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Old 12-01-2015, 04:35 PM
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bluegoatwoods bluegoatwoods is offline
Motorized Bicycle Elite Member
Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Central Illinois
Posts: 1,576
Default Winter riding decisions.

This won't be an urgent matter for anyone who might be reading this. I'm just sharing my thoughts for the fun of it.

Winter is coming on and I've got to decide just what is my best mode of transportation for the duration. My motorized bike (MB) is easily my favorite. But the fact is that that is one cold ride in the winter. I have found that I can ride in some pretty cold conditions. I've done work commutes in the single digits, Fahrenheit. I might have reached down to zero. I've definitely come close. And I won't claim that I've found a way to be perfectly comfortable at such temps. But I've figured out how to do it without suffering very badly.

Still, it's not very convenient. Here lately I've been doing commutes in the low 30s F. And, while just a bit chilled in some places, the clothing I have is just fine for these conditions. There's also room inside my outer shell for one more layer of clothing, for when it gets colder. But that one more layer is about as far as I can go without feeling clumsy and bulky. As if I'm dressed like Neil Armstrong on the Moon. Once you get into that territory it's becoming less fun.

Now, I have made changes to my motorized bicycle recently that ought to help.

MB 12-1.JPG

In a nutshell, these changes have resulted in just a little more space between the front tire (and fender) and my forward-most pedal/foot position. This should allow me to squeeze in a set of Vespa-style leg guards.

Vespa GS 02.jpg

I think it'll be just a bit crowded. But I ought to be able to adjust. And it ought to make winter riding somewhat more warm. But I've also got duties and projects that are a higher priority. It's most likely that I'll try building and fitting leg guards onto the new motorized bicycle that I've got in the works down in the basement. I'll be able to take my time and really get it right. As opposed to hurrying to get something working on my current bike. And dealing with the inevitable wrong fits and such in bad weather. Under pressure to have a working bike for the next morning and so on.

But I also have an alternative transportation that is plenty tempting.

Truck and pedal bike.JPG

Note that that's a pedal bike in the pickup, as opposed to an MB.

I've done winter commuting this way before. It's very enjoyable. The only reason for bringing a motor vehicle into it at all is that I do have a serious hill on my commute. I"ve been pedaling that hill for more than twenty five years now and I've always maintained that it's not such a big deal. And it isn't. But.........I am aging. And I'm finding that pedaling that hill is taking more of what-I-got-to-give than it used to. I can still do it. But I'm less enthusiastic than I used to be about doing it every, or near every, day. the bottom of the hill is a bingo hall with a huge parking lot. Even if they ever have sell-out nights, there's still plenty of room for everyone. That's handy. It's less than half-way to work, so there's still a perfectly decent bike ride in the works for me. So I park there and ride the rest of the way.

Doing it this way has advantages that few people realize. When I walk out to the truck in the morning I just don't care that that truck is ice cold because I'm wearing a winter bicycling outfit. I'm well dressed. And a pedal bicycle winter clothing set-up is not bulky enough to be inconvenient. It's a bit on the light side. Yet much warmer than just a pair of everyday slacks with a winter jacket and hat and gloves. Much more comfortable.

The same applies when leaving work. I watch the people around me. They're scurrying across the parking lot with their heads drawn down into their collars as far as they can get them. They're grimacing in the wind. They look like they might be close to tears. And they're heading for a car that is, again, ice cold. Maybe they have to scrape their windshields. And they're not dressed for it. Very often I'll approach the ladies and say, "Here, let me do that. I'm dressed for it. You get in the car and warm up". But I'm almost having a laugh at them while doing so because that car isn't going to be very warm either. Sure, the car will warm up. But I know everyone's experienced waiting for a cold car to warm up when you're not dressed very warmly. It's kinda torturous. Even if only for a few minutes.

Me, on the other hand? I'm out in those evenings thinking, "Oh, this ain't so bad".

Something similar happens when I do ride all the way home. Going up that hill I'm generating all sorts of heat. I've bared my arms in upper 20s, F, temps in order to get rid of some of that heat. When I reach the top I'll often stop at the local dollar store for some needed odds and ends. And I watch the people get out of their cars and scurry across the parking lot while I'm sitting there, sometimes steaming a bit, cooling down and feeling just fine.

