Tagged: cold

The miles keep adding up

Last week was a pretty damn awesome week on the bike.  I managed to commute to and from work and around town four days out of five and ran a boatload of errands to boot.  Let’s review …

Monday was easy.  I biked to work in the morning, then home in the afternoon.  Nothing terribly exciting to report about that.  I did have a pretty full load in my panniers, as I had to pack in my suit for an on-camera interview that morning.  Otherwise, easy peasy.

However, I had been noticing that my car was overheating and its engine was revving when idling, as if to run the fan and cool the motor.  Given that I needed to drive on Thursday, I had to take my car to the shop on Tuesday to make sure it was repaired on time.  So that morning, I loaded up my gear and my bike and drove to Barton’s on Overton Park Drive.  I had to be on campus by 8:30 AM, so I left the house super-early (for me, anyway) at just past 7.  After dropping of my car, I biked to campus.

What made the ride so enjoyable, other than the opportunity to watch the sun rise over Memphis as I headed to work, was that I followed a new route to campus.  From Barton’s I biked through Overton Park, east on Broad St., then south on Tillman to the Greenline.  I rode the Greenline east to High Point Terrace, which I followed south to campus.  It was a really great ride, and faster than I expected: just over 30 minutes.  (I’m sure the two double cappuccinos I had that morning helped.)  After class and a few meetings, I biked home.  Here’s the map:

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The loop at the end was courtesy a trip to the bank.  11.5 miles total.  Whee!

My car was ready that afternoon, so Wednesday morning I biked to Barton’s, stopping at Black Lodge on the way, picked up my car, and drove it home.  Then I biked to campus, had my day at work, and left in the afternoon to run a few errands.

From campus I biked to Poplar Plaza and bought a few things at the soon-to-be-replaced Kroger.  Then I rode to Busters for some vino, even biking on Poplar during rush hour for a spell.  From Busters I headed west to the Memphis Public Library on Poplar, then biked home.  I was going to go to Home Depot, but the hour was growing late and I was hungry.  Once again, here’s the map:

Screen Shot 2013 02 11 at 10 38 19 PM

Another 14.5 miles.  Awesome.

What I enjoyed most about the week was the variation in routes.  Normally I follow pretty much the same route every day.  Sure, I could mix it up, but like a lot of commuters (of the two-wheeled and four-wheeled varieties), I mostly just want to get where I’m going.  Being pushed into new routes was really nice.

Friday was super easy.  I biked to and from Otherlands, my normal Friday routine.  So easy, I didn’t even bother with cycling gear.

Altogether, I logged around 30 miles last week.  That’s roughly two gallons of gas I would have otherwise burned, meaning that I saved … um … how much is gas these days?  I can never remember.

Anyway, more news later this week.  I hope to see you on the road soon.

This week so far

People.  It’s been a good week so far.  I’ve biked to campus the past two days, rather uneventfully I must say, and I ran a couple of errands yesterday.  Here’s my ride from Tuesday.

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“There and Back Again: A Cyclist’s Tale.”

Yesterday I biked to campus and back again and ran a few errands after.  Here’s that ride:

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The first of the two errands was the package store on Madison and McLean for some vino.  (I do love those bike lanes on Madison, but lately I’ve become much more aware of the likelihood of getting doored.  Got to keep my eyes open.)  The second was to the home of a certain Kyle W. (last name omitted to protect anonymity) to borrow a certain piece of biking hardware, otherwise known as a trailer.

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Boo-yah.  Imma haul some sheet today, boyee.  More on my trailer adventures later.

Also, don’t forget about tonight’s Tweed Ride!

Gloves

Anyone have a recommendation for good cold-weather cycling gloves?  I have some Christmas $$$ cash to spend and the Eddie Bauer fleece gloves I’ve been using don’t cut it. They make my hands too sweaty and take days to fully dry.

Please leave your recommendations in the comments.  Thanks!

Yesterday’s rides

Hi everyone.  I’m pleased to report that Fall Semester 2011 is 99.99% finished.  (I’m still waiting for one small assignment from a student so that he can pass the class.)  This is my last semester teaching three courses; in the spring, my teaching load drops to two courses and should stay that way for quite some time.  I have my new job, as the Director of the Center for Economic Education, to thank for that.

For years I taught at least three, if not four, courses per semester.  It’s hard to describe how much more work that third or fourth course adds to my day.  More emails, more grading, more questions, plus more hours spent in the classroom.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’m getting older – 40 is less than one year away – but teaching that third course has become increasingly taxing and, honestly, distracting from what else I want/need to do, like publish papers and work on outside projects.  My heart will always be in the classroom, but fortunately my body will be there less from now on.

