biking and subzero temperatures

After my vacation last week I thought the time was right to show dear Lizzie more love. It finally stays bright until after 6pm, and the forecast predicted a dry but very cold start into the week. I thought, what the heck, let’s try how it 6 degrees below Zero feel on a bike. Not as cold as you might think, actually. The only things that always get icy are my fingers, no matter what sort of gloves I try.

I was wearing wooly tights, my trusty bike pants, a vest, a cotton longsleeve, a cashmere pullover (christmas present from my mom), my soft shell jacket and my Golden Gate Bridge coloured windbreaker. Oh, and legwarmers, but those more for fashion reasons, because Doc Martens and skinny legwear look rather silly without some inbetween element. The trick is to prevent overheating from stuffy clothing. You get incredibly warm on a bike really fast. The first few meters albeit are more like this: “Ooooooh my lord, what was I thiiiiiinkiiiing? I’m freeeeeeezing!”
Thin, breathable layers are the Number One trick when it comes to staying warm on a bike. Second trick is a jacket that is 100% windproof. Cold is not so much an enemy than wind is. I finally invested in one of those cotton tubes from Buff to keep my head warm under the helmet, and this is sooo much nicer that having icicle ears.

I don’t mind having an icecold chin, but always rub some cream on my cheeks and lips to prevent cold damage to my skin. You might want to get one of those special scarves that carve over your nose or a balaclava if you are more sensible to cold. Regular scarves work too, but can give you the feeling of wearing a neck brace.

But even if I’m not cold, I’m looking foward to temperatures on the other side of the Zero.

back to biking

The bus service went from tolerably well to downright crap since they adjusted the timetables back in December. Or maybe it’s just the combination of my imagination and really bad weather. But I have the feeling that I’m standing around at bus stops for ages until one shows up.

I’m missing my bike sorely. To my delight the weather forecast for next week shows temperatures in the double digits on the plus side – hooray! And it’s not getting dark so soon anymore, so riding my bike to work might be very very possible. No more standing around freezing, no more having to listen to that chick that is on the phone every blasted morning, speaking to her (I think) boyfriend about the most mundane things ever. Like for example that she cooked chicken the night before and now her coat smells like chicken. No more having to leave the office two minutes too early because the bus leaves earlier.

So unlike last year when I had to talk myself into actually taking the bike, now it’s more like iwanttotakethebikegoawayyoustupidwinteromgbbq!!! On Thursday I was so fed up with the bus being late 1 that I decided to walk the remaining 2 km home. I probably wasn’t faster, but warmer. And I got to walk part of my commute, which was nice.

Sorry for the rambling post, I actually planned to write about different types of valves, but didn’t get around to take the pictures. Buh. Bad blogger. ;-)

GZ6H3Y8YR66C (This is a Technoratic claim token… because claiming blogs is a serious thing)

cycling in december

It was a lovely day today. Sunny and quite warm with around 10°C. Not the whopping 18°C we had on Christmas, but then it was also very windy and very wet. So the man and I grapped our bikes and went for a little tour, to check how high the waterlevel in the Dreisam (that’s our river) is and more importantly, to see how good my bike fixing really is. I don’t trust my chain mounting abilities. But, to my surprise, the only thing that was a bit loose was the saddle post, nothing I couldn’t fix right then and there.

To be honest, I stopped taking the bike to work in early December. Not because it got too cold, but because the bike paths became really muddy. Which is fine as long as it’s bright, but in the darkness a wibbly-wobbly path is not so much fun. Besides, the winter rain came and then it got cold. Even my hardcore cyclist coworker finally gave in and took a Taxi home one day. Of course, the moment I decided to take the bus again, its service became the least reliable thing in the world. More than once I stood shivering and cursing at the bus stop, calculating how far I would be now if I had taken the bike. Yeah, I missed my bike. But I bet Lizzy likes the cosy dry basement much more right now. Bikes don’t like rain, mud and salty slush. As I don’t want to clean my bike every day and I want to keep my bike(s) for a long time, basement time it is, as long as the bike paths are muddy. Meh.

Today, with the at-the-moment-fenderless Flamboyant, we stayed on the paved paths anyway, which were dry and mostly clean. There were a lot of other cyclists out there. The spandex brigade of course, and lots of others like us, cruising along and enjoying the warm sun. Cycling in December – I never thought I would do that. And it was so nice, I didn’t even need tights under my pants. Or a scarf! I really hope there will be some more days like that, or January and February will feel very very long.

gift guide for the bike commuter – part one: sensible stuff

So, you have a bike commuting friend in you life, and you don’t know what to get her for Christmas? I have some ideas that might help you out.

After I accidentally oiled the screws under my saddle I rode around with hex keys to tighten the screw everytime it got loose. Eventually I bought myself one of those handy multi-tool thingamagics, because I figured that the time might come that I would have to fix a bit more than a loose saddle. Multi-tools are like swiss armyknives, lots of tools in a tight space. The Crank Brothers do have a nice ones, and if you really want to splurge, the Alien line from Topeak is your friend. Add one of those puncture kits and a small first aid kit, and your friend will be prepared for almost anything.

Christmas is for me a time with lots of twinkle lights. Lights also play a major role when it comes to being visible in this dark and cold time of the year. Blinky lights on packpacks can add a little extra bling. Equally useful are reflective straps and stickers for clothing, backpacks and the bike itself. Invest into your friend’s safety and get her something that will make her stand out of the darkness.

Winter is not only dark, but also very cold. Layering is key, and that works best with merino wool items. They are warm, breathable and most importantly: not bulky. A nice scarf – Rapha has a deluxe version – or maybe even a nice sweater will keep your friend warm and happy. There’s also an unbelievable wide range of winter gloves, tights, hats and socks for cyclists.

After all this sensible stuff today, tomorrow will show you more of the fun stuff that make cyclists happy. And if you wonder why I didn’t contain any links? Because I think we all should support our local bike shops. But if you insist on ordering online, most of the stuff is available on Amazon.

sursee update

I had high plans of writing an elaborate gift guide today, for the bike commuter in your life. I even made a little list in one of the many many moments the groupware at work was coming to a grinding halt, but… right now I just want to curl up into fetal position and whisper the meanest swearwords to my intestines. The monthly joy of being a woman…

On a happier note, the Electra saddle came and looks great. The new chain also made its way into my home, but not onto the bike yet. Don’t want to fiddle with little nooks today.

See you tomorrow, and then hopefully with a nice gift guide.