Yesterday morning was likely the last gasp of this winter that never was. When I left for work, it was a nice, crisp 32°F. Freezing temperatures are not unheard of around here in late March, but they’re not common either, and given how warm March has been, yesterday morning felt really Arctic. Of course, today we’re right back in the 70s.
For the past few rides I’ve been riding my Rockhopper, which is my winter bike. I took the studded tires off it a couple of weeks ago. Even without the studs, the bike is still a tank. It’s not too heavy for a mid-’90s steel frame mountain bike, but the combination of lower gearing and wider tires make it a lot harder to move than either of my road bikes. I really have to work to get it up hills. I always like when I switch to my road bike after riding this one for awhile. It makes me feel really fast, like one of those racer dudes with the sponsor jerseys.
Speaking of the road bike, it’s currently in the shop. They are going to attempt to convert it from a triple chainring to a compact double. I’m not sure how they’ll do it without changing out the derailleur and/or shifter, but we’ll see how it goes. The triple was a pain because it’s hard to keep the chain from rubbing against the front derailleur in certain gear configurations. My only concern going to the double is that the gearing won’t be low enough to get me up hills like Ilchester Rd. We’ll see how it goes.
I hit 9000 miles on my road bike this morning, on my way into Patapsco State Park. I was on the service road on the Howard County side that leads from River Rd. to the Avalon day use area. I hit 8000 back on July 12, 2011, so it took around 8 months to log the latest 1000 miles. I think I’m logging miles faster on this bike than my other two, because I tend to take longer rides on the road bike than on the others, and my usage of it has been on the increase, relative to the other two, due to dry weather last summer and this past winter. I knew I was getting close to 9000, but I wasn’t expecting to hit it this week, because I didn’t think I’d be riding the road bike today. We were supposed to get rain overnight last night, and I was planning to switch to a different bike with fenders this morning. However, the rain never materialized, so I stuck with the road bike because all of my racks etc. were already on it.
Today marks my final ride before the switch to Daylight Saving Time. I shouldn’t have any more rides in the dark until November, so this weekend I’ll take my helmet-mounted lights off, which will lighten up my helmet. I remember the helmet feeling heavy when I first put them on in the fall, but I’ve long since gotten used to having them up there. Also, over the next week or so I’ll be taking the studded tires off the mountain bike, and switching from Power Grips back to SPD pedals. Nothing like spring. Next thing I know, I’ll be mowing the lawn and popping allergy drugs again.
So, I did a 20 miler this morning on the way to work. That’s a good bit longer than my average morning ride. I wasn’t setting out to do 20+ miles; it just happened. I had originally planned to do around 16-17 miles with a few more hills, but I got a leg cramp around Ellicott City, and decided to nix the extra hills in favor of a flatter, albeit longer, route for the remainder of the ride. I also made sure to pound some extra water during the ride, as cramps are often the result of dehydration.
It’s warming up quite a bit around here. Morning ride temperatures will be dealt a setback next week, though, as this weekend brings the dreaded switch to Daylight Saving Time. Starting on Monday, my rides will be an hour earlier (astronomically speaking), and it will be darker and chillier, at least for the first few weeks.
I am trying something new on my rides home this spring. Occasionally, I will “bonk out” on my rides home. It typically happens toward the end of my ride, just as I’m about to climb the final hill. I’m usually able to get up the hill, but it’s not fun. It happened to me this past Tuesday, and I happened to have a Power Bar with me, so I stopped part way up the hill and ate the bar. That worked extremely well, and I was able to get the rest of the way home without struggling. In lieu of the Power Bar, I’m going to try drinking Gatorade during my ride home instead of water. My theory is that the Gatorade will keep my blood sugar up during the ride and stave off the “bonk.” I’ve always resisted putting anything but water in my bottles, as the sugar can promote mold, and I’ll need to make sure I thoroughly rinse the bottle after every ride. But if it reliably keeps me from “bonking,” it might be worth it. Alternatively, since it doesn’t happen every day, I could just make sure I always carry an energy bar, and stop to eat it if I feel like I’m going to hit the wall. But I figured I’d at least give the Gatorade a shot. Stay tuned.
I finally broke my February curse this year. I rode to work 14 times, twice as many as any previous February. Granted, this is only the 4th year I’ve commuted by bike regularly in the winter. Bad weather has sidelined me a couple of years in February, and last year it was injury. This year, illness was the primary threat. Around Valentine’s day I came down with a bad cold, and I am still feeling the effects of it. I missed 3 days of work, and took the car to work a couple other days because I wasn’t feeling up to riding. But it wasn’t enough to keep me from getting 14 rides in. Before I got sick I had already ridden 8 days in February, and I managed to slog to work 6 more times despite not feeling 100%.
Another first for this winter: this was the first year that the service road connecting River Rd in Elkridge to Patapsco State Park was never snowed over. There’s usually a good 2 to 3 weeks each winter where it’s impassable. I have lots of not-so-fond memories of half-dragging, half-carrying my bike through several inches of snow there, to avoid having to bike on US 1. Didn’t happen this year. Matter of fact, unless we get some significant snow in March, this stands to be only the third winter in the last century or so where central Maryland saw under 2″ of snowfall for the entire winter (I read that on a weather blog somewhere; if I can find the reference, I’ll link to it here).
So now it’s March, and spring is right around the corner. In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be taking the studded tires off my mountain bike. At some point this spring or summer, I would like to try commuting to work through Patapsco State Park on single track trails. I’ve plotted out a route from my house to UMBC that is around 80% trails. I’m not sure I would want to do it regularly, but I’m going to give it a shot and see how I like it.