Monday, January 28, 2008

Frozen hub

Date: Jan. 28
Mileage: 26
January mileage: 755.8
Hours: 2:30
Temperature upon departure: 0

Lows are predicted to reach 10 below 0 tonight. I am going to putter home from work around 11 p.m., pack up my Pugsley, putter up a nearby trail, and try to get some sleep.

But first I wanted to thank Dave Kingsbury and company for their kind contribution. I also want to thank others who have donated to my cause. I have received encouraging words and support from all over the world. It amazes me actually, because this is my fun, and my pain, but your help touches me more than I can really express. So thank you.

This recent cold snap has allowed me to test out some of my new gear in more Iditarod-like temperatures - clear, cold, windy and dry. So far my comfort level while moving in temperatures near zero (and windchills around -15) hasn't varied much from the system I use at 30 degrees. The only changes I've made are a heavier balaclava, an extra layer on top, vapor barrier socks and a vapor barrier vest. I'm not sure yet how I feel about the VB socks. I like the vest. It does a good job of directing most of the sweat moisture to my arms, where it can easily escape out slits in my coat. I think this vest may allow me to wear my shell in colder temperatures, which would be great because it blocks wind entirely. The strangest aspect of my "kit" is that I still feel most comfortable riding with my bare hands in the pogies. I wonder what the temperature would need to be before I feel compelled to wear gloves.

One aspect of cold that few would consider is a diminished ability to "hold it." It's such an annoying problem. One minute, I'll feel perfectly fine. Then, less than five minutes later, I'll be on the verge of a bathroom emergency, stumbling into the tree shelter of some empty suburban lot and hoping against hope that I can strip off all my layers in time.

Today I headed out the North Douglas Highway for a quick spin about a half hour after Geoff left on his daily 20-mile run (That's right. He's doing seven of those this week.) The roads were so icy that I opted for my "featherweight" full-suspension Gary Fisher Sugar, the bike that's spent his twilight years streaming through deep slush and muddy puddles. I can't expect its hubs to be in great condition, but I was a little discouraged when, about 10 miles in, the rear hub started to slip. Any time I stopped pedaling for even a few seconds, even just to coast, the freehub would freeze up and the pedals would cease to propel the bike forward. It took several seconds of frenzied spinning before the pawls engaged and I could keep riding. After this happened several times, I realized I didn't have the option to stop pedaling.

Then at mile 17, it hit ... the bladder pangs. "I can probably hold it for nine more miles," I thought. But only one mile passed before tears started to stream down my face. My whole body shuddered in anticipation of a great, building pressure. By the time red dots started flashing in my line of vision, I knew I was going to pee whether I stopped or not. I quickly decided to opt for the indignity of hitchhiking over the indignity of peeing my pants. I threw the bike in a snowbank and sprinted into the woods.

Sure enough, when I came back, the hub was frozen. I sat beside it with both wheels on the ground, spinning and spinning the pedals with my hand. Nothing happened. I tried lifting up the back wheel and spinning it some more. Nothing. Finally, I shifted down a few gears and spun with as much RPM as I could muster. The hub finally caught and the back wheel started moving. I catapulted myself onto the saddle on shot down the road, promising Sugar that he would go back to being a slush bike soon enough.