Sunday, January 14, 2007

Remind me why biking is fun

Date: Jan. 14
Mileage: 23.0
January mileage: 342.9
Temperature upon departure: 35

I had a terrible ride today. Just awful. It was like a really bad B-movie, almost comical in the way that all of the wrong elements fit perfectly together. It may even qualify for the over-the-top rating of “Worst ... Ride ... Ever.”

Not really. But by the time I set out today, all of the freezing rain had turned into plain ol’ regular rain, which streamed in torrents down the glare-ice-covered roads. I took my studless snow bike because I assumed I’d just ride in the snowy shoulder. But the rain-stewed slop that remained from Friday’s snowfall was nearly impossible to negotiate. The conditions were a sourdough starter for mushy disaster. On days like this, I should learn when to cash in my chips and hit the gym. But I can be pretty stubborn when I want to be. After all, I had just spent a half hour designing a new wet-weather ensemble, and I wanted to test it for butt-cheek-warming and dry-feet capabilities. (Addendum: After two hours, I still came home with a cold butt and wet feet.)

You know a ride is bad when three miles in, you’re already cursing cars just for being there. I wove through the slick slop in the shoulder, spinning at skin-freezing slowness just to stay in control. I wanted so badly just to ride on the smooth, icy road, but it was too risky with the vehicles. It was too risky period, without studded tires. But I ventured on to the road once I passed the Eaglecrest access road, where about 99 percent of the traffic turns off. It was slick but manageable - as long as I kept my butt planted on the saddle. It was good practice for steering Snaux Bike on ice, anyway.

But then I hit the boat launch. There, the forest canopy gives way to a narrow cliffside that is fiercely exposed to the sea. Intense wind gushed up the channel. I hadn’t noticed the tailwind before, riding as slow as I was, but there it was beyond ignoring. It pushed me faster than I cared to go. Since braking wasn’t really an option, I decided to test how far I could ride without pedaling. It turned out to be far. Really far. Almost two miles far. (OK, I pedaled a little in there.) At the turnaround point, I managed to finally stop the bike and dismount. But as soon as I had both of my N.E.O.S. overboots planted firmly on the wet ice, a huge gust tore the bike right out of my hands and blasted me several more feet up the road. That’s right. I was standing on my two legs on the road, continuing to be pushed forward by that tailwind.

I couldn’t even keep the bike rubber-side down just standing there. It was clear that riding back was not an option. Walking on the road wasn’t even an option. I had to climb over the guardrail so I could trudge through the sometimes knee-deep snow. I definitely built some good bike-pushing muscles doing that.

As soon as I hiked back to the relative shelter of the tree canopy, the rest of the ride was a fairly predictable slushy slog into a headwind. It lacked the drama of the wind-blasted ice road, but there was enough stinging rain to make it miserable enough.

And the best part? I went to bed last night thinking I would wake up to a fun, tasty trail ride today. That won’t really be an viable option until it cools down again. Until then, I’m back to remembering why December nearly drove me to register for a season of indoor spinning classes.

11 comments:

  1. Jill -- Just dig into a half gallon of Ice Cream -- that's bound to cheer you up.

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  2. In some cultures well developed bike pushing muscles are considered sexy.

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  3. Anonymous5:56 AM

    Jill, you keep me in absolute awe with the miles and conditions you ride.

    Some of the Spinner guys asked who you were over at Bike Forums (I'm running it out of the Clyde forum there as well). I intro'd them to your blog and they were absolutely floored, in the good way!

    Keep it up, milady! You help me keep going when I start to flag, as well as a lot of others, I'm sure!

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  4. Anonymous7:03 AM

    I agree with Shawn.

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  5. I think you should move someplace less miserable--like Minnesota. Our weather sucks too, but we actually get a variety of sucking. Sometimes it's so miserable we have to get up at 4am to get our ride in before it gets so hot we get heat stroke.

    Wanna come to Texas for Hell Week in March? It'll be a nice change of pace ;)

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  6. Anonymous8:11 AM

    Sometime its just that way....

    I'll send that pad tues!

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  7. I think the worst of it is that it looked so promising, what, 2 days ago. Then the nasty flow pattern of warm air straight from Hawaii made it to town and it did get super-nasty. Out towards the university today, there was just enough ice left on the shoulder to make it pretty sketchy even going really slow. I think our only hope for the next week is that the ice gets melted off soon, then it'll be time to dust off the road bike with fenders again!

    As for stay-dry-gear, the best I've managed is the "cheap" Columbia rain gear, some strategic duct tape (biking tends to rip the crotch seam enough to leak and I get chain-suck on the leg despite the reflective leg-wraps). And extra-tufs on the feet. Not pretty or elegant, but I am generally dry. The road grime on the rain gear is pretty spectacular/gross.

    Good luck!

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  8. Geoffrey (ahem - no relation)2:21 PM

    http://www.ramsays-online.com/treadonline/chains.html

    threaded connectors and a tire pump may just make snaux a little more adaptable to ice without studs.

    ymmv but worth a try.

    cheers!

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  9. Anonymous5:24 PM

    After reading your posts, I promise not to be whiny about a little moisture ever again. That is about the worst it ever gets out here in PA. We do tend to get that freezing rain quite a bit over the next couple of months, so I am not about to give up my trainer just yet. I may have to look into those studded tires for the MTB though.

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  10. I can't believe your endurance! I have just realized I can officialy be called a couch potato!
    I have used my family as an excuse for not getting out on the road enough but I have just realized I am simply lazy!
    There doesn't seem to be as many cool places to ride here but I think that is also a product of my own lack get up and go.
    This stuff you're writing is great!
    In the words of Wayne and Garth (Wayen's World) worthy!

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  11. biking is fun because... um??? this time of year in juneau i'm not so sure it is fun - not everyday anyway, but at least biking 30 miles in this windy slop is better than running 30 miles in it... trust me.

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