Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Icicle Bicycle and Other Cold Adventures

Woke up to -9 degrees this morning with a wind chill around -30.  I'm not riding.  Anyone out riding in this stuff is so beyond Rule 9 that they need their own rule (or possibly a straight jacket?).  Today is a day that I stay inside and write about riding in more sane conditions.

The weather isn't staying like this and I hope to ride tomorrow afternoon when it returns to the 20's.  Ought to feel downright tropical after this.  Temperatures lately have been up and down.  Snowy, wet, windy some days - dry and reasonably pleasant (relatively so) on others.  The temperature of course, is only one factor in my comfort level on the bike.  The humidity, wind and cloud cover contribute just as much and it's difficult to decide how to dress on a given day.  Last Saturday we started a ride in the high 20's and about 5 miles into it I had a flat.  The sun happened to be peaking out at the time and we found a snow-free spot on a sidewalk next to a building to do the repair.  My hands weren't even cold by the time I finished and we went on to ride comfortably for around 24 miles.  On the flip side, Sunday we also started out our ride in the high 20's and the forecast said we were going to get into the 40's.  This sounded great, but my big mistake was thinking that 40 degrees would feel comfortable.  I didn't believe I was going to need winter boots and just put the toe warmers in my shoes instead.  Huge mistake.  My feet were so cold and I couldn't wait to get the heater going in the car when we finished.  Heated seats, BTW, are the 8th wonder of the world.

While I may not always love riding in the cold and wind, I absolutely love that most of the time I can.  Every day that I'm able to get out and pedal this time of year feels good.  I may have to drag myself out of the house initially, but once on the bike I have no regrets.  I'm slowly finding better options for keeping comfortable and sooner or later I'll figure out how many layers I need under the different conditions.  Until then I generally start out overdressed and end up stopping every five miles to shed a layer until I find the right combination.  Overheating feels worse than being just a bit cool, but I do not like being cold.  My most recent successful purchase has been a wool "Buff".  I really like this thing.  It seems like it would be too thin to do a lot of good, but I like it so much more than my heavy fleece balaclava.  It's much more flexible in how it can be worn, not bulky at all, and I can pair it with different hats to meet my needs.  Highly recommend it.

In addition to trying to figure out the dress code, we've been having to work around varying trail and road conditions. Last week we started down the slope on the Northshore Trail from the Langley Clock and as we came around the bend there were ducks swimming on the trail.  Huh?  It took a second for my mind to process what I was seeing.  The rivers had risen to the point that the trails along the Northshore and around the Point were submerged.

Saturday and Sunday there were snow drifts on the trail just past the Casino and I had to walk the bike until I could cut over onto the roads.  We've done our share of turning around when we've hit icy sections of trail and I think we're starting to learn which trails are most likely to have icy spots as well as exactly where they occur.  Now when we expect to encounter icy conditions we just stick to the roads.

Riding through the neighborhoods instead of using the trail system provides us with more options for warm-up stops. This is a good time of year to plan the rides around coffee shop locations or good places for soup.  We just finished "Soupaneuring" season, and here's my soup summary:

Soupaneuring #1
29 Nov
Max's Allegheny Tavern
537 Suisman St
Pittsburgh, Pa 15212
Einlauf Soup
23.94 mi

Soupaneuring #2
2 Dec
Smallman St Deli
1912 Murray Ave
Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh
Chicken Noodle Soup
33.07 mi

Soupaneuring #3
9 Dec
Pho Van
2120 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh, Pa 15222
Pho ga
17.28 mi

Soupaneuring #4
18 Dec
Kelly O's
100 24th St
Strip District, Pittsburgh
Minestroni Soup
13.74 mi

Soupaneuring #4.5
20 Dec
Pittsburgh Steak Company
1924 East Carson St
Southside, Pittsburgh 15203
Potato Soup
21.5 mi
(Sorry, ate half before I remembered to take a pic.)

Soupaneuring #5
22 Dec
Hello Bistro
1922 East Carson St
Southside, Pittsburgh 15203
Cream of Potato
23.9 mi

Soupaneuring #6
27 Dec
Kaleidoscope Cafe
108 43rd St
Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh 15201
Sweet Potato soup
24.7 mi

Soupaneuring #7
4 Jan
Whole Foods
5880 Centre Ave
East Liberty, Pittsburgh 15206
Chicken Noodle
24.18 mi

We kicked off 2014 with the "Icicle Bicycle" ride, run by the Western Pennsylvania Wheelmen.  I haven't seen an official head count, but someone was estimating more than 70 riders showed up.

A good start to the New Year.

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