Sunday, May 2, 2010

Freezing Rain, Lightening and Honking Gasholes

It appears as if riding to work every day for one year is in the bag. Only three days left with mild weather in the forecast. 16 miles round trip, 240 days of riding. 3,900 miles (from Virginia Beach, Va. to San Jose, Ca. it is about 2,990), 240 hours of rush hour traffic and over 3,000,000 pedal revolutions. High temperature of 98 in June and a low near 0 in December. Freezing rain, lightening, honking gasholes, and quad burning 40 mph headwinds. I have never had more fun getting to work in my life.

Luckily, I didn’t suffer any major maintenance problems over the year. This is one of the benefits of a fixed gear bike. With only 1 gear, there are no derailleur’s to adjust or mess with. There were 5 flat tires that I remember. I did have to fix the wires on my headlight a few times but all in all the bike held up very well and will last many years to come.

The weather ranged dramatically as you would expect when riding through all four seasons. The most memorable was a spring storm last May. Riding when the tornado sirens are blaring is invigorating. The winds had been pushing me all over the road and the rain was sand blasting me and then suddenly, they both stopped. For a few minutes the air was still but multiple layers of low, fast moving and extremely dark clouds let me know there was still some storm left in the system.

At first, there were only a few pieces of ice randomly hitting me as the winds began to push again. I decided at this point to get under something. I was next to a McDonalds so I pulled into their lot. I was soaked to the bone already and didn’t have a lock for the bike so I decided to stay outside. With the storm coming in from the south I was perfectly sheltered from the hail and debris flying nearly horizontal by sitting on the north side of the Red Box movie kiosk. I watched for 10 minutes as it raged on. The storm was not over but the hail seemed to be finished and the winds had dropped to manageable gusts so I decided I could ride a little farther towards work before the next wave hit.

I pedaled as quickly as I could between gusts of wind that would cut my speed to nearly zero. Some of the roads had water 6 inches deep pooled in the low spots. I came upon a line of cars stopped by a 50 foot tree that had fallen directly across the road. It was a sign that I had taken shelter at the appropriate time. A quick detour through someone’s yard and I was on my way again. As I reached the building there was another wave of hail and winds coming through. I rode down the ramp into the basement parking garage to find they had evacuated the building and there were now a hundred or more people hiding from the storm in the garage. I received numerous offers for a ride home as well as several head shaking admonishments that day. I later found that a woman had died during the storm. She wasn’t riding a bike, she was in her house.

Summer was really pretty uneventful with the exception of the heat. Winter on the other hand, provided several challenging rides. The first ride on ice covered roads was tricky and included a couple of semi graceful wipe-outs in the middle of the road. Fortunately, none when cars were near. This was when I decided to make the studded tire. You can buy them of course but by winter they are sometimes hard to find and I had read some articles on making your own. I mounted it on my mountain bike and rode that bike for about 2 or 3 weeks. It actually worked very well. The only day I had any real trouble was when we had about 6 inches of fresh snow over previously rutted and then refrozen roads. It was a true test of handling skills.

I learned exactly how much clothing I need for a given weather situation. A long sleeve technical t-shirt and shorts works down to 45 if you can handle the first 5 minutes cold. You don’t need a cover over your face if its above 20 and the wind isn’t out of the north but I need something over my ears and fingers below 35 although I might take the hat off after a couple miles. My favorite condition, conducive to both speed and comfort, is 50.

Drivers. What can I say about drivers? Most people are courteous but there is a subset of what I like to call, idiots. People who think they have a greater right to our public roadways than anyone else and if you are in their path you better move out the way! For the most part I have stopped taking anything I hear on the road personally and the vast majority of the time my music is on loud and I don’t care what they are saying. The times I do choose to interact with a raging fool I doubt I really change their opinion so what is the point. For some reason when some people are behind the wheel they fly into a blind rage when anyone makes them hit their brake pedal. Never mind there is a red light you will have to slam your brakes on for immediately after racing past and cutting in front of me. Never mind the person in the oncoming lane that had to slam on their brakes to avoid you careening around me. Screw everyone else, I’m heading to the grocery store and I need to be there yesterday! Of course they are wrong and whether they know it or not, I DO have a right to be on the road, it is ILLEGAL to ride on the sidewalk and in the road is statistically a safer place to be than the sidewalk. If I ever added more than 30 seconds to their trip I would be surprised. Usually, I catch them waiting in line at the next red light anyway so all their stress was for nothing.

I still won’t be driving to work anytime soon. The streak of riding is over though as I want to run to work a day or two per week. I will keep riding most days. One day this summer, on the perfect kind of day, I might have to take the top and doors off the Jeep and drive in. I did miss that a little last year.

80 miles on bike and 32 on foot this week.

1 comment:

  1. Now this is why I like to read blogs. All good words here and I look forward to the next entry. Congrats.