Drive My Bike


Strong Headwinds, Angry Clouds, Raindrops
May 19, 2009, 3:05 pm
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The ride in to work this morning was beautiful, however, the ride home was a bit more of an adventure…

WindyFlags

Those flags in the picture above are huge, and you can see how the wind was blowing them. Well, I was pedaling home against that wind. It is surprising to me how much a strong headwind can sap my energy. In the past I’ve even found it very discouraging psychologically. I’m not sure why exactly, but maybe it is just that feeling of having to work so hard to get forward momentum going. It feels like all of nature has conspired against you to keep you from reaching your destination.

Today though, I was determined to make the best of it, so I just dropped my gears a bit, and tried to enjoy the cooling effect of the breeze. As I looked around though, I noticed the reason for the strong winds. Angry clouds heading my way indicated that a storm front was moving into the valley.

AngryClouds

I was about a mile from home when I started feeling raindrops. I was worried for a moment, because it was so warm this morning that I didn’t even pack my windbreaker, which meant that if it really rained I was going to get soaked. Then I thought about things a bit more, and decided to just relax, since it was warm enough that it would probably be refreshing. I have a rain cover for my pannier, so all of my gear would stay dry even if I got wet.

Well, I felt a few more sprinkles before I got home, but the rain never really came. Now that I’m home the winds have picked up as the storm has moved in, and we’ve had some huge gusts, but it looks like we won’t be getting much rain out of this storm.

Oh well, some wind, some dark clouds, and some raindrops make for a bit of variety in my normal bike ride home.

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Snow Ride…
March 9, 2009, 4:16 pm
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“Snow ride… Take it easy…”, with props to Foghat.

(For the uninformed, a Foghat is not a helmet with a yellow light mounted on top… go here if you’re confused.)

SnowHelmet

Yes, it snowed today. Yes, I rode home in it. Yes, it was probably the most fun I’ve had on my commute… ever.

Why?

I don’t know. Maybe it’s that little kid playing in the rain kind of thing where you are just out there in the elements and it’s crazy fun. Maybe it’s the awesome looks you get from people as you ride by… with the snow caking on your bike, legs, and helmet. Maybe it’s the feeling of the cold wind and snow on your face… similar to the rush you get when you’re flying down a mountain on a snowboard.

Either way… it was fun!

Here’s what the Trek 830 looked like when I got home…

SnowyTrek830

It was caked with all kinds of snowy stuff, and so was I. My cold weather wet gear did the trick though, because I was warm and dry underneath.

It was great. I highly recommend it!



Cold Wet Bike Commuter Feet? Not Any More!
December 13, 2008, 12:15 am
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I wrote last month about how miserable I was when I had to ride in a heavy rainstorm and my feet ended up soaking wet. That put me on a mission to find a workable solution to keep my feet dry in the rain, and warm in the winter wind and snow. I found that solution… Neos Overshoes!

Here’s a quick video that shows what they look like and how easy they are to put on…

I ordered these based on the picture and information on the website, and I was afraid that when I got them they would be too big and bulky to use while riding. I’m happy to say that is not a problem at all! I took some more pictures to give you an idea of what these look like and their size relative to the running shoes I usually wear while commuting.

Here’s a front view, one overshoe unbuckled and open, the other one buckled up…

NeosFront

You can see the internal waterproof coating, and the inner liner behind the velcro seam. This makes them completely waterproof. You could probably submerge your foot in a 4-6 inch deep puddle and still remain completely dry. The quick release buckle makes for a snug fit, and they do not move around at all once you have them on. They really feel just like part of your shoes.

Here’s a back view…

NeosBackjpg

The logo on the back is reflective, which is a nice touch.

Here is a size comparison with my shoe…

NeosSizeCompare

This picture makes the size difference seem more than it is. Again, when I have them on I really don’t feel a difference from my shoes, and they don’t feel any bulkier. I could easily forget I have them on, except that they are a lot noisier when moving around due to the rustling of the waterproof fabric. When I wear them, I also wear my Novara rain pants, and I put the pant legs over the Neos, and then zip the pants down and velcro the cuff around my ankle. This means that my foot is completely sealed so that any water runs down my pant leg and onto the Neos, and then off.

Here is a picture showing how much they will compact down for storage…

NeosCompact

That is both of them folded down with a rubber band so that I can put them in my pannier. You can also see the tread on the sole. The tread pattern is not very aggressive, but it will give you a bit of traction on normal surfaces.

