Drive My Bike


Some Days Are Fast, Some Days Are Slow
February 23, 2009, 3:13 pm
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This morning I believe I had the fastest ride to the office that I’ve ever done, and it wasn’t like I set out to break any speed records…

j0438890

I had a very active weekend. I did a full day of snowboarding on Saturday, and played an hour of racquetball yesterday. I was really tired yesterday, and I was still feeling a bit tired and stiff this morning.

But someone forgot to tell my legs they were tired when I started my ride this morning.

Lately, after a half mile or so of warming up at a medium pace, I settle into a “slightly above medium” pace, and that is where I stay. There are only a few spots where I can get to my highest gear without overly straining, and even then I can only keep that up for a block or so before I have to downshift a couple of gears to find the normal pace.

But today the bike just wanted to go fast.

Same rider, same payload, same bike. The only difference was that it was about ten degrees warmer this morning… in the upper forties (F) when I left. I got to the place where I usually have to downshift, and decided that I didn’t need to yet, so I kept going. I kept telling myself “hold this pace until you get to the next corner”. I kept doing that, until the next corner, and the next corner, and the next. Then came the biggest hill that I face, where I always have to drop a gear or two to maintain my cadence. Today I got a little crazy and decided to try to do the whole hill in my top gear, and it worked. I maintained my highest gear, and dropped my cadence a good bit by the time I reached to top, but picked up the pace again right away on the downhill side. I don’t have a cycle computer on my “winter” bike (the Trek Antelope 830 that I rebuilt in the fall), so I have no idea how fast this ride really was. I had to stop for a couple of red lights, so I’m not even sure about my overall time. However, I’m sure that I’ve never been able to maintain that pace for the majority of the distance.

The funny thing is that I have no idea why it was like this today. It was great to feel strong for a change, because ever since my Christmas break I have felt like I was crawling back to the fitness level I had in early December. My strength and stamina seem to ebb and flow very unpredictably, and I’m not interested in charting things out… so I’ll just enjoy days like this and celebrate the small victories.

As to what I’ve been up to while I’ve been so quiet the last few weeks…

  • I’ve continued to ride to work on a regular basis. We’ve had quite a few “snow days” lately where my team has decided to work from home, so riding to the office hasn’t been as consistent, but I’ve ridden my bike every time I’ve gone into the office.
  • To make up for the lack of rides to the office I’ve supplemented with riding for other errands when possible. Some of the nicest rides I’ve had recently have been when I’ve taken a break mid-day and met friends for lunch.
  • I’ve had some cold rides, around 9 degrees a couple of times. I’ve got a pretty good cold weather outfit now. From the top down: Helmet, Novara beanie, 360s ear warmers, Fleece facemask, Cheap gloves of a wool/thinsulate blend, Glove liners, Pullover windbreaker, Fleece pullover, Novara water/wind proof pants, Fleece sweats, Wicking base layer top and bottom, Neos Overshoes, Running shoes, Wool blend socks. This mix works pretty well. On the coldest days I start chilled but by mile three I am unzipping a bit to get some ventilation due to overheating.
  • I’ve had some beautiful rides on several days when the temps have climbed into the upper 40’s and lower 50’s. Nice to put away the colder weather gear and relax the dress code a bit.
  • I’ve had up days and down days. On one of the bad days my wife asked me “So are you still enjoying this?” I answered “No, but I’m going to keep going because I kind of made a commitment to myself to do this.” On the good days I remember why I made that commitment.

Keep riding, enjoy the fast days when you can ride like the wind, and stay safe.

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Big City Bike Commuters Just Doing What It Takes

A couple of weeks ago I was in the Midwest on business, and I wanted to share some pictures and observations of the hardcore Chicago bike commuting scene.

ChicagoBikeRack

I was in Chicago for several days, and I think the warmest it got was about 20 degrees (F), not counting the wind chill. The average temperature was probably about 10 degrees (F), and it dipped as low as 2 degrees (F) while I was there. Counting the wind chill I’m sure that things were well below zero.

Did these cold temperatures scare the bike commuters back inside? No way! There were commuters on bikes everywhere, at all times of the day. I was driving back to my hotel one evening, after 11pm, in the cold, and I probably passed at least ten bike commuters in the three mile drive. I was impressed.

What kind of conditions were these folks riding in? The road and traffic conditions were equally as bad as the bitter cold. Here’s some pictures I grabbed with my cell phone while I was driving…

You can’t read this sign very well, but it says, “Shared Lane Yield To Bikes”.

ChicagoSign

On the roads they have this symbol…

ChicagoBikeLane

So basically what this means is that there is no bike lane. Instead bikes have the right of way in the right lane and as a bicyclist you have to hope that the motorists respect that right. Here’s what that looks like…

ChicagoBiker

You can see the slush and snow on the side of the road, as well as the parked cars. This bicyclist was holding his own, aggressively taking the lane amidst the busy rush hour traffic. Again, there were bicyclists everywhere, and this was the norm.

So, this pretty much takes away most of the excuses that I have heard.

Bitter Cold? Heavy Traffic? Poor Road Conditions? Snow? Ice? Not a problem.

I guess when you ride in Chicago you just do what you have to do.

Props to you, Chicago bike commuters. Stay Warm. Stay Safe.