A Week Without Cycling

First it was our home remodeling project. Then it was a work obligation. Now, it’s the weather. All the stars have been in alignment over the past week to keep me off my bike.

Central Texas is under a Winter Weather Advisory. That’s nowhere near as serious as much of the country is facing right now, but in an area that seldom gets snow, these kinds of weather events are cause for consternation. It’s been raining on and off since Friday, sometimes heavily. That’s enough to keep me from riding. But the temperature has dropped to the mid-30s (2C), and that’s below my threshold for riding. I don’t have clothes that will keep me comfortable at anything lower than 40.

This past weekend was also that rare time when I’m tied up with work-related things. In this case, I emceed a conference for students all day Saturday. That wouldn’t have been a problem if I could get on the bike Sunday, but as I said, rain and cold together do not biking weather make.

But Thanksgiving is coming up quickly. I get to take Wednesday off work, and we don’t have to work Friday — so I expect lots of riding in the next few days. The forecast is going to moderate, too. We’ll be up to 70 (21C) by Sunday! All I have to do is dig my bike out from under all the remodeling waste in my garage.

How Cold Will You Go?

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Met a small contingent from the club this morning for our ride. No other B riders showed up, so it was me and seven A’s. They pretty much disappeared by about eight miles into the ride, and I was on my own again. No problem — I enjoy riding by myself.

But I did have to attend to some housekeeping. The temperature when I left the house was a cool 45 degrees (7C). I might have overdressed a little, and by now I was feeling overheated. I stopped in a high school parking lot, and traded my full-finger gloves for my fingerless, and stashed my ear warmers in my jacket pocket. I figured I would shed some more layers when I reached my turnaround point, another six or seven miles down the road.

I really enjoy riding in the kind of weather we had today. It was a beautiful fall day, with bright sunshine and temps on the cool side. It reminded me that the cold weather still has yet to reach Central Texas — but it will. January and February often see winter-like temperatures, even if we rarely get snow.

I started thinking about my northern friends, who have been riding in colder weather than this for some time. I’m from the north myself, although when I lived up there, I wasn’t really a cyclist. I wondered if I would have what it takes to face the kind of cold conditions they regularly deal with.

And that got me wondering — just how cold am I willing to go to get in a ride?

For me, it’s about 40 degrees (4C). Mainly, that’s because the biking clothes I own won’t keep me warm at lower temperatures. I think the coldest it ever was when I started a ride was 38, and that warmed into the 40s fairly quickly.

Thirteen years in Austin’s mild (and ridiculously hot in the summer) climate has had its effect on me. I’m not as cold-tolerant as I used to be. But I’m not the biggest wimp on the block. One of my cycling acquaintances, who has years more riding experience than I do, told me he doesn’t ride when the temperature gets below 55. What?

Meanwhile, a couple of the guys came to this morning’s ride dressed in just base layers, a short-sleeved jersey, and arm warmers. It would have to be in the 60s before I dressed like that.

How about you? Have you started riding in really cold morning temperatures already? How cold does it have to be before you decide to stay indoors? Or do you ride all winter long? And if you do — how do you cope?

Riding When I Want To

Not a great riding weekend. I look forward to the weekends, because lately I have not been able to squeeze in a ride during the week. Late Friday afternoon, then, is something I wait for all week long.

I got out for a 20-miler Friday, and anticipated a longer ride Saturday. But Saturday morning dawned overcast and misty. The roads were wet. I decided to wait until conditions got better.

They never did. In fact, they got worse. It never really rained, but the mist got heavier. I decided to forget about riding, and wait for Sunday.

The Sunday forecast called for rain in the morning, but according to the weather radar, that had passed through the area about an hour before I woke up. Again, the streets gleamed with light reflected from standing water. I decided I wouldn’t be doing the club ride at 8.

It amused me to see how panicked some of my fellow club members got over the weather. The 8 a.m. ride was delayed until 9:30. The Yahoo board lit up with posts from people debating whether to go on the planned ride (about 55 miles into a very hilly suburb to the west) or do something flatter and potentially safer. Then some folks decided to go at 10 instead of 9:30. I leaned back in my easy chair to drink some coffee and read the paper.

I guess everyone got out all right. I rode with my wife at about 2:30 p.m., when the temperature had risen to 67 degrees (19C) and the roads had dried off. Ever notice that 67 in February is much cooler than 67 in June? It’s true. I was underdressed on our ride, and downright chilly pedaling into a light wind from the north. When my wife turned into our neighborhood, instead of peeling off to put in some more miles, I went with her.