In addition to wet protection, I have been wearing them for very cold rides to keep the wind off my feet. They are completely wind and waterproof, and the company claims that even though these don’t have any internal insulation they will still add ten degrees of warmth to your shoes.

The only negative thing I can come up with is that they are so waterproof that they don’t breathe at all. This means that when I get to my destination there is a lot of condensation on the inside of the overshoe, enough that there are visible droplets. This hasn’t been a real problem, but if it gets too bad I’ll probably just carry a spare pair of socks. If it is not raining and I’m just wearing them for cold wind protection, then I still velcro the cuff of my rain pants around the Neos, but I unzip the legs of my rain pants up to the top of the Neos to try to vent some of the perspiration. I’m not sure how much this really helps, but I figure it can’t hurt, and I’m still plenty warm.

You can find out more about these from the Neos company website. I purchased the Villager ultra light model from CampMor. For those that are in extreme cold and want really warm feet, they make models that have internal insulation, but I imagine those are a bit bulkier. I wear a size 11 shoe, and I got the XL size Neos, which is just perfect.

I love these things, and I am now completely confident that I’ll stay dry in rain and snow. If you are trying to figure out a solution for cold, wet feet, then I would encourage you to try a pair of Neos.



Snow Yesterday, 18 Degrees And Ice This Morning
December 9, 2008, 4:53 pm
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I didn’t check the weather report before I road in yesterday, so I didn’t know there was a nice snow storm in the forecast until a local reader commented that he chose not to ride that morning because of the storm. Maybe that was a good thing since I didn’t know what was coming…

SnowOnBushes

Actually, as snow storms go around here, this storm was fairly mild, mainly because the ground was warm enough that there wasn’t much accumulation on the roads. Even though it snowed for several hours, the roads were fairly clear when I got ready to head home. Here’s a picture in front of the office before I left…

SnowAtOffice

By now I’ve done enough tweaking in my riding gear that it seems I’ve got an outfit for every occasion, so the ride home in the snow and wet was actually fun. The roads were very wet and the snow was melting quickly, so the spray off the roads was a lot like a good rain storm. I was actually excited about this, because it gave me a chance to try my Neos Overshoes that I bought last month when I had my miserable ride in the rain with soaking wet feet. I have one word to describe these overshoes… AWESOME! I’m planning to do a special post on these overshoes because they work so well, and I think they are pretty much the ultimate solution for keeping your feet dry on a rainy or snowy ride. My feet stayed completely dry, and since they also block the wind, my feet stayed nice and warm. The only downside to these overshoes is that they don’t breathe at all, so when I get to my destination there is a lot of condensation on the inside of the shoe. I’ll take some warm condensation over soaking wet and cold anytime.

Things stayed cold through the night so I was expecting that the ride in this morning might be extra chilly, and I was right. It was 18 degrees when I left the house, and the remnants of the snow had frozen, so there was plenty of ice all over the place. Not only was that the coldest temperature I’ve commuted in, but I’ve also never had to really worry about icy roads before. I have thought about getting some studded snow tires, but I haven’t yet, so it was just my normal nobby tires and the icy road. I couldn’t see my knuckles because of my gloves, but I’m sure they were white, and I was probably more focused on the road than I have ever been. I took things slowly, especially trying to slow down early at stop lights and corners. I’m happy to say that everything was fine, and it added a new bit of adventure to my commute today. The most dangerous part of the ride was probably the parking lot at the office, which was basically just a sheet of ice. Thankfully they had salted the ramp at the door, so I had a place to stop and get off my bike without crashing.

When you get your outfit figured out so that you are ready for the elements this winter commuting thing actually ends up being a lot of fun. The looks you get are priceless. I would encourage you to give it a shot.



But What About My Feet?
November 15, 2008, 10:27 pm
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Last Monday I learned that, even though I covered the rest of me, if my feet are hanging out in the rain they will definitely get wet… and I mean really wet!

j0410082

I have been preparing to ride in the cold and snow lately, so when I woke up to rain on Monday morning it threw me off a little bit. I was still determined to ride, so I donned my water resistant windbreaker for the top half, and in a pinch decided to use my snowboarding pants to keep the bottom half dry. I thought my feet might get a little wet, so I grabbed an extra pair of socks… and then off I went.

The ride was uneventful, except for the fact that is was a good steady rain the entire trip. The road was completely soaked, and that meant that, even though I have fenders, there was water spraying everywhere. My snow pants actually kept my legs completely dry, but the flair legs meant for snowboard boots constantly flapped around and threatened to get stuck in the chain. I found out that my “water resistant” pullover windbreaker is not water proof, and my top half was not soaked, but I was quite damp.

