Saturday, December 27, 2008

frosty rides in Madison


Just home from a x-mas visit to Madison. I FINALLY received these Nokian tires I'd been waiting for and managed to mount them on my Velocity deep V wheels the night before we left for Madison. They looked great out of the box. Very rideable and not at all over the top tread or stud-wise.

We set off with the bike and a station wagon full of gifts and whatnot to Madison on Wednesday. Thursday morning we were all meant to go across town to my brother-in-law's house for a big brunch and I decided I'd give it a try on the bike. The trip is about 9 miles and the temperature outside was supposedly going to get up to 20 degrees but as I left around 10 am, it was actually 0, wind chill of something like -10. So needless to say, the snow and ice was bone dry. As soon as I hit the road, I could tell what a MASSIVELY different feeling it was riding on these things. They just made the back streets (which were plowed but had been unplowed for some days, so there was a good layer of ice and packed snow, it was just more or less flat) feel like more or less normal riding conditions. I could also blast through the little pile ups where one plow went by later and made a sort of "curb" of snow and ice where streets crossed. It was really a fun feeling, very liberating to feel as if you could just ride normally in these conditions.

When I reached the top of the city's bike trail I was really happy to find that, on Christmas day, the trail was very nicely and completely plowed. Mind you, these are off street trails, so there is a whole little separate job to go and plow these miles and miles and miles of trails. NICE JOB MADISON! If it wasn't so freezing, I'd consider moving there!

The only downside of this ride was that my gloves are not at all fit for such temps. I did, however, discover and new ad hoc hand warming method whereby I stop and take off my gloves and stick them under my armpits (outside all my layers) and take my hands (with glove liners still on) and stick them down my pants where it is plenty warm. I did this twice on the way over to brunch, about every three miles. I received the Craft Siberian gloves I ordered to remedy this problem a few days before but was chagrined to discover that they were a bit too small, so hopefully this won't be something I'll have to get very good at, as they are enroute for an exchange now.

The other downside later in the day is that it never got past 10 degrees and by the time I rode home, there wasn't even the direct sun to help me out and the ride back is composed of a lot of very slight uphill inclines that you don't really notice on the way down them, but after bruch in the 10 degree weather with freezing hands, you start to notice!

But, hey, at least I was biking! Nokian A-10 tires: A+++++ (as the say in the land of ebay!)

Here are a couple of pics, one is me in the window of Monona terrace stopping for hand warming. Lake Monona is in the background. The next is the mighty Steamroller with the new invincible tires on.

The next day, I rode about another 15 miles or so (my computer was on the fritz). The temp was up into the 20s/30s on this day, so everything was melting! Slush everywhere. Tires still worked quite well, but there was a bit more slip/sliding around in the thick melting slush. Went by a couple of area bike shops just to have somewhere to stop and warm up. I was the only person on a bike at both of them though, so much for the hardy Wisconson biker! I did see about three other bikes over the course of the day altogether. They actually had the gloves I'm waiting for at Machinery Row Bicycles at a good price, but only in sizes XS through M. Doh! I found out that my footwear scenario (Cheapo Specialized cycling shoes with 2 pairs of socks and some Pearl Izumi neoprene shoe covers) cannot stay all that dry when you are riding through slush all day. I ended up stopping at a local Laotian restaurant for lunch and slipping out of my shoes and tucking my freezing toes one foot at a time under my legs under the table to thaw. A pot of hot tea and a plate of squash curry later, I was ready to finish it off. Same uphill slog, kind of harder with the half-melt, but I made it and got some pretty fearsome exercise. At least for this time of year.

Here is a picture of the exemplary bike trail conditions I found most of the day:

Kudos again to the city of Madison for taking cycling seriously and putting their money where it counts!

I now feel ready to face whatever Chicago has to dish out. Bring it!!!!

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