Now that the semester is over, I should have more time to write and perhaps even get in a few recreational rides.  I will be commuting to school at least a day or two this week, but after that I won’t be doing much bike commuting until the new year.  But I will keep writing; I have a large backlog of articles I’ve been wanting to share, and my blog is coming up on its one-year birthday.  I already have numerous ideas about what I want to write for that post.

Yesterday was a good day to be biking in Memphis, and by “good” I mean windy and cold.  (At least the sun was out.)  I spent the first part of the day grading papers and doing housework, but around 1:30 PM I geared up and headed north to a graduation party for a former student.  The student is one of the most exceptional I’ve ever had the pleasure of teaching, so I definitely wanted to be there to help her celebrate and to meet her family.  The party was at a colleague’s house on Jackson Avenue, just east of McLean, which gave me the opportunity to check out the new bike lanes on McLean.  Here’s a shot of them taken on the north side of North Parkway.

Mclean

Yes, that is my finger in the shot.  I blame my gloves.

The party was a lot of fun, and after about an hour and a half, I headed home.  The ride home was quite a bit easier than the ride to the party; there’s definitely a net elevation decline heading south.  I really loved having the bike lanes, especially on Madison.  Traffic seems much more calm since they’ve been installed.

After getting a bit more work done at home, I headed out to another party, this time at a friends house in Midtown.  Traffic wasn’t too bad, so I biked north on Cooper to Harbert, then headed west, ultimately ending up on that short section of Linden between McLean and Lemaster.  After getting my party on for a while, I biked home – sober, I promise you – and sacked out for the night.

Here’s a map of my rides that day.

Screen shot 2011 12 18 at 5 15 50 PM

And here’s a clickable link if you’d like more detail.

I’m signing off for now.  My wife and I are going Cat Caroling tonight.  What is Cat Caroling, you might ask?  It’s basically regular caroling, only you substitute “meow” for the words in the carols.  Try it with Jingle Bells.  It’s quite fun.

This week’s commutes

Hi everyone.  I had a good week on my bike, despite the arrival of cold weather and a bit of rain.  Actually, I should say that I had a good week on my bike because of the arrival of cold weather and a bit of rain, as this is my favorite time of the year to bike.  Most of this is due to the fact that autumn and winter, followed by spring, are my favorite seasons.  (Summer, not so much.)  I picked a really odd town to live in, for someone who loves fall so much, but the job take you where it takes you.  At least I don’t live in Phoenix.

Anyway, my week began with me driving.  (GASP!)  I know, I know … but I had to go to Target to buy Christmas presents for my two Salvation Army Angels, and considering that one of them, an eleven-year-old girl, wanted a bike for Christmas, there was no way I could haul a bike with my bike.  My panniers are roomy, but not that roomy.  Plus my other angel, a man in his 70s, wanted a George Foreman grill for Christmas.  While I am a vegetarian and have little use for such a device, by God, if a George Foreman grill he wants, a George Foreman grill he gets.  (Also, please ignore the fact that I bought a Target bike for someone.)  I also had a meeting that afternoon in North Memphis, and there was no place for me to change clothes at the meeting place.  Plus it was raining, so arriving in any decent condition would have been nearly impossible.  So I drove.

And since I’m feeling confessional here, I also drove on Friday.  I had to deliver the aforementioned presents to the Salvation Army’s warehouse on E. Raines Road, plus run about half a dozen other errands.  And I drove today, since it’s hard to carry 15 bags of composted manure for my garden in my panniers.

But Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I rode.  And loved it.  Tuesday was still rainy, but not as bad as Monday, and I acquired a lovely layer of road grime on my bike and legs as a result. Wednesday and Thursday were really nice: sunny and chilly, but not yet brutally cold.  I didn’t bother logging my route on Tuesday since I just biked to work and back, but Wednesday and Thursday I did.  Here’s what they looked like.

This is Wednesday’s ride.

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I started my day by biking to Otherlands for some coffee and a bagel.  After getting my caffeine on, I biked to campus via the Chickasaw Gardens route and got my work on.  At some point during the day I checked my RSS feeds (using the lovely NetNewsWire) and found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, the only cooking blog I read.  I texted my wife, who had planned to pick up Lenny’s for dinner, and told her I was cooking that night.  This necessitated a trip to Kroger, which explains the odd little spur into Poplar Plaza.  After leaving Kroger, I biked home, via Chickasaw Gardens, the Beltline community, and Tiger Lanes.  It was a great day.  Here’s a clickable map of my ride.

