1 Feb 2012

February 1st 2012

February 1st 26-29F, -3-2C, windy, sunny, cold. Freezing cold NE wind. I don't mind the cold but the wind forces me to overdress. My nose feels like an icicle while my body is sweating. After a failed attempt at double vests I'm back down to a thin poly vest, racing jersey and Aesse jacket. Racing shorts and light or medium poly tights. Doubled woolly socks and neoprene overshoes. Sweaty 40oz Thinsulate gloves and my Abus U-lane helmet. Usually over a Thinsulate tea-cosy hat. I have both double Thinsulate and single thickness hats. The latter is more useful for windproofing than warmth but feels very cold under the helmet.

Wind chill chart borrowed from the DMI website.
(click for a larger version)
Mph = m/s x 2.2. Or Kmt/1.61 50kmt~=30mph.

The -5C column usually applies at the moment. Though it dropped to -8, -10 and two days of -13 only a few days later.  

Notice the effect of any wind on the effective temperature. Now imagine going downhill into a stiff wind at -5C. I have been outside at -23C with a very gentle breeze. No fun at all! I would never consider riding in such low temperatures. My lowest starting temperature to date was -15C in almost still conditions with bright sunshine. I can still almost remember the pain in my toes and fingers and face. A good 30mph downhill run at -15C would be the equivalent of -40C in still air. The pain in my face is awful even at much lower speeds. Yet I can't cover my face and breathe at the same time. Only a balaclava with a large mouth opening and nose cover would help to avoid icing and steaming up my ski goggles.

My daily temperature readings are taken from a a digital thermometer with an outside sensor on a long lead. The outside sensor is in free air in shadow about 15' above the ground. I have checked it against another and they agree to within a small fraction of a degree. I check the temperature just before leaving and just after I come back.

During this -3-5C cold spell I usually started out with my thin, windproof, Giordana, day-glo, jogging jacket over the Aesse until I warm up. This doesn't usually take long due to the many hills on all my possible routes.

My thin, poly balaclava is handy to keep my ears and neck warm but reduces beneficial ventilation around the neck. It is also rather tight and squashes my ears. My head seems to be the main culprit in overheating when I have too many layers. A Thinsulate double thickness hat with ear flaps would be better than the balaclava under a tea-cosy. My only ear-flap hat is double fleece and very thick. It wont (remotely) go under the Abus helmet.

With cycling, it's always a fine balance between comfort, being too cool and overheating. All due to the highly variable exercise going on inside the clothing. The wind is most difficult factor to cope with due to wind chill of poorly protected extremities. This year and the whole of the last has been ridiculously windy but relatively dry.

All of my cycling jackets and racing jerseys have come from charity shops scattered over a very wide area. Most visits draw a complete blank but (far more importantly) they offer suitable goals for further exploration on the trike.

All part of my oversized, psychological saddle bag of cheap tricks to con myself keep me going out on the trike. Particularly when common sense suggests (another) rest day. Rest days only lead to more. Before I know it I shall be sitting at home. Probably planning the  investment of time and money, which I don't really have, in another of my countless hobbies.

Tricycling has arguably kept me fit and alive when my high blood pressure was a constant worry. The cost of lifelong drugs to treat the problem would be much better spent on woolly socks and new inner tubes. So it was. I haven't measured my blood pressure for a couple of years. Nor do I eat Danish pastries any more. We never ate or drank much in the way of non-food items anyway.

Apart from the expense, if I bought all new cycling clothing I would greatly resent less than 1000% perfection. Nothing less would do for the incredibly high prices demanded for cycling gear. The majority of which is probably produced by child-slave labour in a sweat-shop somewhere in the Far East. My gear may even be considered slightly out-dated by those who regularly spend £250 on their cycling sunglasses. My under a fiver (<£5) clothing covers most of my needs except for breathable waterproofing in heavier rain. The rest of my stuff comes from supermarkets and discount chain stores. Bargains are to be had almost everywhere for the patient buyer.

It sounds completely daft but I'd rather be relatively poor than very rich. I would hate the boredom of being so wealthy that I could afford to satisfy every whim. It would be hell on earth for me! So many useless possessions! The sense of anticipation would be completely absent. The effort that goes into the search and research before a rare purchase can be almost tasted. I thrive on bargains. Hate keeping up appearances for their own sake.

 A homesick Mr Higgins insists on being photographed on the wrong left side of the road.

