Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Riding through a Gauntlet of Emotions

Doing the best that I can do right now.

Leaving from my home office after a less than stimulating work day, it was imperative to get outside, (now a strange form of exercise when I used to bike commute). Indeed, 5 pm never rolls around fast enough for me. I alternate evening walks with my husband with solo bike rides on the Burlington Greenway, listening to soothing sounds of waves or relishing the quiet stillness, encountering only a few walkers. This is usually the me time that I crave.

But after wonderful cross-country ski snow, a warming trend has softened compacted firm snow on our trails to slippery mush. I came to grips with this reality this evening, fleeing local water-filled, icy trenches for roadways with cars, (so noisy!), studded tires rattling on asphalt, wondering if it was worth pedaling at all. I passed a beautiful odor-free dead skunk, weaved around puddles, feeling that I was unprepared and emotionally caught off guard after navigating frozen snow-filled paths with confidence for 3 months. Then a car sprayed me as I pedaled through a neighborhood - nobody's fault, I realize - but nonetheless it seemed like the nail in the coffin. What the heck was I doing out here on roads?

Shortly afterwards, I headed to the waterfront path, determined to take my chances heading home on a car free route. It was quite slushy and slippery at times. I had to concentrate to maintain forward momentum and keep the front wheel straight, and even so there were periods when I had to put my foot down, walk a bit, before setting off again. It was then that I realized all the balance skills I acquired from riding on packed snow came into play, lending confidence. Without pedestrians to dodge, I challenged myself to keep at it for as long as possible. There were also stretches of bare pavement - more than I had anticipated - that gave a welcome reprieve from intense bike handling.

As I crested the bridge over the Winooski River, I felt euphoric - this bridge always has that effect on me - because it's the homestretch, because it feels like I'm flying in the darkness. I could walk home from there if needed. As I navigated the last half mile home, I thought about how this particular ride, through a gauntlet of emotions (better word than "gamut" don't you think?), seemed an apt metaphor for 2020 and now 2021. We're all dealing with change, highs and lows, but we keep moving forward, as best we can.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

In Love with the Bern Muse Winter Helmet

Bern Muse helmet in action.

As previously mentioned, my goal was to ride throughout the 2020-21 winter. Along with getting the right footwear and longer length windproof jacket, I found a comfortable insulated helmet: the Bern Muse. 

I tried on numerous brands of ski helmets at our local Sierra Trading Post - to keep the cost down, especially if I was adding a third helmet to my collection! I immediately fell in love with a purple colored Scott brand, but the padding was too thick, which pinched my head. The Bern Muse is geared towards burly helmet protection with a lightweight liner, in the classic visor style - indeed the overall helmet weight was half of the heavier padded options, which I knew would translate to less neck strain on longer rides. Definitely a better trade off - getting the right fit was critical as I wanted the helmet to be part of my routine winter setup.

The color scheme is not my favorite (only choice in my size), but the removeable liner and full coverage ear flaps won me over.

The back of the helmet has a clasp for goggles.

Since November, I've tried various weight balaclavas, neck warmers, and beanies underneath so I'm not overheating on rides. I've settled on a lightweight balaclava or thin wool beanie plus a thin neck warmer  to use as a makeshift mask when passing other riders. Goggles have helped during snow blinding conditions for depth perception or to keep my face warm, but generally I have a love/hate relationship with goggles in conjunction with mouth/nose coverage - feeling like I can't breathe in addition to partially fogged goggles. 

The Bern helmet completes my necessary winter riding trifecta: adequately covered head, hands, and feet - items that should serve me well for years to come.