Friday, November 26, 2010

soggy once again

Rain overnight transformed the city for the second time in 48 hours, cleaning away the white and returning us to our regularly scheduled grey. The temperature was all of 5 degrees when I rode to work but felt positively balmy in comparison to the first half of this week. Another realization really hit home: experiences are all relative. If you've never ridden below 10 degrees, then 5 will seem a bit crazy, but after motoring happily through -5, it seems pleasant and mild.

There was still slush on the ground, especially through the short 1-block shared pedestrian/bike connector that I ride through each day. At some points I couldn't go around, so it was interesting to ride slowly through the clumps of muddy, mushy ice and feel the increase/decrease in traction under my rear wheel. It never felt out of control (keep your wheel straight, stay off the brakes), but being able to sense the momentary drop in friction was novel. It felt a bit like testing my limits; I know now that I can slip a bit more while still feeling quite secure and upright.

The ride home, however, was a completely different story.

It was pouring.

And it was so much less awful than I imagined it to be.

Setting: Dark. Heavy rain. Urban. Taking a shared-lane route (albeit one where the lane is 50% wider than usual and meant for sharing). Traffic jammed and cars drifting into my side of the lane to either try to get around or see what's going on. Wearing a wool jacket that doesn't cover my legs the way my rain coat does.

Recipe for misery, right? As I made it through the worst, I checked in with my mental state. Was I anxious? No. Slightly annoyed at silly drivers for bending the rules and mother nature for being inconvient, but it felt very "sheesh, whatever". Was I worried about getting run over/into? No. I'd felt very much in control of the situation, comfortable with my route and aware of the behavior of cars at points where I knew myself to be vulnerable. Was I cold? No. Hands, feet, middle-- comfortable. Was I wet?

Yeah, on my knees.

Knees are not the most temperature-sensitive part of one's anatomy. I almost laughed out loud. In conditions that used to vary between "striking fear into my heart" and just plain dread, my biggest concern was that my knees were wet.

Upon arriving home, I changed into sweat pants and ate a hot cheese & broccoli pot pie, coziness epitomized and soggy no more.

Experience. Relative. Totally.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

snow day, feet day

I had gotten up, showered, dressed, and was nearly ready to leave for work this morning before I bothered to go into the living room and look out the window.


Snow is a positive for me, not a negative, but I wasn't willing to test out "first snow ride" on a Thursday morning when I needed to get to work mostly dry and in one piece. Such experiments are better left for weekends; weekdays are satisfied with "tried and true". So I stuffed my pantlegs into gumboots (that's what we wear in the snow here: wellies) and walked.

Pleasant surprise: I'd forgotten the enjoyment of walking. About half of my walking route is through the residential sidestreets of the west end, under the towering old trees (not pictured above, BTW) and through an endearing jumble of old, semi-old, and occasionally new apartment buildings, with the odd old house thrown into the mix. There's always something to look at, you can take a different route every day for months without ever taking exactly the same route twice, and at an *even* slower speed than that at which I cycle (which I assure you is ever-so-meandering one), you pay attention to the tiny details, like gardens and architectural features and funny posters stapled to telephone poles.

By afternoon it had turned to rain and my walk home from the latest Pecha Kucha Night (can I say again: inspiring?!) was mostly through ice-mud (winter's equivalent to fall's tree-mud), otherwise known as slush or "bleh". But I re-trod routes that I used to walk so much last year that I knew them by heart. It was like rediscovering old friends. I realized that I've been so caught up in cycling -- its fun and efficiency both -- that I've forgotten the pleasure of pedestrianism.

Note to self: feet are good for more than pedalling. Let's mix it up more often.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

cold snap, day 2

My primary anxieties before trying out freezing-temp cycling were these: ice and cold.

It turns out that success in both areas is affected by one tactic: ride slower than normal. This was the second day in a row I've been almost late for work. Oops. I now plan to factor a bit of extra time for days like this. However -- and this is a selling point for me -- it still took less time than either walking or taking the bus.

Ice! No, this is not ice on the road. This is ice in a semi-frozen fountain outside my office building. Lovely, isn't it?

Unlike the wacky ice formations formed by semi-flowing water, on the road there was almost nothing. Occasional patches smaller than my palm and a thin trickle here or there, but nothing that couldn't be avoided by awareness and a respectable speed.

This is along Dunsmuir at noon (not my route, unfortunately) where the curiously straight stripes of white perhaps indicate...salting? Or some other ice-addressing chemical? I'd expect that bike tires wouldn't have the width to distribute the substance like car tires would but maybe it's not necessary. It's nice to see that the bike lanes have been thought of, too.

Cold (and that icicle-framed water does look cold, no?) has not been an issue if I wear winter attire and don't go fast enough to generate a breeze. The neckwarmer, toque, and mittens added today did the trick and it was quite comfortable. A walk at lunch included everything except the neckwarmer, which means that -- broken record! -- I basically didn't wear anything different than I would have worn if I had walked or taken the bus. (Are you annoyed yet?)

This was part of my outer attire today.
Wool jacket ... check.
Neckwarmer ... check.
Scarf ... check.
Snowman pin ... check.

Winter pride, y'all.

Monday, November 22, 2010

first freeze

Today I rode in sub-zero conditions for the first time.

To the rest of Canada: stop laughing!

That photo was taken on Saturday in Victoria, where I spent the weekend not riding but carpooling with family. The bicycles were not rare there, with citizen cyclists still casually rolling about the city. Their existence encouraged me, for sure.

