Wednesday, January 09, 2008

New Record Low Temp Ride

I'd been stuck on 10F (as far as I could determine such things anyway) for my record low temp ride for probably 10 years, in part because it rarely gets below 20F in my neck of the woods, and in part because the memory of just how friggin' cold I was still lingers. As I had yet to discover the joys of high-tech, modern riding gear, on the day I rode probably 70 miles or so in 10F, I was wearing multiple layers of cotton and wool under my denim jeans and one of my old USAF-issued cotton field jackets. At least I was "smart" enough to stretch my 1-piece rubberized rainsuit over all that gear as a wind barrier. I had to find a diner about every 30 minutes on that ride to stop and warm up as my core temperature was dropping, which was evident by the uncontrolled shivering. I'm sure I looked ridiculous -- like a vibrating Michelin Man stuffed into a condom.

Last Friday the 4th, the weatherman predicted 15F temps in my area for my morning commute. The roads were perfectly clear and so, sensing a record-breaking opportunity, I ventured out on my first ride of 2008, much better equipped (no condom in sight) than on my previous record low temp ride. The weatherman's prediction was spot-on according to my bike's Kisan thermometer, but only until I got out of town. As I headed into lesser-populated and heavier-wooded areas, the temperature dropped considerably, stabilizing at 9F with dips into 8F. My usual commute to work is about 20 miles/45 minutes, but, feeling that I needed to get in at least 50 miles for my new record to "count" in my self-imposed rule book, I "took a wrong turn" when I got close to the office to head deeper into the boonies searching (to no avail) for even lower temps. By the time I got to work I'd ridden 62 miles in about 2 hrs. I've declared my new record to be 9F.

Unlike my old Michelin Man ride, I was able to maintain my core temperature and I felt warm enough everywhere except my fingers. Even though I had on my warmest high-tech insulated, Goretex-lined gloves, covered with my
Aerostich lobster-claw windproof covers, I doubt I could've gone more than another 40 miles without stopping to get some blood back into my fingers. My biggest challenge was visibility. I'd so well sealed off my neck area from drafts that my exhaled breath was very slow to dissipate and as a consequence, was freezing to the inside of my visor. What a difference proper gear makes: a tolerance of 100 miles/2.5 hour non-stop now v. 30 shivering minutes at a time in the days of yore. I should get smart and get some electron assistance for winter riding (heated grips are definitely in my future), but then again just how smart is someone who walks past a car (and heater) to climb aboard a motorcycle in sub-freezing temperatures?

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