27 Mar 2010

Wind chill factor


 A seasonal scene still lingering in a village garden.
Despite a bitterly cold, westerly wind, 2-3C temperatures and frozen slush in the lanes I managed a 28 mile circle today. The saddle was fine once I had overcome the initial muscular pain from trying too hard from the off.

I returned to find my feet and belly were deep red and stinging but not particularly painful.  I had removed my windproof jacket very early on and was riding in a medium weight jumper over the thin polyester vest. I should have taken a light fleece jacket for a little more warmth. I wore the slim Nike trainers over thick woollen socks and didn't notice cold feet this time. A shower soon warmed me up again but I really must be more flexible about clothing during these cold winter rides. I have plenty of room in my bigger bag and should carry something warmer than a jumper for my top half.

I'm still wearing padded racing shorts over the thin polyester tights. This seems an ideal balance between comfort and overheating. Every time I've tried heavier trousers I quickly became too warm. Leaving me with the problem of stripping off when I'm already sweating. The forecast is for it to remain below -2C all week so I shall have to dress accordingly.

I am enjoying my new cycling spectacles. I shall have to try the darker lenses for bright, sunny conditions like today. I was quite blind at times from the glare of the wet roads reflecting the low sun. All the lenses block UV but the yellow ones don't reduce the glare at all. Quite the reverse. The winged lenses seem to stop my eyes watering no matter how cold it is.

I wonder why the manufacturers don't silver the tips of these wraparound, lens wings to provide rear view mirrors when one glances right or left? It seems so obvious that such a modification would increase cycling road safety quite dramatically. Such mirrors would be handy for racing too. To save turning round to check for chasers or passing cars or motorbikes. Just overtaking parked vehicles would be so much safer for most cyclists if one could glance behind without physically twisting round.

Only 22 miles in two hours today but I was hindered by a great deal of solid water ice and frozen slush on the minor roads. Eventually, after a couple of scary moments  I found I could ride safely over almost anything if I lifted off the saddle and took the shocks in my legs. It saved the wheels from a beating too. I was glad for three wheels where the road was iced over the entire width with refrozen melt water. I came across a  frozen lake completely blocking the road and had to walk round it on the left on the semi-frozen field to save a long detour.

Another blind, point and shoot, wide angle image because I haven't returned the camera for a new LCD screen to be fitted yet.

I wore a fleece jacket over a thin, woollen  jumper to reduce wind chill without overheating. Two pairs of thinner socks and the slim Nike trainers were comfortable with no foot problems at all today. I find it almost effortless to do 20 miles these days. I'm deliberately getting out of the saddle a lot more to strengthen different muscles. When I first started training seriously I couldn't manage a few yards standing up on the pedals without serious pain in my legs. Now I can honk uphill for several hundred yards without strain. My nose is still purple and I'm wondering whether it is the cold weather. No discomfort or numbness is evident though. Overcast and even colder tomorrow.

Only seven miles today on an errand. -2C, heavy overcast and 10m/s from NE. (m/s x 2.2 = mph)  Threw a jacket over my normal clothes and set off wearing a balaclava. Quickly overheated, stripped off hat, gloves and two jackets but was still sweating buckets waiting at the supermarket checkout. Put everything back on to ride flat out to get home, out of my wet clothes and into the shower. I've never climbed that hill at such a speed until today! :-)  Wind forecast lighter tomorrow but still overcast and down to -5C for much of the day.

New Year's Eve:  Hard frost overnight. 27F (-4C) and light winds as I left. Did ten mile errand to the shops and back. Punctured on frozen rutted ice on minor road detour back through forest! Probably a pinched inner tube despite pumping tyres rock hard before leaving. You probably won't believe this  but this is the very first time I have ever had to repair a puncture on the side of the road. This is in well over 50 years of cycling! I took out the punctured tube. Removed the tyre completely to check for thorns with my fingers. Replaced tyre half way. Fitted brand new inner tube and was on my way again in under five minutes. It felt very strange working on a wheel fixed solidly to a trike. Very cold on the hands too but the tyre went on with thumb pressure alone. Two people stopped in their cars to see if I needed help or a lift! I declined of course but thanked them very politely for their kindness. Never spoil it for somebody else who really might need help. A woodpecker kept me company while I worked with his tapping echoing loudly through the woods. As usual there were lots of large birds of prey out in the fields and perched on the hedges.

After coffee I went off to another town for some organic cream for the remaining mince pies. Still -3C and bitterly cold cycling into the 10m/s head wind. My face felt prickly at times and my feet were cold. So were my hands for the first time in these Thinsulate gloves. I took it in turns to tuck each gloved hand under my armpits. The rest of me was warm enough in a close-fitting, fleece jacket, medium weight woollen jumper and long sleeved polyester vest. My nose ran copiously every inch of the way. When I blew it on a handkerchief, while still pedalling along, my hands got very cold within seconds.  I'm still wearing cycling shorts over the thin, polyester tights which were comfortable for my legs despite the cold. The sun came out but I couldn't feel it at all.