On Thursday I had even more biking adventures.  I needed to deliver some papers to the Memphis City School’s Teaching/Learning Academy at the corner of Union and Hollywood before I headed to campus, which meant biking on Union for a block or two during rush hour.  It wasn’t so bad; traffic was kind of light, and I made it in and out of the TLA with no problem. I then biked east, planning to again take the Chickasaw Gardens route to campus, but a train was crossing at Garden Lane, so I headed south on Flicker Street to Central, then south on Buntyn to Midland, then south on Goodwyn to Southern.  After teaching my three classes, I biked home, changed clothes, and headed to Boscos for a round (or two) of beers and dinner. My belly full and my week coming to an end, I biked home.

Here’s a map of Thursday’s ride.

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And here’s that clickable link.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my rides.  I plan to share some links with you all tomorrow.  In the meantime, stay warm and keep biking in Memphis.

Today’s ride

I guess it’s the passing of daylight savings time and the impending arrival of winter (despite the lack of anything resembling cold weather – we still have tomatoes ripening in our backyard), but lately my internal clock has been a bit askew.  Right now, it’s 8:15 PM – my wife and I are lying on the couch, listening to Neil Diamond Christmas songs – but it feels like it’s 10:15 PM. As the days shorten and the nights lengthen, the precious few hours of daylight become ever more dear.  These times have always been my favorite part of the year; the weather is cooling, leaves are falling, and the holidays are underfoot.  I’ve always enjoyed the days with the fewest hours of sunlight – and no, I’m not particularly a fan of The Cure.

That said, I knew when I set out on my bike this morning that I would have ever fewer days like today in the coming months.  The high temperature today crested at 72º F, quite a bit above what I would consider normal.  I dressed for cool/cold weather – Icebreaker long-sleeved shirt, a t-shirt over that, plus my trusty Swrve cycling knickers, knee warmers, and sock pulled up far too high.  I also brought a shell but ended up not needing it.

My riding goals today were simple: bike to campus to take care of a little (electronic) paperwork, then ride the Greenline, and finally visit Kroger and Buster’s for some provisions.  I left home around 9:30 this morning and had a lovely ride to campus.  I hadn’t biked in some time, at least a week, so I took it easy.  Traffic was light and the weather was not too unpleasant.

I left campus around 10:30 AM and headed to the Greenline on High Point Terrace.  Here’s what the Greenline looked like as I entered it this morning.

Photo 1

Empty.  Just how I like it.

The traffic was pretty low today.  I guess most people were shopping or rubbing lotion on their bellies, distended from the orgy of food that is Thanksgiving.  I cannot claim to be innocent of such crimes against moderation, hence my ride today.

I pedaled on an on to the Visitor’s Center at Shelby Farms then found a bench for a respite.  The day was rather windy; at times I could feel the wind pushing against my chest as I was relaxing, and my bike as I was riding, making my ride a bit more wobbly than usual.  Here’s a few pictures from Shelby Farms.

Photo 2

Pretty retro clouds.

Photo 3

Angry retro clouds!

Photo 4

Clouds, please stop making faces at me.  Kthxbai.

After half an hour or so of being battered by the winds at the edge of Patriot Lake, I decided to head back to campus.  Biking west, I came upon this lovely mural.

Photo 5

I know, it’s been up for a while.  But having had such a busy fall, this is the first time I’ve seen it!  How exciting.  I must meet the one-legged cyclists who posed for the mural.

After stopping at campus for a moment, I left for Kroger to pick up a few necessities.  Then I left for Buster’s for a bottle of prosecco, which has been shooting up the charts at my home. Then I biked home, just in time to watch my team get destroyed by its archenemy.  WDE, that’s all I can say.

Anyway, here’s a map of my ride.

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You can see how I rode on Southern to campus, then through Chickasaw Gardens on the way home.  Altogether, it was a really great day to ride, if not to watch college football.  I hope your day was similarly enjoyable.  Look for more adventures soon …

Snowy ride

Today was a first in my time as a commuter cyclist in Memphis: I biked to work in the snow!  Granted, there was little accumulation on the ground at the time, maybe an inch or two, and the roads were mostly clear, just a little slush on the shoulders.  But still, nothing I’ve experienced as a commuter cyclist compares to biking into driving snow.  By the time I got to school, after about 20 minutes on my bike, the lenses of my glasses were almost completely covered in snow and ice.  I should have wiped them off before I got to my office but I wanted to take a picture of the full accumulation.  You can see that picture and a few others below.

