Sunday, November 28, 2010

Snow and all that - November 28, 2010

Well I didn’t mean for there to be such a long time between posts, but I’ve had a lot going on and haven’t had the time.

There have been four things I was going to touch on lately and I hope to summarize three of them here.  So without further ado: cycling in snow, cycling while sick, and other fixed gears.  Two of these sort of fit together, cycling while sick and other fixed gears.  I had the joy of riding to work with a sore throat, stuffed up nose and slight congestion.  It is possible, just not fast; especially on a fixed gear. 

Actually I cheated and flipped my wheel around to my single speed.  That gives me a 46/18 ratio.  Makes hills easier, flats slower and breathing easier…kind of.  I had lots of power at that ratio to slowly trek my way up hills, but found air at a premium.  I would estimate that I was often around 6 mph or lower on hills when I don’t often drop below 9mph, so all in all very frustrating.  With the added head wind (gusting up to 30 mph), and slow everything else I added about ten minutes to my commute.

With the miserable conditions that were present, it seemed most other cyclists weren’t.  In three days I didn’t see anyone, but on day four as I crossed Northrup I saw another soul fighting the same headwinds and heading my direction.  He was on a fairly new single speed (no fixed on the other side).  Had I been moving at normal speed that day, I would have made more lights and probably never seen him again, but I wasn’t and didn’t so he caught me at the last light before the hill.

Knowing I wouldn’t be climbing fast I offered to let him go ahead of me, figuring even if he moved slowly it wouldn’t hurt me to hang out behind.  Pulling off the light neither of us were moving quickly into the wind and rain and less than a hundred feet up the hill I stood up to keep my effort and cadence low.  The person ahead of me was climbing slowly as well but remained seated.  My cadence was around 30 rpm and I was admiring that the guy ahead of me was still seated; that was until I noticed that he was probably closer to 50 rpms.

Huh?  I figured that I was taking the super easy route at 46/18 but this guy was running the equivalent of a 46/25 or so.  On the flats with my gearing I can barely hold 21 mph, but at that ratio the max speed would be around 15.  I do have to say though that he seemed to have an easier time with the hill then I did.  There is something to be said about multiple gears; but after seeing the mess the same weather made of my single-speed drive train I am very glad that I didn’t have to deal with derailleurs and the other equipment.
Eventually the horrid weather cleared up along with my cold.  Of course with the dryer roads and sunshine, the temperature plummeted: and it snowed. 

That morning was pretty cool, down around 24 degrees.  I have great cold weather gear that I can use down to about zero so I was plenty warm enough.  As the day passed it warmed up and by about noon it was snowing and sticking outside.  I was able to leave a few minutes early.  It was a very long ride!

The wind was blowing over 30 mph, it was snowing and in order to increase my traction I dropped my tire pressure as low as I could.  I probably didn’t top 15 mph at any point, but I was still moving faster than all the traffic.  It took me just under an hour to get halfway on my bike and just under two hours to drive the rest of the way home.  Later listening to the road reports it had taken a lot of people over six hours to make it home.  OUCH!

More due to the fear of having someone slide into me then sliding myself I ended up driving the next two days.  There is more snow expected this year, and I expect that once everyone has had a chance to get the right tires or get off the road, that I will be able to bike regularly in it.  Unfortunately they don’t make 27” snow tires for my bike.  I had considered converting my bike to 700 wheels and going to winter tires, maybe next year.

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