Perfect biking weather lately. 20° with a wind chill of 10.. pitch dark at 5:00pm.. wind advisory until 10:00pm.. what’s not to like? As long as there’s no snow or ice, I’ll take this over hot and humid any day.
I’m still figuring out the optimum layering strategy for comfort in these conditions. I think I’m pretty close now. I’ve been packing a PolarTec pullover on my rides, but I haven’t needed it so far. I was comfortable today with a short-sleeve top, arm warmers, long-sleeve jersey, wind breaker, and hi-vis vest. I do like having the PolarTec top as an insurance policy, in case I need to stop to change a tire or something. But as long as I’m moving, it looks like I’m good without it down to 20° or so.
The back fender on my bike has been giving me some trouble lately. The bike lacks a chainstay bridge, so I’ve been using two zip ties to attach the fenders, one around the chainstays and another to attach the fender to the first tie. In general, this setup has worked well for me. The first zip tie occasionally breaks, maybe 2 or 3 times a year, but it’s easy to replace. However, it’s now broken twice in the last week, both times in the dark during my ride home. Not sure why it’s suddenly taken to breaking, but I can’t have it happening in December on my rides home. So this morning I replaced the zip tie with a hose clamp. I wrapped the stays with electrical tape to protect the frame, attached the clamp so that the screw housing was centered between the stays, and attached the second zip tie to the screw housing. It seems pretty solid, but it raises the end of the fender a little farther above the stays than I’d like, so I may experiment with it a bit more. In any event, the clamp shouldn’t break as easily as a zip tie, I hope.
This blog entry from Problem Solvers shows how to make a fender mount using an old presta tube. It’s an intriguing idea. If you look at the picture there, the end of the fender is still a little high. I’d like to get mine down between the stays, to keep more debris off the bike, and also to keep the fender from shifting side to side. I think this could be accomplished by using an extra nut (and maybe a washer or 2) on the other side of the fender, to get the tube down a little lower and space the fender farther away from the seat tube. I may give this a shot.
Typical winter day at the office. I spent an hour riding in sub-freezing weather, and was perfectly comfortable and warm for the entire ride. Now I’m freezing cold sitting here in my 70° office. Never underestimate the power of moving around to keep blood circulating, I guess.
This was my coldest ride into work of the season so far, and I actually dropped a layer for the ride. The past few rides, where it’s been around freezing, I wore a long sleeve shirt over a short sleeve athletic tee. My outer layer was a reflective vest over a wind-breaker jacket, for a total of 4 layers on my torso and 2 layers on my arms. I was getting too sweaty with this combo, so this morning I decided to lose the short sleeve tee shirt, and it worked out pretty well. I didn’t sweat as much, nor was I any colder.
I rode through Catonsville again today. I am slowly refining my route through this area. I recently discovered Magruder Ave., which runs parallel to and just south of Frederick Rd. Magruder is a great alternative to riding on Frederick through the heart of Catonsville, particularly the area around the Post Office, which seems to be a magnet for inattentive drivers. Coming east on Edmondson Ave., I’ve been taking Beaumont Ave., turning left on Frederick, right on Locust Dr., left on Magruder, then right on Mellor, left on Bloomsbury, and right on Asylum into Spring Grove. It looks like I could take Magruder all the way out to Bloomsbury if I wanted to, though that area is currently under construction. An alternative would be to take Osborne instead of Beaumont, then cross Fredrick and take Forest to Magruder. The pavement on Beaumont is in really bad shape, so I would be curious if Osborne is any better.
Looking back, I see it’s been just about a year since I started blogging regularly about my bike commutes to work. One thing is for sure: Winter is the most interesting time of year to ride, because the varying weather conditions give each ride its own set of challenges. That starts with figuring out what to wear, and also what gear to pack for the ride home, as conditions can change a lot from morning to evening. But in addition to that, winter weather conditions can also dictate what route I take to work, to a greater extent than during other times of the year. Snow and ice on roads are often a factor, but today’s challenge was the wind. We started out the day in the upper 20s with a brisk west wind. I wanted to get around 15 miles in this morning, and soon after starting the ride, I realized I was dragging a bit. Given this, ordinarily it’d be a no-brainer to head through the park and then up through Halethorpe/Relay, because it’s less hilly than the alternative of riding through Catonsville. However, going through Halethorpe would mean a long uphill grind into the wind, which would have been brutal. So I elected to do Catonsville instead, where I pick up the same elevation riding east on Edmondson Ave. The initial climb up Thistle Rd. and Oella Ave. was a bit of a drag, but once I got onto Edmondson Ave., I picked up a tailwind and the remaining uphill climb was (literally) a breeze, in spite of me not being 100%. The next couple of days look like carbon copies of today, so I might be riding similar routes through Wednesday.
Thought I’d put a plug in for my favorite commuter saddle, the Forté Classic, available at Performance Bike for around $40-50. I bought one of these in 2002 when I initially bought my road bike, because the racing saddle that came with it wasn’t working for me. The Forté Classic seems “just right” in almost every aspect – it’s inexpensive, not too hard, not too soft, not too wide, not too thin, and reasonably light. I find it very comfortable, and it’s still in good shape 8 years later after countless rides in all sorts of weather. I just picked up another one for my second bike, and will likely get one for my mountain bike as well. I’ve never been 100% happy with the saddles on either of those bikes, and I figure I’ll just go with something I know will work for me. The 2010 Classic has slightly different logo design, but other than that, it looks like the same saddle.
I’ve been dialing-in the fit on my second bike, a Masi Speciale Fixed, for awhile now, and I think it’s getting close. So far I’ve raised the bars around 1/4″ by rearranging the head tube spacers; moved the saddle back around 3/4″; and replaced the stock saddle with a Forté Classic. It’s now much more comfortable for me than it was this past summer. The bullhorn bars are at just about the perfect height for standing climbs. The only thing I’m missing is a comfortable upright sitting position. When I’m sitting upright, I still feel like the reach to the bars is a little too far. It seems to me I can remedy this by getting an extender to raise the bars another couple inches, and then switching to a set of mustache bars. My hope is that the “drop” on the mustache bars would put the bar ends at roughly the same height as the bullhorns on my current bars, while the middle of the bars would be higher for more comfortable upright riding. We’ll see how that works out.