The trip back was almost pleasant and my feet and hands were warm enough now after recovering in the supermarket queue.  There is a very fine line between being cold, comfortable and too warm. Hill climbing can quickly mess up my clothing plans. Jackets must have a full zip to allow rapid adjustment of ventilation on a big hill. Taking my hat off usually works well if the open jacket doesn't cool me rapidly enough.

I wore a polyester, pudding-basin, knitted hat on the first trip but it was far too cold for my ears. So I wore my trusty Thinsulate "tea cosy" for the second trip. Thinsulate is far more windproof than the knitted hat and is deep enough to cover my ears completely with doubled material. The cheap cycling glasses are still ensuring no watery eyes. A great success for a very small investment. I really like the yellow lenses for the normally overcast conditions. Another 12 miles for a total of 22 miles today all at below 27F or -3C.

There were very few cyclists out today but lots of shoppers in their cars stocking up for the New Year festivities. Fireworks are on sale in lots of different shops  at this time of year. The Danes are firework mad at New Year and the racket usually goes on to 3am. With so many thatched roofs everywhere there are distance rules but nobody seems to follow them. Not even the owners of the thatched roofs!

A Happy New Year to all of my readers. I had no idea that reading about trikes and tricycling could prove so popular with so many people all around the world. I hope I can continue to hold your interest. My only resolution is to keep adding more miles on my trike. Weather permitting I hope to build up to around 40 then 50 miles per day, every day and still in reasonable comfort. If I can get my camera LCD screen fixed under guarantee I shall also have more pictures to share.

New Year's day: -3C overcast. A rest day, sitting at the computer, pigging chocolates, cake and mince pies. Legs felt stiff, but not painful, all day.

2 Jan 2010: 27F -2C, overcast, light snow flurries, light variable winds. Only 15 miles on icy minor roads. Hardly anybody out walking. Wore a light, woven wool, lined waistcoat under my fleece jacket for a little extra warmth. Fairly comfortable but not feeling very energetic. Probably yesterday's sugar and fat intake. Feet felt a bit cold at times despite two pairs of medium thick socks in slim trainers. I'll be glad to get back to stiffer cycling shoes. Will have to look at the Higgins head bearings as I'm getting a shimmy on the steering. 

3 Jan woke to 19.6F -7C. Set off after coffee into light falling snow. Wore my usual clothing plus thin waistcoat under my fleece jacket. As usual I could feel the cold wind on my forearms through my clothes. My face felt tight. Managed to keep my fingers warm by holding them tightly together in my gloves but they warmed up after a while anyway. I felt colder every time I went above 15mph so decided to minimise wind chill by maintaining a high cadence on the middle chainring. My toes gradually began to complain of the cold and finally set today's comfort limit of only 10 miles. I could have gone further but I was too near home to resist the temptation of putting an end to the discomfort in my feet. Returned to find the temperature had risen to a toasty 21F or -6C in the watery sunshine.  My beard was solid with ice from my breath. I'll have to increase my protection for my feet and hands if I am to continue riding in this cold spell. I can't make my body any warmer than it is already or I risk sweating. Which will soon turn to ice on my back on cold descents.

Though I have certainly ridden bikes in similar conditions the extra security of three wheel stability is certainly no hindrance to going out. Had I been limited to a bike I seriously doubt that I would have the same desire to risk the icy lanes as often as I have on the trike. It seems completely safe on almost any surface. Even when the front wheel is suddenly "derailed" by a change in a rut in the iron-hard, frozen slush. In fact I have regularly had to run over glass smooth, water ice without any apparent loss of steering. I made the mistake, early on,  of hesitantly putting a foot down on one such road-wide, skating rink. Then nearly fell off  when my foot shot out from under me! It has proved far safer to remain firmly seated on the trike. Even the brakes seem to stop me safely when standing up on the pedals has produced instant wheel spin. I'd hate to have to rely on rear brakes under these slippery conditions!

Jan 4th: Woke to fresh fall of snow, windy, overcast and 30F. 0 miles today. Went to the city in the car. Lots of spray on the windscreen as it rose to ~32F. Took my broken Lumix TZ7 back to the shop for examination under guarantee. Why aren't shop people as happy to see returns customers as buying customers?  Thinking about toe shields. I can't let the cold weather interfere with my already-low mileages. Niggling problems like cold toes are just easy excuses not to go out. Must make the effort tomorrow even if it means wearing polythene bags over my trainers. I could always do my old 6 mile loop a few times so I can easily come in and warm up instead of riding past. Lots more snow forecast. 2009 ended up 8th warmest in Denmark since records began in 1874. If it hadn't been for the cold end to the year it might have scored 5th highest. I can't understand why the DMI keeps forecasting sunshine and we never get any. Day after day. Week after week. Always wrong. Their forecasting seaweed must be completely worn out.

Jan 5th and 6th. Yet more snow. One day at a time.

