Friday, February 08, 2008

What does 50 mph headwind feel like at 6F?

Date: Feb. 7
Mileage: 27.5
February mileage: 101
Hours: 3:15
Temperature: 6

It's interesting ... it almost feels hot.

But not hot in the way you'd hope hot would feel.

No, it's a more acute heat. A furnace blast that needles its way into every weakness in your clothing and sears your skin. The slit between my goggles and balaclava; the tip of my nose; the open space where my coat stretches over my backpack; the fleece gloves as I pull my hands out of my pogies; everything burned red and tingling. I can understand how easy it becomes to confuse cold with hot, even as I wince against an ice-cream headache and a bombardment of wind-sharpened snow.

But even more amazing is that, in the midst of all this, I can pull my balaclava over my forehead and nose, reach back and tuck my insulation layers into my pants, pull on my mittens, and disappear into my own little climate zone, facing the 50 mph wind gust as it blasts me with super-cooled air and feeling almost ... normal. Although pedaling became impossible when the gusts really hit. As soon as the wind stopped me cold, I would just hop off to the side, dig my boot into a snowbank to keep from sliding backward, bury my chin in my collarbone, and steel my silhouette against the storm. After crouching in raging ground blizzards as the 50 mph gusts blasted by, the 25 mph sustained headwind felt positively tranquil.

I'm not sure what the windchill would be at 50 mph ... somewhere in the negative 20s? I'm pretty happy with my gear in these paticular conditions, although I am still searching for that ideal balance of comfort one must obtain between moving and not moving. I didn't sweat much today, but stops longer than five minutes left me a little chilled. However, I think it's fair to consider that a windchill-simulated temperature of -20 may be even worse than an actual air temperature of -20. Because in the wind, unless everything you are wearing is completely windproof, that -20 sensation is going straight to your skin.

I went pretty easy today - three hours - and felt pretty good. I am hoping to head out later this weekend for more gear testing - however, I am "leaking" a lot from this cold right now and reluctant to overnight in this condition, again. The congestion makes it almost impossible to sleep. Although in this kind of wind and the racket it makes, "sleeping" is not really an option anyway. More likely what I'll do is ride my bike somewhere and lay down for a couple of hours, and then I will come home, down some Nyquil, and crawl into bed. Maybe tomorrow ... something to look forward to!

It's all good learning experience. And in its own sick way ... kind of fun.


  1. Would Romeo even be out in weather like that? My limit is in the 40's with 20mph winds. And what about that 50 mph tail wind.... on you or can you stop? Nyquil with a Jack Daniel's chaser...

  2. The tucking your insulation layers in is so important. I hate when my jacket rides up and I am sure for you it is crucial facing the temps that you face. Once when I was up on Lafayette (NH) we had single digit weather with sustained wind around 45 MPH. I had all the right layers! Except my jacket kept riding up ever so slightly. When we ended the day I found that I had frost nip in a little half moon circle around my waist. Wicked pissah

  3. We are looking at -17 by Sunday morning along with -30 to -40 windchills. I will be either riding or running, but I'm sure it won't be any great distance.

  4. The word "insane" comes to mind... :-) j/k...

    You're sure a lot tougher than I am! I don't even like hiking in those conditions, much less cycling. It's one of the things I don't miss about Minnesota.

  5. Your descriptions just keep getting more vivid and impressive. You're the Jack Kerouac of the blogosphere.

  6. OK, that does it. I'm riding tomorrow. It's going to be 23 degrees with just a little wind and I'm going to use your blog to shame my friends into joining me. Oh, and according to this your wind chill was around -25 and you were out there for over 3 hours! You are truly an inspiration to us all.


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