TIME THERE: 40 min.
TIME BACK: 40 min.
WEATHER: overcast, -20C, 4km/hr wind there; a few clouds, -15C (-22C with windchill), 11km/hr wind back
WHAT I WORE: Baffin "Chloe" boots, thick wool ski socks, thermal underwear, MEC Watchtower fleece pants, turtleneck, fleece mid-layer, waterproof shell, balaclava, ski goggles, lobster gloves
Fuck yeah, I biked to school today! In frigid temperatures! On snowy, icy roads! And you know what? I'm damn proud of myself. Sure, it took 40 freakin' minutes to get there, and I was dressed like a yeti, and I faced some challenges (see below), but I made it, I survived, and I felt really good about it.
So, the challenges - those included:
- Lack of sleep: This is hardly a new one, being a single parent to a not-quite-toddler who's perpetually either going through a growth spurt, teething, or both. Still, I was already tired yesterday but still didn't get to bed til sometime after 10:00 pm because of my annoying 9:00 pm second-wind. Then my daughter was up at 2:00 am, and after taking care of her (changed a diaper, got her some milk, gave her some Tylenol for the teething pain), I had difficulty falling asleep. Then she was up again sometime around 6:00 am, and the alarm went off at 6:45 am. If it weren't for the ride in the cold, fresh air, I would feel a whole lot less awake right now!
- Snowbanks: Thank you, City of Edmonton, for treating bicycle lanes as convenient space to pile up the massive snow banks that accumulate when you clear the roads. At one point I ended up having to stop, get off my bike, and actually carry it over a ~4ft. high snow bank that completely blocked access to the bike lane. Then I had to bike on the road in one of the tire ruts because the icy, snowbanky bike path was too treacherous for me to feel confident riding on. Thanks, city!
- Falling: Yes, I did fall - ONCE - and it really wasn't a big one by any stretch. What happened was that I was biking on the road, in one of the tire ruts, through a side street in the neighbourhood of Oliver, when I heard a car come up behind me and slow to a crawl because I was taking up his lane. Feeling bad about this, I tried drifting out of my rut and over to the more snowy, icy side of the road so he could pass me. Unfortunately, trying to drift my way out of an icy rut did not meet with success, as the sides of my tires were unable to bite into the "wall" of the rut and therefore I tipped over onto the icy, snowy part of the road that I was intending to move into. I was going about 5km/hr at that point, and the car behind me had plenty enough space and was also going slow enough that stopping for me was not a problem at all. Still, this fall was a bit embarrassing, added time to my ride, and left what feels like a lovely little bruise developing on my right hip. Nothing serious, though, and I've learned my lesson well: later on in the ride, when another car came up behind me as I rode in a tire rut, I said under my breath: "fuck it", and stayed exactly where I was. If the car wanted to pass me, he could go around me, I wasn't going to try pulling over again!
- Breathing: Such a simple thing, really, and yet condensation can be quite a bitch and interfere with some pretty basic and important functions such as seeing and breathing. With my helmet on, my ski goggles pressed down against the bridge of my nose and made it nearly impossible to breathe through my nose at all. That's fine, I usually pant and wheeze my way to work anyway, so mouth-breathing it is! The problem is that the condensation from my mouth-breathing would gather on my balaclava and freeze, which then made it much harder to breathe through. As more ice built up on the balaclava, it got harder and harder to breathe through, and by the time I got up the hill at the end of the bridge and carried my bike up that flight of stairs onto campus, I felt like I was suffocating. I pulled my balaclava up and gave myself a minute to breathe freely, unhindered by the frozen fabric that fit snugly over my mouth. Around the same time, my ski goggles had become virtually impossible to see through because of condensation building up on the inside and making them foggy. I rode on for another block or two being able to see with only one eye, but this felt too dangerous so I finished off the last couple blocks of my ride with the goggles around my neck and ice quickly accumulating on my eyelashes. I'm not sure what other cyclists do about the condensation issue, but it's definitely a problem for me! Perhaps if I run into another winter cyclist soon, I'll try to ask them about it.
I just wish it didn't take so long! The bike ride itself has gone from 25 min. in the summer to 40 min. now, and add to that the 10 min. or so it takes to get changed into my winter weather riding clothes, it makes the commuting longer than I wish it was. Alas! It still beats paying $12 for parking every day.