So my mileage for the month is way down, what with one-and-a-half rides this weekend. You know what? I don’t care. We enjoy good biking weather here year around, and if this weekend wasn’t so great, I know great ones are just around the corner. From here on out, I’ll take advantage of that, and ride when I feel like riding. That means I’ll skip some days because they’re too cold for me (on that day, anyway), and other times, I’ll be first to show up for a ride in even colder weather. I’ve decided to skip riding during rain, and even in wet conditions after the rain. Call me a wuss, if you like. I enjoy my bike too much to ever feel like I’m forced to ride.

Forgot Helmet

Some of you might have noticed on my Twitter feed that I had a little issue on Sunday morning’s club ride. One of our A riders is recovering from a bout of sickness contracted during the middle of last week, and so posted a B-level ride on the club’s Yahoo group. The added benefit was that her ride would leave about an hour after the regular club ride, which was welcome, since the temperature was expected to be on the borderline too-cold-to-ride point.

Sure enough, when I got up to let the dog out it was only 33 degrees (1C). Luckily, it was only 6 a.m., and I had three hours to wait for some warming to set in. I had a leisurely and filling breakfast, read the paper, and then got ready to face the chill.

I was counting on it to warm up during the ride, but figured I’d still need to dress more warmly than I usually do. I added a sleeveless base layer under the t-shirt I normally wear. On my feet, I put a pair of polypropylene liner socks on under my woolies. I pulled my headband/earwarmer down around my ears, and a Headsweats doo-rag over that. Then, I got into my windbreaker and made sure I had the needed cell phone and credit card with me.

It looked like the bike wouldn’t need much in the way of prep. I’d lubed the chain the previous afternoon — when it was still warm — and only had to pump three times to bring the rear tire up to snuff. I clipped in my water bottles, started my computer, and I was off.

Yeah, it was cold. But there was a saving grace — no wind. I pedaled easily to the Starbucks where our rides start, turned into the parking lot, and rode across it to the group of cyclists that was already gathered there.

Almost in unison, a shout went up. “Your helmet, Ray!!!” I stopped, looked, and then felt my head. Oh, jeez! After all that prep time (and not even my wife to kid about it this time), I had left the house without wearing a helmet. I know it’s happened before, but always to other cyclists. Not me.

“Look,” I told the group. “I’m only a mile away. I’ll go back and get the helmet.”

“We’ll meet you up there,” said Jordan, waving his hand vaguely up the street I’d be on. I nodded, and set off.

Once I got my helmet, I figured it would be easiest to take a shortcut and try to intercept the peloton at a major intersection in the opposite direction from my house as Starbucks. It occurred to me that I wasn’t really clear what Jordan meant by “up there.” I got to the intersection, was held up by a red light, and saw no one. Hmmph, I thought. They’ve come through here already.

I turned, and headed up the bike lane along the suburban four-lane that feeds traffic into our neighborhood. Up at the t-intersection where the Walgreens is, I could still see no one. I continued on, setting out on the route I knew the group would be taking that morning.

About a mile and half farther, my cell phone rang. It was Debra.

“Where are you, Ray?” she asked.

“Approaching the parkway,” I answered.

“Oh, good grief. We’re back at the Walgreens. Janice had a flat.”

“I’ll wait for you at the turn before the parkway,” I said.

I leaned the bike up against a light pole, and waited. The day was still chilly, but the sun felt good where it hit my jacket. But only on that corner where it hit. I turned every few minutes to position a different part of myself toward the sun.

After a 15-20 minute wait, I saw them, coming up the hill toward me. It turns out they waited for me at Starbucks, and when I didn’t come back for the start of the ride, they set out. By then, I was already two miles ahead of them. “What we should have done, was ride with Ray back to his house and then start the ride from there,” said one exasperated biker.

Yeah, that would have worked. And so would remembering my helmet in the first place.

New Year’s Day Ride

Skipped the Bicycle Sports Shop Resolution Ride I’ve done the past two years. I could use the weather for an excuse — it was raining steadily when I got up at 7 this morning. But the fact is, I had never planned to ride it. Instead, I wanted to start the New Year off with a ride on my own.

For awhile, it looked like there wasn’t going to be a ride. Our club’s Yahoo group was buzzing with back and forths about going, not going, waiting a couple more hours, waiting until this afternoon…

I decided that when I did go, I’d go on my own, because I was ready.

In the meantime, Mrs. Noob saw a blurb on the “Today” show that Jan. 2nd is the best day to start a new diet. So she figured she’d pull out all the stops for breakfast. A nice omelet stuffed with lots of different veggies, toast, and bacon baked in the oven. I think 2013 is going to be a good year.

Amazing how quickly 10, then 10:30 rolls around. It looked like some of the clubbers were going to ride at noon. No way I would make that start time. I gathered up my stuff and hit the road at 12:30.

