Monday, January 15, 2018

The Evolution of Accepting a Winter Without Riding

Groomed ski trails in Finland.
Photo credit: Timo Newtom-Sym on Wikimedia, and converted to black and white by anniebikes.

This Phase Cannot Last
Between cycling for the last time on the solstice, sitting and visiting relatives over the holidays, and frequent precipitation, I figured the snowfall was too good to be true. It wouldn't last. The 2016 winter had prolonged dry spells where, sporadically, I rode on dry pavement for errands or round trip to work once a week, just enough to get my cycling fix.

Frustration & Denial
Then just before the new year, a 7-10 day deep freeze descended upon New England. Below zero and snow fell! It was too cold to go outside. I was stir crazy from lack of exercise, though yoga helped loosen stiff joints and protect my sanity. A gym membership is lost on me. I want to be out doors. I sat near the window, reading, watching movies, trying to absorb daylight. It was the first time in a long time that I considered buying an indoor bicycle trainer. Instead I gazed outside.

My heart hurt when my husband removed my son's and my bicycle from the garage to open up space for our vehicle.

Once the terrible weather spell passed, frequent precipitation is the new normal. I have resigned myself to leaving the car at home during the work week and despite my dislike of the bus, I've re-calibrated my mindset, using the bus as link to more exercise. I walked the 4.5 miles one way home and fell once and nearly slipped numerous times due to icy paths (not to mention arriving home late), so the bus allows me to shortcut the miles but still get exercise walking on plowed and salted sidewalks - as much as I need for sanity.

The transition feels complete. I've shoveled driveways, embraced the beautiful powder snow, and adopted a new elderly neighbor's driveway as my new project because, sadly, another older gentleman who we've helped for many years, had recently passed away.

This past weekend I brought out my cross country skis for two days of local skiing: through backyards and shushing in an unplowed cemetery beneath tall evergreens heavy with snow, plus a lovely sunset ski with my husband along the waterfront path. Ice is forming on the shoreline. Surprisingly, I kept warm in single digit temperatures, donning a down parka, wearing winter weight bicycle tights, and the warm mitts I'd purchased last year for cold weather riding. The irony, of course, was that cycling garments were also great for skiing, on the same waterfront path that's my favorite place to ride.

When we returned to the car after dark, I looked up and smiled at a sky full of stars. The transition was complete. I'd come full circle, from angst, frustration, to acceptance. Though cycling is never far from my mind, I've decided to embrace winter while it's here, in whatever mode of personal transport gives me peace of mind.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Going Bikeless Crazy 2

taking advantage of fat bike demo day at Catamount
Early December, I attended a fat bike demo event with our youngest son.

As I wrote the title of this blog post I knew it sounded familiar and discovered I'd previously had a similar experience during a bout of rain. Winter, so far, has been difficult for me as I imagine it has been also tough for other northern dwellers who crave outdoor activity. Regular precipitation, ice, and arctic-like temperatures means roads are snowy, too scary to ride a bike, and too cold to be on skinny skis.

On the positive side, I am riding the bus more because, despite the cold, I force myself to walk the mile each way to the transit center.

I've had ample time to research one adventure for 2018, and because it also appeals to my eldest son he wants to accompany me!

I have a couple sewing projects on the agenda, plus I picked up a small duffel bag that can easily be strapped onto a bike rack.

When all else fails, I do yoga.

The growing daylight is also taking the edge off. And the promise of milder temperatures, starting tomorrow, is the brightest star on the horizon.

What do you do when extreme weather prevents you from being outside?

Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 Rewind

Winter in Vermont can often provide a bike rider with snow-free bike paths.

What strikes me the most about 2017 is I added, quite unexpectedly, two more bicycles into my life, but of course January didn't start that way...

