Sunday, January 23, 2011

Awfully cold to be riding

 The super cold air that's been making its way east is finally here!
I had a bunch of errands to run, in locations that would be tough T connections, and all in Boston/Brookline where parking would also be tough,  so I broke through the new 8" of snow to the bike shed, pumped up Gilbert's tires (I know you're supposed to run low tires in icy conditions, but these were getting ridiculous) and set out:

Because of all the talk about the cold, even though it was "only" 24, I dressed really warmly.  Thick corduroy pants,  shearling boots, wool socks, a thin cashmere sweater, topped with my warmest heaviest wool sweater (a JCrew men's rollneck sweater- which I highly recommend as an extremely warm layer- it's so dense that it's water repellant).  Over that a mid- weight softshell jacket,  ski gloves with liners,  a nice warm chenille scarf,  Pod ear warmers, and a winter (no holes) Bern helmet.  I finally caved in and wore my plastic safety glasses-I still think they look dorky, but it was too cold not to wear something to protect my eyes.

By the time I got to my first destination, the Scientist's office  I was broiling! I took off the rollneck sweater, and stuffed it into my basket, where it lived for the rest of the day.  I headed down the Vassar street cycle track, which was mostly bare pavement, cut over into Cambridgeport through the park,  and then over the BU bridge to the Brookline REI.

I don't know why it is that retailers are convinced that they need to get spring fashions into stores in January.  Have they not looked outside? Do the people who make these decisions live in Miami?  It's one thing for Banana Republic to do that,  but REI?  EMS? places that are supposed to be preparing you for outdoor activities?  Don't they understand that it will still be winter for another month and a half around here, and that people might want to buy warm clothing suitable for going outside?   The selection of jackets and gloves was ridiculously picked over and poor, so it was a pretty frustrating morning.

After 2 hours of riding around between spring-stocked stores,  I headed to the South End where I had been invited by Chic Cyclist Charlotte to an afternoon of crafting (Crafternoon)  with some of her friends.  It was a great chance to chat and finish up some of those projects that are always lingering.  For my first project I made a backup grocery pannier- something I've been planning for months.  I wanted an extra grocery bag that I could roll up and keep with me (on the bike, or in my bag) for those days when the contents of my basket exceeds the capacity of my everyday pannier.

I started with a regular tyvek type grocery store "reusable" bag.  I used a set of Ortlieb QL2 hardware,  (my rack's tubing is too big for the QL1) and  bolted the hardware to the stiffener through the bag.

 I'm not sure how it will work in practice- I think I'm going to have to add more stiffeners either to the bottom edge or the whole bottom, but I'm trying to keep it light and roll-able.

 I also took apart an LED light for a potential extra headlight,  and did a little crocheting.  People were laughing at me that my "Craft" involved vise grips and tin snips.  I traded Charlotte a set of The Ortlieb QL1 hooks that are too small for my rack for some retroreflective fabric tape,  so more projects for both of us!

After a couple of hours of chatting, crafting and eating delicious treats (the Brown Butter Rice Krispie treats were amazing).  I bundled back up and headed back across the river.  The temperature had dropped at this point to about 16, and the wind was pretty fierce.  I was more or less OK when I was riding, but once I stopped I got really really cold.  I was shivering uncontrollably in the grocery store, and was all too happy to ride home in the Scientist's car with its heated seats.  We made a tasty Mole Amarillo from a new Rick Bayless cookbook that he got for Christmas, which was a great way to warm up!

It sounds like the  REALLY cold day is going to be tomorrow, with a high predicted to be 14.  I don't think I'm going to ride into work.   While it was OK to ride around on a Sunday,  I'm still a bit nervous about braving the icy verge with rush hour traffic on my tail.  I hit  couple of slippery spots, and just don't think it's worth doing that with a SUV trying to close pass me, when it's 6 degrees and windy.

When I used to run, I would say,  I was happy to run in cold, dark or wet, but not in all three.  I think  this is a useful rule for biking too with the slight substitution of bitter cold, icy, and dark (on the way home).   If you were one of the 8 or 9 other bikers I saw today, will you be riding tomorrow too?


  1. Could you let me/us (!) know where you purchased the Ortlieb Q2 hardware? Thank you - I have a small rucksack I want to change over to a pannier. It sounds like you had a great day!

  2. eBay and Amazon both have stylish safety goggles. At 24, I wear my cycling jacket and a sweatshirt, balaclava, safety goggles, wool socks, and regular pants. And my heavy cycling gloves. It hasn't gotten much under 20 yet down here.

  3. I got home from cycling about an hour ago and I'll definitely be riding tomorrow. I don't think these temperatures are at all a challenge for cycling. I lived in upstate New York for a few years, where these temperatures often stay around for a few days or a week, so now I don't even really take note of them.

    Here are my tips for 15F and below: :)

    1. Wear a fur (fake is fine) cap that covers your forehead, ears, and upper neck. Fur's a must!

    2. Wrap a scarf around your head to cover your face. HOWEVER, you need FOUR layers of fabric in front of your nose and mouth. Otherwise, without sufficient insulation, your breath will condense, turn into ice, and give you frostbite! If you can't breathe, create a little vent near your chin and neck.