The whole point about doing this ride, for me, was to set a good precedent for the year. Don’t let little things — like chilly weather — be your excuse to skip a ride. The temperature, which was supposed to go up throughout the afternoon, was 48 degrees (9C) when I took off , and instead of rising over the course of my ride, it fell off a bit. That, coupled with a brisk wind from the northwest, made for some effortless riding — as long as I was headed south. Once I finished up a Veloway lap and turned toward the 2.5-mile ride home, that wind was in my face. I was chilled when I pulled into the driveway.

That’s fine, though. The first ride of the year was 22.6 miles in a little over an hour and a half. Maybe some lunch, and some bowl games on TV (Uh oh…Mrs. Noob is watching a Jane Austen movie), and New Year’s Day will be one for the books.

Thankful for Cycling

“Oh, I need this,” cooed Pat, as we headed out from home on a Sunday morning ride.

“This” was a bike ride. We’d just gotten home late last night from four days on the road for Thanksgiving. It was great. We stayed with our son and daughter-in-law and our brand new grandson — our first grandchild. So, we had lots of time for family bonding, lots of time sitting around watching their 70-inch TV screen (some action scenes made Pat nauseous), and lots of time eating more than we should have. It was great.

I got out for a couple of walks. The first day we were there, I set out to circle a large soccer-baseball complex near their house, and found that there was no quick way to do it. I wound up walking about four miles, and in the unseasonably mild Minnesota weather, I was soaked through with sweat when I got home.

Saturday’s weather was more seasonal. I walked a little over a mile to see a bald eagle nest near their house, and was treated to the sight of two eagles — one that flew about 50 yards from tree to tree while I looked on. I was a lot more bundled up for this walk, with temperatures in the low to mid 20s (-3C) and a biting wind. But it was better than the previous day, when we went to the movies. While we walked from the parking lot to the theater, the 25 mph wind cut through our jackets, and without hats or ear protection, we were really cold.

Now, I know hearty northerners ride in these conditions. On my walk to the eagles’ nest, a cyclists passed me, bundled up in a heavy parka, thermal cycling tights, thick gloves, and a skull cap. Tough guy, I thought. But we’ve lived in Austin for 12 years now, and our blood must have thinned out. My personal cycling cutoff is at 40 degrees (4C), and I’m mighty chilly even at that temperature.

So our ride this morning was a pleasure. Even with a brisk south wind, we pedaled easily over to the Veloway and did some laps. Good crowd out there today. Pat has been dealing with some work-related challenges, and she was glad to get on the bike, because ideas and solutions seem to come to her much more readily while cycling than while poring over a computer screen in the home office. As they did today. When I peeled away from her a couple of blocks from the house to continue my ride, she was already eager to get back to try out some things that came to her on the ride.

I tackled some local hills, and found that the pounds I tacked on over the holiday made themselves felt. Okay, I slipped from my careful eating campaign, and I’ll have to renew my efforts in that regard. But to ride in a short-sleeved jersey and shorts on a 65-70 degree (20C) day in November is something I’m thankful for at this time of year.

The Biking Cold

When we took our club ride Sunday morning, our area had just come off some good soaking rains that lasted much of Saturday. The forecast called for almost no rain chances Sunday, so I dressed accordingly. I wore a polyester base layer under my jersey and my lightest pair of arm warmers.

Once again, the forecasters were wrong. The temperature, which was 68 (20C) at the start of the ride, seemed to be falling as we reached our turnaround point. On top of that, the rain that was supposed to have moved out of the area paid us a visit again, in the form of mist.

After the first 15 miles, I was bathed in sweat on the inside, and wet from mist on the outside. (I suppose a treatise on the so-called “wicking” properties of base layers merits it own post at some point.) Coupled with the morning breeze, the wetness made me feel a bit chilly, arm warmers or not.

I felt good at the end of the ride, as I showered and wiped down the bikes. But by late afternoon, I could tell something was wrong. That telltale tickle formed at the back of my throat. I downed a couple of aspirin and settled back to watch football — no, Ryder Cup — no, football — no, Ryder Cup…we wound up sticking with golf, and I didn’t do my throat any favors by yelling at the American team as they blew a comfortable lead.

By bedtime, I felt lousy. It was by now a full-blown cold. My nose ran like a faucet, and I had that overall blah feeling. I got through a day of work Monday, slept poorly Monday night, and had an unpleasant day at work on Tuesday.

Tuesday evening is when I get a chance to ride during the week, because that’s the day I get home earliest. But I wasn’t in the mood for riding. I just wanted to eat that hot comfort food my wife had made for dinner, and sit back to watch TV. (I can’t believe that cement-footed Bristol Palin wasn’t voted off of “Dancing With the Stars.”)

Now my wife says she feels the tickle in her throat. And the dog has an ear infection, so she’s sleeping as much as possible. I know these seasonal colds are just things you’ve gotta put up with…but I missed my ride today. I hope I’ll be able to get out Friday evening.