What makes me laugh a bit is how days like today create an ever-widening gap between how I see myself and how others see me.  I’ve never been particularly athletic or competitive with others.  The last time I played a team sports was in middle school.  The sporadic exercise that happened in the interim years was largely voluntary and solitary.  For me, biking around town is not a way of proving my manhood or testing myself against Mother Nature – it’s just what I do.

And yet, after I posted the picture of me at the end of my ride on my facebook profile, the responses were overwhelming. “Impressive” read one.  “You are an inspiration” claimed another.  A former student went so far as to say that he will never be the man I am.  OK, well … maybe, maybe not.  I’m not sure how to quantitatively measure manliness, but I guess biking in the snow bumps me up a bit on that scale.

Whatever the case, here are those pictures.  Enjoy.

[slickr-flickr id="57760946@N03" tag="snowy ride" type="gallery"]

New record

I was really excited when I watched the local news last night.  The weather guy was predicting a really cold night here in Memphis.  This means that I would have a really cold ride to work this morning.  And the weather did not disappoint.

This is a screenshot I took with my iPhone as I was leaving for work.

Yep, 18º Fahrenheit.  Pretty frickin’ freezing.  Actually, the bike ride was not that bad.  My knee has been bugging me so I rode rather slowly, but when I got to work I was feeling rather toasty.  Comfortable even.  (Read more here about my cold-weather biking gear.)

I can’t say I’ll be disappointed when the weather warms up in the spring, but I am enjoying these frigid temperatures while they’re here.

[shiver]

This is the first winter since I started riding where I didn’t stop biking to work when the weather turned cold.  Biking in almost any climate requires certain considerations, most notably what clothes to wear, but winter cycling is unique in how the elements can interact and turn an otherwise ordinary ride into something fairly miserable.

Wind and rain are among the two factors that exhibit a multiplier effect when combined with frosty temperatures.  Riding into a head-wind is a pain in the ass no matter what the weather is like, but drop the outside temperature to around 40ºF and even a small breeze can feel like death is sighing on your neck.  Rain also is a game-changer: a nice shower during a summer ride is very nearly a blessing, but in the winter it becomes a pace-slowing, runny nose-inducing cluster fuck.  Not to mention the ever-present danger of gutters full of slick wet leaves.  Yikes.

I am aware that I’m writing from a position of relative privilege here.  Note that I didn’t include snow, ice, slush, or sleet in my list of winter weather perils.  That’s mostly because, here in Memphis, we don’t get that much frozen precipitation in the winter, so spending a lot of time expounding on it here seems unnecessary.  Plus, I’ve never biked in such conditions, so what would I have to say anyway?

This isn’t to say that I haven’t encountered any extreme conditions while biking to school.  Just recently I set a new record for the coldest temperature (not including windchill) in which I biked to work: 21ºF.  My previous record low, 22ºF, was set the previous day (this was back in early-December) and broke a record that had stood since last winter, that of 30ºF.

Twenty-one degrees is cold weather by nearly any standard, unless perhaps you consider diving into ice-covered lakes a form of entertainment.  Surprisingly though, it really wasn’t that bad.  In fact, the key to biking in cold weather (not taking into account ice or snow on the ground) is simply to dress in layers.  Preferably, many layers of relatively thin clothing.  I usually start with a long-sleeved, wool-blend shirt by Icebreaker as my first layer.  If it’s really cold, I’ll add a second long-sleeve shirt, usually Capilene, then a cotton t-shirt on top of that.  Note: cotton provides almost no insulating power; I just wear it to cover my chest and stomach.

Below the waist I wear biking shorts, long Capilene bottoms, and some old hiking pants I bought years ago at REI.  The pants are rather thin, but they do a decent job of stopping the wind and reducing exposure to rain.  Some Smartwool socks, a Pearl Izumi shell jacket, a Bontrager hat to cover my head and ears, and my ratty old running shoes completes the ensemble.  Plus a scarf and some gloves if it’s really nasty outside.

Note what is missing from my outfit: down and fleece.  Down jackets are great if you’re freezing your butt off in an outdoor sports arena in winter, but are terrible for exercise.  Why?  They over-insulate you, to the point that the sweat can freeze on your skin during stops.  Fleece is good, but it need not be three inches thick.  A thin fleece jacket under a shell provides more than enough insulation.

The good people over at LifeHacker posted an article about biking in winter which I enjoyed.  I didn’t read the article before I started cold weather cycling, but it covers most of what I already knew or figured out.  Also, here’s an article about using zip ties to create homemade snow tires.  I haven’t had to go that far in preparing for winter biking, but it’s good to how to mod your tires if needed.