I wasn't alone today, as the racks at my building showed a respectable number of bikes (given that this is considered a somewhat intense temperature for residents of this climate) when I passed at lunch.

I opted for slightly more stable wedge loafers instead of my usual heels. With two pairs of socks, foot warmth wasn't an issue.

So what did I (re-)learn? Actually, little that I wouldn't have to change anyway if I was walking to work tomorrow or waiting for the bus.

1. I'll wear a neckwarmer that I can pull up higher around my chin.

2. Thinsulate gloves are not enough (despite the power of purple for making you feel warm and fuzzy inside, of course). It's time for... woolen mittens!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

after the storm

The first droplets of rain hit my head as I maneuvered my bicycle through the glass front door of my apartment building yesterday evening. Minutes later, it began to howl, and the storm raged until midnight. Cozy and warm at home.

Today dawned clear and cold with a bit of remaining bluster. It was a wool coat day!

This photo was not taken in a park or a garden or on the road. It's the pedestrian pathways of Granville street. On a bench at lunch. Where did the sidewalk disappear to!?

The be-stocking'd legs are because I don't currently own a pair of work-appropriate boots. I've got a pair of legwarmers on the needles, but they're nowhere near completion. However, the activity of pedaling appears to make this somewhat irrelevant at the current temperature levels. I've started to be able to feel (or at least notice) the blood pumping and warming me from the inside, without sweating. It's a pleasant experience, especially for someone like me who spends most winters permanently chilled from the dampness in the air. Self-heating: this is a phenomenon I like very much. One more point in favour of fall cycling.

Oh, and I lost a shoe on the way home while taking off at a four-way stop. This required turning around and going back for it. Note to self: if you have a habit of walking right out of a particular pair of shoes, probability is high that you may also pedal yourself out of it. Doh.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

sombre, sludgy, splendid sunday

Sombre, as in the weather. Moody, dark, and threatening rain, yet never following through. This kept the seawall in a lovely state: enough traffic to not feel alone, but not enough to feel crowded.

Sludgy, as in the ground condition. Copius leaves have fallen, a not insignificant amount of rain has fallen on them, and cars, trucks, people, and bicycles have mushed them into organic mud. Thank goodness for fenders and being a happily slow cyclist; if I was the more aggressive type I might be frustrated by the slipperiness of that kind of surface at higher speeds. As it is: not a big deal. (Kind of fun, actually, like the inner-child instinct to run straight through puddles when you're wearing gumboots.)

Splendid, as in my chore-running afternoon.

Mended a wool skirt that had been waiting for me to stop procrastinating and took it out for a spin. The lovely thing about fall weather and wearing thick tights is feeling somewhat less exposed than in the summertime when wearing skirts without a lot of horizontal give.

Dropped off a bag of clothing donations at the VGH Thrift Store. Hooray for baskets!

Swung by Three Bags Full for a little yarn shopping.

Poked my head in at the Bike Doctor to ask if they sold any rear reflectors. They didn't, but they had a stash in a "miscellaneous parts" box in the repair shop and the nice fellow gave it to me at no cost. They're one of the shops I patronize fairly frequently for parts and things, so I promised him I'd be back. While they're not the most organized shop I know (their ordering system has a few holes) they do have a great selection and have proven once again to be friendly and helpful. (Although it seems like no one I've ever talked to there can understand why I would specifically want a dark coloured bicycle...)

I haven't ridden much in the past few weekends, mostly staying within walking distance of my apartment. It's the hibernation instinct, I suppose. However, today's errand afternoon reminded me of how things aren't much different now than at any other time of year. I've aready conquered my instinct to change my commuting behavior in the fall and this helps to emphasize that I don't need to change my weekend utility transportation behavior either.

Now we begin the countdown to the darkest day of the year...

Saturday, November 13, 2010


This next music video comes via my friend Jen.

The song is called Keep Drivin' and the artist is Hayley Sayles, who happens to hail from my home island (Vancouver Island) but is nationally-known.

What's this? you ask. Why are you posting a video called Keep Drivin' that prominently features a van?

Stay with me.
First, the bicycles enter at about 1:30.
Second, see what happens at 2:00!

There's no denying the enjoyment of a road trip. Whether it happens in a clunky old volkswagon, a comfy touring motorcycle, or on a fleet of two-wheelers, that's a cherished experience for many (me included). Hanging out with your peeps! "Driving, keep driving..." Take it figuratively, not literally. Road trips aren't really about how far you get: they're about what happens along the way. So maybe there's an alternative to "cycle touring" (which I've never tried, but really-- it just seems so hard). Cycle road-tripping. Short and sweet.

Other things to love:
- horses!
- campfire!
- sousaphone!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

bike to work week & month & year

Last week was Bike to Work Week, fall version.

The one in the summer ended up having lousy weather and I only rode 1 or 2 days out of the 5. Looking back, it amazes me, because this time it was November and rained and/or blustered several of the days and I continued riding, as usual, through the whole week. And the week before, and the week after, and I intend to continue. My increased tolerance for not-just-perfect weather is something I didn't envision happening quite so quickly. With this raincoat, it's just turning out to be not a big deal.

So today I have no photos, no funny stories, no rants, and no opinions, because I've simply been riding.

This evening I participated in a phone survey about Translink. "In the past 30 days have you used transit less, the same as, or more than you previously did?"

"Less than," I said. "I ride my bicycle now."