7 Nov 2016

7th November 2016 First sign of winter.


Monday 7th 34-36F, +1C, a light breeze with heavy overcast. The roofs are covered in granular snow. A chance of sunny periods or wintry showers. My voice no longer sounds like a robot. Only time will tell if this is an improvement. I did my usual walk up to the woods, cut through to the beeches and then down to the road and back. The field drainage is still a major project.

With my warmest winter cycling jacket and winter gloves on I rode my missed Saturday route. Flurries of lightweight hail now and then.  I "enjoyed" a complete range of wind direction from headwind to tailwind. After a stint riding at 18-22mph and just as I had reached the distant shops I went all fuzzy. It was if I had gone cross-eyed and then rather out of focus. Fortunately it passed off quickly as I tootled gently around the supermarket aisles. I'm obviously not recovered from my cold. More flurries of hail on the way back as I caught up with several missed shopping days. 15 miles for 3000 this year.

Tuesday 8th 30-32F, -1-0C, heavy overcast, light, frozen rain falling. Some sunshine and wintry showers forecast. I will be shoved out of the gate with a pointy stick and refused entry unless I return with the [organic] eggs I forgot to buy yesterday. An early ride is indicated to avoid the wintry showers and maximize the sunshine.

I was very comfortable yesterday in my normal winter kit: Cheap, thin 'skiing' long underwear from the supermarket. Thicker thermal underwear is awful because it holds so much moisture. The thin stuff  has no chance to get wet. Then I have my normal racing shorts and jersey with one my my several windproof cycling jacket on top. I wore my NW MTB winter boots over [£5] "farmers'" loop pile socks on my feet and "scooterists" gloves on my hands. Only my cheeks felt the chill at the start. As usual I wore the winter GripGrab pilot scull cap under my helmet. A balaclava might protect my cheeks more but quickly leads to overheating in my experience unless it is very cold.

Some "hardy" [masochistic] cyclists might think my dress style totally overkill for such a short ride. I offer the defense that I have ridden many thousands of miles at low temperatures down to -15C. Often I was the ONLY cyclist visible that day. The city Danes may ride to work in huge numbers right through winter but this is much less obvious rurally. Commuting Danes probably don't want the bother of changing every single item of clothing when they get to work.

There is a period when  a cyclist goes into heavy sweating mode after dismounting. The exercise has warmed them up and it takes time for that heat to subside. Having a sweaty back on a bike is one of the most miserable experiences imaginable. As soon as you ride downhill it will chill to icy cold! I had a couple of years like that until I built up my cycling wardrobe from charity shop purchases. At first I would keep adding fleece jackets but they were absolutely hopeless for cycling. Far too warm due to their thickness and not remotely windproof no matter how many jackets I wore.

Yes, the cycling bod must be protected form the cold wind. But the clothing must still breathe away the body's moisture naturally generated from heavy exercise. A steady ride on the flat is obviously far easier to cope with than a hilly one. Which may explain why Denmark and Holland are cycling friendly in cold winters. Climbing hills rapidly cause overheating if the clothing cannot shed the rider's busy evaporative cooling system. Try wearing a coated nylon cagoule or anorak on a bike and you will rapidly discover the meaning of a mobile sauna.

The completely sealed material is as useful as an obscenely priced,  black bin bag where breathability is concerned. Any jacket that is closed to water vapour is an absolute disaster. They are only useful for standing still at a windy bus stop. Just don't bother to shuffle about or jog on the spot or you will rapidly break into a sweat. Once your clothing is wet you are wide open to a serious chill. The major difficulty is not being able to remove the jacket once the dew point is reached. The jacket was protecting you from the slightest [cooling] breeze. You might as well jump in the nearest canal as far as continuing comfort goes. It will probably be safe to take the anorak off on the heated bus but you will not be remotely comfortable.

If you think that dressing seriously for cycling is overkill then I suggest you find another [less masochistic] hobby. I am usually comfortable at all temperatures thanks to fine adjusting my clothing for every ride. That usually means my choice of jacket. Better to start off rather cool, knowing one will soon warm up, than being cosy form the start and sweating later.

Removal of hats on climbs and opening jacket zips can really help to keep you cool. The moment that prickly feeling arrives between the shoulder blades or lower back you are in for severe discomfort on the next chilly descent. It can take miles to warm up again by working hard. The wind chill effect increases with your speed. The dampness in one's clothes has to be evaporated somehow. Riding hard may actually produce more moisture. Best not to get in that state to start with. I often ride through the rain in a windproof jacket and never bother to get the waterproof one out of the bag.

A quiet walk up to the woods, cut through to follow the edge of the woods back to the marsh by a different way. Saw two large dear grazing out on the fields which galloped into the woods to hide. I could hear buzzards calling plaintively for much of the time but could see nothing overhead. Frozen rain was increasing steadily throughout my walk. Strangely 'organic' strips of ice marked many of the small puddles in the tracks. The bare soil was mostly frozen just enough not to be sticky but was very wet in sunken places under thin ice.

Late morning ride to the shops making my own headwind. The turbines were all still as I rode back with a panoramic view of several groups. Going quite well as my cold subsides. Already below freezing with overnight snow forecast. 13 miles.


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