The year began with frequent snow-free winter bike commutes, punctuated by blasts of extreme weather, including hail in mid May plus I embraced a longer, cleansing ride in sunny, cold weather.

racktime topit

In the spring I added a front rack to Miss Clementine and later a specialized handle bar bag to complete her set up as a tour ready companion.

coffeeneuring, day, and overnight bike adventures

In the summer I went on an annual slow-roll with Adele in Canada, and also made a concerted effort to re-connect with an old friend, Paula, (who I'd forgotten liked to ride) plus made a new friend, Carmen, that led to a women-only overnight to Grand Isle State Park.  Carmen also joined me for a coffeeneuring outing and we regularly see each other at Queen City Bicycle Club rides. My husband and I also got out more, riding with Paula, an overnight in Canada, and exploring Groton State Forest, plus he accompanied me on several coffeeneuring trips. Now that our children are becoming responsible young adults, I love it when we can plan mini adventures or head out on a moments notice.

Dahon folder, step through Peugeot

I welcomed two bikes into my life this year: a white Peugeot St. Laurent as a replacement commuter bike and a Dahon Boardwalk 6-speed, both Craigslist finds, both stumbled upon with endless searching. I'd looked for years for a larger framed steel step-through, and coincidentally I located an inexpensive brand-named folding bike, something I've always wanted to try. In November, I also, excitedly, re-purposed my Trek Antelope into a dedicated winter commuter. 

Peugeot commuter bike near Le Champlain

Bike overnights hold the power to rejuvenate me like nothing else short of a week-long vacation. This year I discovered the beauty of lone nights at our family's nearby lakefront cottage during September and October. 5 miles from home and 7 miles from my workplace, I packed food, overnight gear and dress attire and often pedaled the circuit: camp to work along the lake shore path, work to home to resupply and greet family, then back to camp, often arriving after sunset.

After a solo trip hiking Hadrian's Wall Path in early September, that particular bike-less adventure has ignited a spark for future plans. Whether it's US travel or overseas, on foot or wheels, I've vowed to make exploration a more consistent part of my life.

Onward to 2018!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Salt, Crosswalks, and Winter Riding Reflections/Emotions

Photo credit: Burlington, VT waterfront trail winter plowing policy.
As I walked to catch a bus ride this morning, my boots crunched over salt crusted sidewalks. Salt coats roads, walkways, everything! Salt is king in these parts, making roads safe, passable - at least in the travel lanes. That is, where automobiles rule the road. On the other hand, bike lanes are full of packed snow or slush, a far cry, in my opinion from safe bicycle conditions. As I entered intersections, the white striped crosswalks - specifically the white painted portions - are extremely slippery when wet, surely a major failure!

As I continued on I realized how I would never feel safe riding when lanes are narrow, when paths are unplowed, when I would be subjected to riding with traffic, literally, in the lane with an automobile in front and behind, to justify riding through out the colder months, during frequent and regular snowfall.

I admire those hearty folks who can ride in all conditions, unafraid, with studded tires, on fat bikes, in heavy traffic, squeezing by cars on congested highways. It takes a special kind of gutsy determination to claim their space, however minimal, on narrow, New England roads.

As much as I would like to embrace this lifestyle, if only to support the growing winter riding culture, I realize this is beyond my comfort zone. I'm fine with occasional rides on dry pavement side roads, paths, or sidewalks - if I can link a route to work - otherwise, I'll leave the snowy roads to heartier riders.

More power to you!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Winter Solstice 2017, 15F

I welcomed a bike commute on a brisk 15F morning. Bike paths are still treacherous after regular snowfall and precipitation, but roads are dry so I pieced together a route that's similar in length on low trafficked neighborhood streets and back roads to arrive at my workplace. Due to conditions, it had been two weeks since I'd felt safe enough to ride a bicycle and with a brief window of weather before tomorrow's predicted storm, I'll take what I can get. After all, it is winter.

Later that evening I joined an amazing turn out, some 40 strong, well-lit, like-minded souls who cruised around the city for 45 minutes, before I turned toward home, picking up the pace to stimulate warmth into cold fingers. Group rides can be fun when weather is agreeable, but I have trouble keeping warm on long, slow strolls even with handwarmers tucked inside mittens. It was interesting though, to catch up with a few friends.