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…

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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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The Right Formula For Winter Bike Commuting
October 14, 2008, 5:12 pm
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Based on yesterday’s ride I think I am getting close to the right mix of clothing for cold weather bike commuting.

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Yesterday the thermometer in my backyard showed 32 degrees (F) as I was getting ready to leave. Once again, I was excited for another cold weather ride so that I could test the latest changes to my bike commuting uniform. I was actually expecting the temperature to be around 27 (F) based on the weather forecast, so things were a bit warmer than I was preparing for.

Based on my previous experiences and research I’ve settled on a basic cold weather outfit that I can modify as needed for temperature variations:

  • Top: Long Sleeve Base Layer (Duofold Varitherm)
  • Bottom: Ankle Length Base Layer (Duofold Varitherm)
  • Jacket: Pullover Windbreaker (Cabelas)
  • Pants: Regular Cargo Shorts (not biker shorts, just plain shorts)
  • Gloves: Long Finger Biking Gloves (Pearl Izumi Cyclone)
  • Head: Lightweight thermal beanie (Novara) , Helmet
  • Eyewear: Sunglasses, unless cold causes fogging
  • Footwear: Cotton athletic socks, Running shoes

With the above outfit I’m comfortable into the upper 40’s. As it gets colder I can add:

  • Top: Long Sleeve T-Shirt
  • Face: Fleece Neck Gaiter pulled up to cover face and ears, but movable as needed for ventilation
  • Gloves: Thin glove liners worn under the above biking gloves

That is what I wore yesterday on a 32 degree day, and I was almost too warm, so I was adjusting my ventilation to avoid overheating. If it gets really cold so that the above is not enough, then I’m planning to add:

  • Top: Fleece pullover, worn under the windbreaker
  • Gloves: Full snow gloves instead of biking gloves
  • Pants: Snowboarding pants as wind/moisture block as well as adding additional thermal layer
  • Footwear: Heavy synthetic socks and possibly snow boots if roads are snowy

I’m feeling pretty confident at this point that the cold weather will not be a problem. I was very comfortable yesterday, and easily could have handled even cooler temperatures. The one thing that I’m intimidated by now is ice on the road. We get so much snow here in Utah that we have great plow crews that keep our roads very clear, so hopefully ice on the roads won’t be much of an issue. If it looks like it will be then I will probably choose not to ride on those days.

I would also mention that it was great to actually see another rider out yesterday in that cold weather! I’ve noticed that the herd has definitely thinned as the temperatures have dropped. I’ve gotten some great “you must be crazy” looks from drivers as well, and that is always fun.

Ride Safe and Stay Warm.



Bike Commuting In Cooler Weather

The backyard thermometer indicated it was 52 degrees (F) this morning when I was checking my tires and getting ready to leave, which makes this the coldest morning I’ve experienced so far in my bike commuting adventure.

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I have a lightweight, breathable windbreaker that I’ve been carrying around in my pannier, and today was the first day that I actually chose to wear it. Even though I chose to unzip it after I got warmed up, I was glad that I had it on for the first couple of miles. I wear fingerless biking gloves, and with this morning’s cold I also noticed that my fingers were starting to go a bit numb. All of this got me thinking… what am I going to wear when it starts to get REALLY cold? We get lots of snow here in Utah, and it’s great for snowboarding and skiing, but the idea of riding my bike in that kind of weather is something that is completely new to me. I’ve read some other blogs out there, and folks like Warren T make it sound like they actually enjoy winter riding. I’m looking forward to the adventure, but I want to make sure that I’m warm and safe. Just like when I snowboard, I know that the right outerwear makes the difference between a great experience and a miserable experience.

So… I ask you, my readers… do you ride in the winter weather? If so, what do you wear?

UPDATE: I just found a great article with some very practical winter riding tips… The Gear Junkie: Winter Bike Commuting, 10 Tips to Ride Safe… thanks Gear Junkie!

UPDATE: Read about my 40 degree commuting here and my 30 degree commuting here