The worst of it all was my feet. I had on a pair of running shoes with cotton socks, and about halfway through the ride I realized that was a very bad idea. I could feel the cold water on my feet, and I looked down to see that my shoes were completely soaked through, almost as if I had just stepped in a puddle. When I got to the office I immediately took my wet shoes and socks off, but then realized that even if I put on my other pair of socks, I didn’t have any dry shoes to put on. I actually put my dry socks on and tried to work that way, without shoes, for a couple of hours, hoping that my shoes would dry out, but it takes a long time for shoes to dry. When it came time for lunch, and it was still raining, I decided to put my wet socks and shoes back on as I went to lunch with the other guys.  I made it through the rest of the day in my wet shoes, and by the end of the day they were actually almost dry, but it sure wasn’t very pleasant.

After Monday’s experience I realized that I needed to be more prepared to ride in the rain, since that is also a possibility this time of year. I headed out to REI again, and, after trying on pretty much every piece of rain gear on the rack, I settled on their Novara Stratos pants and Novara Express jacket. I also looked at all of their options for foot protection, and I couldn’t find any of their shoe covers that would fit over my shoes. I came home and Googled a bit, and eventually found some boots that are made to go over normal shoes, and they claim to keep out water, as well as adding a layer of insulation. I ordered a pair of these NEOS Overshoes, and I should be getting them sometime next week.

I haven’t had to ride in the rain since Monday, but I’ll let you know how this new gear works out.

UPDATE: Those Neos Overshoes are AWESOME! Read my complete review here.



A Day Of Firsts
November 4, 2008, 10:04 pm
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The weather forecast was predicting snow sometime today, and I have to admit that I was a bit intimidated at the thought of possibly having to ride in snow for the first time. Little did I know that I was going to have two different kinds of “firsts” today.

RainyWindow 

I voted before work this morning, so I got started on my commute about an hour later than usual, and by then the sky was darkening and the winds were shifting. When I finally hit the road the temperature was about 45 (F) and dropping quickly. I had a strong headwind for the first mile or so. I passed another biker on the other side of the road heading in the opposite direction. We waved at each other, two obvious members of the brotherhood of the slightly crazy bike commuters. The headwind got stronger, and then the rain started. That was the first of the “firsts”.

I know that some of you have to ride in the rain a lot, but until today I had only ridden in a couple of light showers that really didn’t even count. However, this morning certainly made up for things! About two miles into my five mile commute things started to get pretty exciting. The rain got heavy, and the headwinds started mixing with crosswind gusts so strong that they actually blew me around the road, and I had to be careful to not get blown over. I had my cold weather gear on, so I was warm, and my windbreaker is fairly waterproof, so my top half was dry… but I only had shorts and thermals on my lower half, so by the time I got to work my legs were pretty soaked.

In spite of all of this craziness I have to admit that there was a bit of fun and adventure to be had. Somewhere inside I sensed that little bit of rebellion that you get when you are a kid and you just keep playing as the rain pours down, and you think to yourself “Ha, I really shouldn’t be out here… but I am!” The other thing that kept my mind busy was watching the looks of the faces of the drivers I encountered, and wondering what they were thinking as the crazy guy in the bright yellow windbreaker came pedaling by on this blustery day.

The other “first” happened on the way home. Thankfully the weather had cleared a good bit, and although it did actually snow for about an hour mid-day, the roads were clear and the sun even showed up. It was in the low 40s, so I bundled up and set out for home a bit early to take advantage of the break in the weather. I had to wait for a stop light at the two mile mark, and when the light turned green and I started to pedal something popped while I was right in the middle of the intersection. I looked down and thought my chain had just derailed, but to my surprise the chain was actually broken and dragging on the street! I had never broken a chain before.

I quickly hopped off, ran the bike through the intersection, and found a grassy spot in front of the corner 7-11 to assess the damages. I was riding the Trek that I rebuilt, and I did replace the chain as part of the rebuild, but I don’t think the link that broke was the one the I fastened. Anyway, I was glad that I had my Crank Brothers multi-tool with the chain breaker tool, and I was glad for the rebuild experience since that was when I learned how to fasten a link. After a few minutes I had the chain fixed and was able to resume my commute.

A big wet storm… a broken chain…wow… what a crazy day!