Jan 7th 25.5F, -3.5C, only 8 miles. (to shops and back) Main road surfaces clear but much narrowed by snow ploughs and light traffic not clearing to edge. Minor roads best avoided. Air felt cold but I was fine except for my ears stinging. My beard froze solid on the way back. A definite increase in wind chill over 15mph. Subjectively 18-20mph felt twice as cold and unpleasant enough to make me to drop a gear and increase my cadence. It was good to get back on the trike.

Jan 8th.  -8C, 18F. Light breeze with bright sunshine. The air felt bitterly cold outside while clearing another 2" of overnight snow.  The slightest breeze was very unpleasant. Hands cold despite gloves. Roads partly frozen slush with very little traffic.  Even colder, but grey, forecast for tomorrow.  Whole week ahead well below freezing. Buzzards and smaller birds of prey floating across looking for lunch. 0 miles today I'm afraid.

9th and 10th of January and it has been cold and very windy. I crunched through the crisp snow for the 200 yards to the road. To see deep drifts across the road where the farmers had ripped out the hedges. The road was completely clear where the hedges remained. No point in going out in this.

The trike was standing with its back to me in the shed when I entered looking for a screwdriver in the cold, half light. It was waiting almost expectantly. Like a horse dreaming it had the freedom of the fields. It deliberately ignored me as I glanced in its direction. We had enjoyed a mutual bond which had been broken only by the bad weather. It had carried me for so many miles. Always uncomplaining, no matter what I asked of it. Along empty lanes and alongside roaring traffic going nowhere in particular. There were moments of complete symbiosis when I felt I was riding within the trike. Pure imagination of course but that was really how it felt at times.

It is odd how one's relationship with any machine changes over time. One goes from perching on a strangely awkward device which is trying to hurt you. To a familiarity which makes it go where you point it as if it had learned your own idiosyncrasies. The gear levers fall to hand and change instinctively to the mere desire to be in another gear. The rehearsed  gymnastics of hanging over the inside wheel become second nature. Though sometimes I do find myself leaning out too far and wonder why I did so. The corner and my speed did not need this overreaction to its difficulty. Almost as if a bad habit had become a learned routine rather than a necessary manoeuvre. Though naturally fear probably enters into it.  There is a long, steep downhill run, not far from home, with a smooth but fierce curve at the bottom. Often I would brake too early but eventually it left the brakes alone and it became pure exhilaration. Provided of course nothing was coming the other way so I could choose my own line to skim the inside verge.

It has almost begun to feel as if the trike knows more about cornering than I do. It can manage well enough with a simple lean on my part. Our cooperation is  not perfect but we are learning from each other's mistakes. I just hope it forgives me for the hiatus when we both head for the open road together again.

It was getting a bit too easy for both of us. Just a bit too comfortable. Distance had become not a matter of survival and the toleration of pain and discomfort but more a problem of elapsed time. My average speeds hadn't increased. I just lasted longer out there without serious effort. Going round in ever bigger circles. I had overcome the psychological barriers of leaving the comfortable nest but had yet to spread my wings. In retrospect this is more to do with the awful weather. My toes and fingers were cold and my face felt as if it was being drawn tight by the ice in my beard. It really wasn't the time to stray too far.

I was rather amazed how well I coped psychologically with that puncture. I should have been far more deflated because I thought my HP tyres were bomb proof until that moment. I quickly forgave the tyre and blamed it on the vicious frozen slush which had been hammering me for a couple of miles. It wasn't kind at all to ride on that stuff. I should have turned back as soon as I saw the terrible condition of the road surface. Though turning back would have meant a very short ride home and I was almost desperate to stay out that day. Anything to add more miles.

Miles had become precious to me as it became ever colder and my extremities kept asking for relief from the pain. It is so easy to give in and head straight home but very bad for one's self-discipline. The drive to keep pushing harder and longer must be nurtured and protected like a small flame against a headwind. I shall keep going out when conditions are sensible. I have not lost the yearning to be master of my own destiny for the hour, or two, ahead.

Eventually spring will come again and I will find the measure of  the empty lanes with renewed vigour and far greater stamina. To take off with that urgency which only that wonderful freedom of cycling can bring. The effortless flight uphill and down dale accompanied by the sound of one's breath and the roar of the narrow tyres. All for the sheer pleasure of it. To hear the startled blackbird and sparrows in the hedge and the tumbling water in the roadside drains.

Dogs barking furiously at my passing because they wish they too could run alongside their master's steed. As do many Danish dogs run along beside with their owner's bikes. Often stretching effortlessly ahead on a long leash to supply extra speed or a little help on the familiar, tiresome hills. I thought it cruel at first but quickly realised that dogs are built for loping tirelessly for hours. Wide awake but still dreaming of the hunting pack as their bright eyes are fixed steadfastly on the open road ahead. Only occasionally do they glance up at their master. For reassurance and to show their love for being allowed to be so alive. They run and they run because they can. I know that feeling but I have no master to impress. None to obey except my own instincts to travel as fast and as far as I dare.