    3. Wear a jacket/coat with good "seals". I wear a jacket which is very light and thin, but is completely windproof, has a very high collar, and can be tightened at the ends of the sleeves and around my butt. RANT: "Layering" is the biggest bullshit ever, don't do it! Three layers (shirt, sweater, coat) are always enough. Your torso can warm itself as long as you keep the wind away. If you neglect your face and head or hands or feet and try to compensate by adding layers to your torso, you'll just be hot in one place and cold in the other.

    4. The warmest glove solution that I've found is thick fingerless wool gloves under warm and windproof mittens. But this is overkill for Boston -- I just wear leather gloves with liners here. They keep my hands warm for about five miles.

  4. I should add that I actually like cycling in this kind of weather, because I feel like I get treated better by motorists. Probably because they think I'm hardcore. :)

  5. I would have never thought to use an actual grocery bag as a grocery bag pannier, sweet hack.
    I would love to see an update if any modifications are made to it.

  6. Iyen,
    I actually have had the reverse experience when cycling in extreme weather- drivers have treated me worse- like I'm a freak or an idiot for biking on the coldest days of the year.

    I have biked on days this cold, but not when it was also icy.

    Paddy Anne- I bought the hooks directly from Orlieb USA- they're listed in "replacement parts"

  7. I didn't ride on Sunday (had friends over for gaming) but was out hiking in the Middlesex Fells on Saturday, then dropped in on a friend's housewarming later that night. I used the "it's tough to find car parking in this neighborhood" excuse when our friends continued to express their amazement at our winter biking. Someone else showed up on their Volpe fixed conversion, so at least we had backup.

    Still planning on riding today. Usual heavy cold outfit: double tights & socks, Ibex wool base layer + heavier wool long sleeve, sweater, lobster claw gloves, balaclava. Still trying to decide if I want to opt for the grey long coat or red softshell. Style or waterproofness. Might flip a coin.

    That tote bag modification is neat, though I'm with you on adding a stiffener to the bottom edge. I've got one of those TAGS tote bags, and the fabric feels a little on the thin side.

    It's also possible that if the bottom isn't reinforced that the back could brush up against your wheel, but that's partially dependent on your rack and fender setup and whether the bag would be blocked your struts or not.

  8. I can comment with authority that Cycler does indeed have a pair of stylish safety goggles and looked awesome wearing them as she pried apart flashlight hardware! One of us does have photo evidence of all this, I'll see if I can track it down.

    I'm thinking that my Ortlieb shopping pannier might be an LL Bean canvas bag, in aqua to match my bike.

    Cycler, I talked to Andy and he won't need all the wide 3M tape, so if you find you do need some of it let me know. I'd actually be interested in seeing the results if you do iron over it, perhaps it won't melt. Either way would be good data to have, though I suppose we could google to see what 3M says.

    Thank you again for coming over!

  9. Oh, and for anyone interested:

    Brown Butter-Crispy Rice Treats
    From Joanne Chang's Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe

    1 cup (2 sticks/228 grams) unsalted butter
    ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
    Two 10-ounce (280-gram) bags marshmallows
    ½ tsp kosher salt
    9 cups (240 grams) crispy rice cereal

    Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, coat it with nonstick cooking spray, or line it with parchment paper.

    In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. As the butter melts, use the tip of a knife to scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean directly into the butter.

    Once the butter has melted, it will start to bubble and crackle. If you lean in and listen, it will sound like an audience of people politely clapping their hands (in anticipation of these treats!). Watch the butter carefully and you will see it slowly browning. As soon as the bubbling subsides, after about 5 minutes, the butter will be fully browned and you will need to add the marshmallows. (Be attentive, because if you don't add the marshmallows right away, the butter may burn.) Add the marshmallows and salt and stir constantly over low heat until the marshmallows are completely melted and the vanilla seeds are evenly distributed.

    Remove the pan from the heat, add the cereal, and mix well with a wooden spoon to coat evenly. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan and pat into an even layer. Let cool for about 1 hour, or to room temperature, then cut into 12 pieces.

    These treats can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

  10. Thanks for posting that recipe Charlotte, I can't imagine that they'd "last" two days- they were absolutely delicious, addictive and not cloying or too sticky like most RK treats.
    I think an LL bean bag would be a perfect DIY pannier conversion- they're stiff enough to hold their shape well. The idea with this one was to be something I could crumple up and use as "extra" lightweight storage.

  11. Well, especially if we end up leaving New England I like the idea of using such an iconic New England staple as a pannier. I will always think of the tough Yankees I've met (and some tough Texas transplants!) out cycling in headline-making cold weather.

  12. Nose hair cold ridding in. I only have a couple miles, which is good because I couldn't find my balaclava. Glove over the nose at intersections helps with the breathing.

    A couple motorists even stopped to let me through where traffic was heavy. Whether it was out of admiration or pity, I'm not sure.

  13. Crafternoon - love it! I want to visit Boston and hang out with all you cool bikey women there. I may be there this summer to visit my family...

    If you're ever in Chicago, I'll take you to the Rick Bayless restaurant of your choice. His food is soooooooooo delicious.