Friday, December 08, 2006

Welcome to New England. Don't like the weather? Wait 15 minutes.

I encountered this phrase pretty much the day I moved to New England over six years ago (six years? really? wow? I'm only twenty-four, that’s a fourth of my life!). New Englanders love this saying, AND for good reason- it's totally frickin' true!

On Monday I rode my bike into work (by the way, I LOVE commuting via bike!) and it was the coldest day I have encountered thus far- 24 degrees. Since this is my first time bike commuting I am still trying to figure out what conditions are acceptable for riding and what gear I need to wear for what weather. On Monday I discovered that in sub 30 degree weather I need two layers of warm gear on top and on bottom, neck gear that can cover my whole neck and up to my nose, and my snow mittens. I wore my snow gloves and they just didn't cut it, I was a little too cold. I may also need a full-on face mask, but that might only be necessary for sub 20 degree weather- I haven't decided yet.

Then yesterday morning I woke up and looked up, forty-six degrees! What? For some reason I still wore my winter gloves while riding, but half way through my hands got too warm and I took them off and rode with bare hands the rest of the way- and I was fine!

My beautiful friend Bekka, who lives really close to my work, had invited me to sleep over. So I rode in with a backpack full of work clothes for two days. I planned to leave my bike in the indoor racks at work (nice and secure) and walk to and from Bekka's. On my walk to Bekka's last night at 7:45 it was a balmy 50 degrees out (a note to all you southern Californians: 50 degrees at night in Boston in December is waaaaaarrrrmmmm), so I left my hat at work and just wore gloves (I wanted my hair to look nice for Bekka).

Foolish Melanie did not keep the old saying in mind, and this morning when I began my short walk to work I was in for a rude awakening. It was somewhere in the lower 20s (note that it was not really early in the morning or anything, it was after 8:30, the sun had been up for a while) and snowing and windy!!! My poor ears were so cold and painful that it took a good half hour in my warm, warm office for them to defrost and stop hurting me.

Then I made foolish decision number two. I asked my friend Mike (hi Mike, he is a blog regular) if he wanted to do lunch near his work (he works less than two miles away). See, Mike always comes over here when we do lunch; because for some reason it is always on days when I don't have my bike and would thus have to pay $1.25 each way to reach him via the T (he has a monthly pass so it does not cost him any money). It wasn't until after he accepted my invite (I had expected him to decline) that I decided to check the weather. The prediction was grim but doable, windy and snowy until 11 am, but the noon forecast showed no more snowing and didn't mention the wind.

A little after 11:30 (this time was chosen purposefully as it is closer to noon than eleven) I put on all my biking gear and headed downstairs. Things started off a little rough, I left the office and was immediately hit by the bitter cold- had informed me that it was 22 degrees but that it would feel like 5 degrees (keep in mind, since I rode in the day before I am missing some key sub thirty degree elements such as the neck gear). But I said to myself, "it's not too far, I can do this." Then I turned a corner, more wind, and more snow. Then I turned another corner, even more wind and snow. THEN I hit that stretch of Tremont St. that runs a long the Common. Have you ever walked through a part of the common with very few trees on a cold and windy day? It becomes a barren wasteland of high speed wind. I was freezing cold and the wind was making every effort to push little 128 lb me and my light weight road bike in directions that no bike rider wants their bike to move! So after seeing a mental image of the wind pushing me and my bike over and considering what would happen if I ended up with my bike on top of me in the middle of a downtown street, I got off of the street and hopped off of my bike.

The resulting walk back to work was bitter cold and miserable. I let Mike know that I would not be making it for lunch, and he told me to stay warm.

Suffice to say I am making a HUGE sacrifice and leaving work early today so I can take my bike on the T (you are not allowed to bring bikes on the T during "high commuter hours" which start at 4 pm).


D.B. Echo said...

Well, that answers one question: You can use labels on an established blog if you switch to Blogger Beta.

II used to bike to school (and later, work) year-round in Newark, Delaware, where even they experienced the occasional bouts of cold weather. I think the appropriate gear for bike riding in cold weather is essentially the clothing you would wear while skiing. Definitely a face mask, ski mask, or scarf wrapped around your face - I used to have to chip ice off of my moustache when I got to class or work. I also recommend goggles or glasses if you have them.

And please, PLEASE wear a helmet. Road ice can be deadly when you're on a bike. Odds are if you hit a patch of ice you WILL fall and your bike will go one way (hopefully not int traffic) while you go another (ditto). If the motion of your fall is just right, you will land with almost no impact at all, but a lot of horizontal velocity. But if you're not wearing a helmet and smack your head off the pavement, all bets are off.

There comes a point where your brake and gearshift cables will become tight and inflexible due to the cold. Not a lot you can do there other than keep trying and hope nothing snaps.

Priscilla said...

(1)I really like how a mere six years is a fourth of our life, I like that. Especially because yesterday I started getting a little whimpery thinking about 25...
(2)Southern Cal gets freeeeeeezing on winter nights--29F degrees! But we still wear halter tops and sandals to the bars, YEAH!
(3) How do you ride a bike in the snow?! Wow, Mel. You're tough.
(4) What? I'm a "blogger?"