Tuesday, January 11

(W)CHC Day #2 - Morning Commute

Today was hard. It was colder than yesterday. I made the whole ride in, the long way to take full advantage of the bike paths (Clear Creek Trail and Highway 93 path), and it took me over two hours.

I retraced my route from yesterday. I passed through Anderson Park no problem. Then when I saw the connector path from the parking lot over to the CCT my heart did a little jump for joy. I rolled easily over a thin layer of super-dry snow (Xtra-traction!) until I reached the CCT. Not plowed. Seriously?

Same spot as yesterday…

I didn’t think long about it before cranking forward into the untrammeled snow beside the packed footprints in the middle of the path. I kept going, trying to be positive, hoping against all hope that only a short section of the path was unplowed. I ended up having to walk for a few hundred feet until the path dumps out on Independence Court at 41st. When I picked up the path again west of Kipling it was plowed and I was happy, though moving slow at that point.

By then my ski goggles were useless, moist first, then glazed over with frost on the inside. I kept trying to keep them clean, but it was no use. For the remainder of the ride my eyes went naked, my eye lashes alternately freezing and then dripping. At least my contacts didn't freeze.

I plodded along into Golden and then down 10th to the CCT near the Golden Community Center. Then I turned south onto the new section of MUP along Highway 93. Plowing was less than adequate and for the first time ever I saw a sign on a path that read: "Steep Grade, Next 300 Feet." After the initial 300 feet I saw a sign that said "Steep Grade, Next 1300 Feet."

It was steep. It was snowy. I was tired. I had been going a long time.

I made it to work just in time to pick up some free grub for the reception after the swearing in of Jefferson County's new Commissioner. I locked up the OBS in the back stairwell on the ground floor. No carpet to soil, out of the way, little traffic, solid steel railing to cable to. Now I just hope no one from Facilities sees it and freaks out.

The mountain bike went well on the snow. The conditions now would be good for studded snow tires and I thought long and hard this morning about if they would be a benefit for me or just one more complication. They would help, but I don’t think they'd be necessary. There's really only one surface condition that gave me fits and studded tires would not have helped.

This morning much of the snow has been packed down by vehicles. So riding on the streets is sort of like riding on asphalt. The surface is firm and the traction is pretty good. Its still cold enough that the snow really hasn’t started to turn to ice en masse yet. But there are soft spots and sections of unconsolidated snow that grab your front wheel and whip it all around. It’s the soft patches that cause violent involuntary steering incidents that make the ride difficult. Studded tires wouldn't do a thing for that situation. Its like riding off the sidewalk into deep sand. There's really nothing you can do.

Also riding through the deeper snow, I don’t think studded tires would help. They may provide a bit of traction, but again, the problem is more about keeping the wheel straight, not slipping and sliding. For those that are familiar with the sensation, riding through snow a few inches deep, over a hard surface is very similar to surfing a wave on a river in a kayak. You use similar twitches of the hands and arms to control your craft.

Observations:

It takes a lot more TIME to cover the same distance in snow and/or below zero weather. Technically the air temperature was in the single digits, but the news reported negative windchills. I had to stop numerous times to adjust my headgear. My ski goggles ended up being useless and they have always been my last resort. Sunglasses or safety glasses would have been no better. It was time consuming to try and sort out my eyewear on the commute.

A stock mountain bike goes well in the snow without much winter specific gear.

I dressed in the same attire I would have worn if it had been as warm as 40 degrees this morning and for the most part I was comfortable. Despite winter boots my toes went numb and as I said previously, I had a lot of trouble figuring out a comfortable configuration for my headgear and eyewear.

I'm not sure if I'll be riding home, or just over the hill to meet Mandy tonight at the church building. We'll see.







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