Imagine having to own a BMW or Audi because it is expected of you? Is there any worse fate than this? Imagine clumsily damaging an older car in a supermarket car park with your "posh ride". Simply because you are too damned careless to bother about your pathetic driving skills? Then telling the owner/victim that it doesn't really matter because it's an old car? This has happened to me three times in the past few years. I couldn't live with that mindset. Have they no pride at all?

My remarkable cycling wardrobe means a new, fairly tidy and completely different appearance on most days of the year. I like the variation and it adds another item to the vital list of reasons to go out. The "nutter on the trike" thus feels part of the cycling fraternity. Even when he is chugging along at half the speed of those similarly dressed. While often pushing three times the dead (mechanical) weight uphill and down.  (and usually feeling superior about it as he gets dropped as if riding backwards)

Having the right cycling clothing is not so much about appearance as comfort. For the most part it works and works damned well! A cotton T-shirt under a fleece jacket topping a pair of cut-off jeans must be about the worst choice of cycling outfit on the planet. Yet some people never even try the correct attire. They think they look cool when they are anything but. Or freezing their nuts off screaming downhill after getting up a good sweat on the long climb. 

It would be so incredibly easy just to get in the car and do a week's shopping. Instead of which I am forced to enjoy a daily change of weather, season and scenery, fresh air and quite daft amounts of exercise for an "old codger." I'm a couple of months shy of normal retirement age. I'm also far fitter than many people of half my age. Regular visits to the quack are now a very distant memory. I thus avoid burdening the system (and my own) unnecessarily.

A nice hill looms. The camber on the corner is extreme!
Mr Higgins takes it all in his stride.

I see different people almost every day. The trike is an ice-breaker and often leads to a chat outside a supermarket. They say most old people are lonely these days. If the trike gives them an excuse to exchange a couple of words for the first time in weeks then why not? I don't usually start conversations but I always talk to any dogs, horses and cats I might pass. Well, you have to, don't you?

I grin at everybody who stares at me. Okay, I sport an extra wheel. Deal with it! I gently greet, wave or smile at most passing cyclists. How else will they know I am eccentric but still safely normal? Better three wheels than one short of a set! Trikes are infinitely more sensible than a mono-cycle. Far safer than two wheels on icy surfaces.

Looking back down the hill. 
The Trykit 2WD makes child's play of climbing on snow. 
The photographer makes a childish mistake with the clumsy foreground.

Living rural-detached I would otherwise see nobody except my long-suffering wife. Chief Laundress, Head Gardener and learned council all rolled up into a small, neat bundle. My absence, on my daily rides, gives her time to relax and think up new reasons to nag me when I finally struggle home again. I can even stretch out the daily riding experience to blogging and photography. Though this often means even more time rattling away on the computer. Only 16 miles and all this chat? It hardly seems justification enough to be going out. But at least you have been given some clues as to why I do.

I went through hell to get fitter, lighter and better. If a lazy sod like me can do it then, probably, so can you. The downside is that you could end up addicted to riding an old racing trike uphill and down dale in all weathers. Then nattering about it endlessly on a blog. But, surely, there are far, far worse fates that that!

Just around the corner the climb continues for about 3/4 of a mile.
It seems easiest to climb on the freshly fallen snow.
Otherwise the lightly loaded front wheel slides about more.

Click on any image for an enlargement.


  1. "It sounds completely daft but I'd rather be relatively poor than very rich."

    Good point: I was thinking of this myself recently -- not that I'd ever risk being very rich. The boredom that must come with having every whim satisfied!

    I've found a lot of nice wool clothing at our national Goodwill chain of thrift stores: Italian, zip plaquet, merino pullovers, heavier sweaters, anoraks and nice Brooks Bros and other top of the line wool trousers to convert into cycling plus fours. Even better, last year I scored five nice retro wool jerseys, a Rivendell Wooly Warm heavy over-jersey, a pair of Kucharik wool cycling shorts and a pair of French wool cycling tights (too small, alas) for $120 shipped. But the Goodwill stuff will easily see you through, and it looks good, too.

  2. Hi

    You have discovered riches beyond the dreams of avarice! You must also shop in rather more salubrious surroundings than most Danish charity shops. Danish cyclists only seem to wear the man-made racing stuff. Cycle tourists and vintage cycle enthusiasts are completely absent on my own travels. I have never come across wool cycling wear. I still miss the warm and comfortable wool shorts of my youth despite the constant struggle with real chamois in the laundry department. :-)