Now I'm kinda wandering into proseletyzing, aren't I? But bear with me for one more illustration. I'm not really trying to convince anyone to commute any differently than they already do. But you might find the different perspective interesting.

Yesterday was a gray, rainy day. Temp was low 40s in the mid-afternoon. I needed to go to work. Not for my regular shift. Simply an errand that would take an hour and a half or so. So I decided to cover two other errands that needed done in the same neighborhood as well. I knew that the weather was less than ideal and wondered if I shouldn't just drive. But I knew that dealing with the traffic going to these three separate locations would frustrate me. Heck.......just parking, shutting the car off, walking back and forth across a parking lot frustrates me if I have to do it more than once. ---I'm not kidding here. There've been times I've gone into town with, say, four stops in mind. After #2 I've found myself saying, "That's enough. The others are going to wait for another day" and then I went home.------

So......anyway........I went ahead and drove down to the bingo hall, got my bike and trailer out and started riding. A little bit of rain. But things were pleasant. About the time I reached my first stop, though, it started getting foggy. And I had some regrets about being out there on a bike in that. It was at a heavy traffic time of day. Late afternoon. And I'm well aware of just how mindless some of those drivers are in adverse weather conditions. But I didn't feel too bad about it. The drivers, actually, were pretty well behaved. ---maybe I don't give them enough credit, on average----
And I have plenty of good reflectors and wear a reflective vest. So my visibility is high. But I did find myself wondering if I ought to dig my headlights out of my baggage and run them. No doubt I would have, except that I wasn't all that far from my destination.

When I got out of work the Sun was down, the rain was steadier and heavier and it was colder. The fog had thinned, at least. But it was the sort of conditions that non-bicyclists would assume were unacceptable. Yet it was pleasant. My last stop was at the supermarket. My only real discomfort was inside the place. Because I was hot. I suppose I should have taken off a bit of my outer shell. But that's inconvenient and I wasn't in there very long.

I got out and loaded up the groceries in the bike trailer. Then I rode over toward the parking lot entrance and pulled up to a curb and smoked a cigarette. Temp was in the upper 30s, F. It was raining. Moderately. But enough to make someone in normal clothes wet and chilled. Yet I was just fine. My hands got a bit wet. But nothing worse than that.
Riding back to the truck there were times when I'd push my sleeves up above my elbows in order to lose heat. That's pretty common. But this night was just cold enough, and the ride was level enough, that it went back and forth.

Loading the bike and trailer in the truck, it was still raining. Yet it still wasn't unpleasant to me. The cab of the truck got a little wet because of me and my luggage. The luggage wasn't actually wet. I'd wrapped it in plastic. But the plastic was wet. And that got in the truck. But I didn't care about that since I was water-proof. When I started the truck the defroster was blowing cold, of course. Didn't matter to me. I was warm. When the defroster started putting out real heat I simply adjusted it colder.

It brings to mind something that non-bicyclists have trouble believing; in the winter, staying warm is never the problem. Getting rid of heat? Yes. That's the problem.

But it's a good problem to have. It means that 'outdoor season' simply doesn't end for me. There's practically no weather that's really unpleasant.

And life is good.

But wait..........I got sidetracked. The whole point of this rambling writing was to try to figure out just which bike to use or not. But the answer seems pretty obvious. No doubt I'll ride the motorized bicycle sometimes just because I do love that machine. But I doubt if it'll be everyday. From about mid-December to about mid-February it'll probably be more like once a week. Maybe not even that. The rest of the time it'll be by pedal bike, with some assistance from Chevrolet.

And another advantage to driving part way comes to mind. In the event of a mechanical breakdown, or a winter storm that gets worse than I'd figured on, that truck will be waiting at the bottom of the hill. That'll be better than slogging up that hill in ever-deepening snow. That's happened to me a few times. It's usually not such a big deal. But I remember one time when I was quite afraid of the cars slipping and sliding so close to me.
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