggles at work will think I am totally nuts.  Except for Bo G.  He rides a fat bike but not a cheap single speed fat bike.  Besides, I feel like Mongo riding that cow when I ride the Beast.

Beast at work.  Note, bike rack put away for the season.  They did this on Monday.
So I took it.  No computer on the bike requires me to use the phone app Endomondo to track miles and inform me of my slowness.  "3 miles in 21 minutes.  Lap pace 7 mph."  Trail all the way to Wal Mart as usual.  But I was beginning to worry about time.  This is taking a lot longer than I am used to.  I could feel the slowness.  I could save over 20 minutes by taking the hilly route.  Hills it was!

I got off the trail at Wally World and climbed the hill on Buffalo Rd by Dowling.  It is a two part hill with a recover grade before the second and final peak.  And just to be safer I took the the sidewalk until the final downhill.  Then crossing 22nd St there is my last hill on Westown Pkwy on my way to Valley West Mall.  Not that these hills are severe or long but on my touring bike, good weather commuter, I downshift to granny.  The FX remains in middle ring since I placed a below normal tooth count ring.  No shifting options on the Beast.  Focus on breathing.  Use the glutes.  Be grateful for the plateau.  I did it!  No standing, no walking, no crying, no swearing!  Once when the road levels off just east of the mall it's smooth biking the rest of the way to work.  I will not this, despite the fact that it was 14F to 17F (the temperature was rising during the commute thanks to warm air coming in), I was in full sweat.  The Beast has a heater--ME!  Muggles really do not understand this fact.  When you pedal a bicycle you generate heat.  When you pedal a heavy single speed bicycle up hills you generate more heat.

Wednesday Day 3 of Snow I went back to the Red Phoenix.  Had to work late.  Need a faster bike for the trip home.  I noticed it right away.  It was like the shackles were removed.  This bike felt incredibly fast compared to the Beast.  20 minutes faster same route.  

The ride home was peaceful  I left work after sunset and had the trail to myself.  Just keep moving.  Watch out for slick spots.  Feel the adrenalin shoot into and course throughout the body the one time a patch of ice grabbed the tires and pulled them unexpectedly for a microsecond.  Enjoy the Christmas lights and be grateful for all I have.  There's not much more I can do but wait this winter out.  Tweak clothing.  Tweak the route.  Keep the bicycles running.  By March it will start to improve. 

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