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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

DePanting Inertia and the Perplexing Syllogism of Winter Cycling

12/11/2013 #212 25m 28F
The hardest thing about an optional ride in adverse weather is the decision to take your pants off and start dressing for the ride. Once you've taken off your pants (depanted or discased would be the verb, I suppose; why don't we have a better word for that? I mean, we've got a word for defenestration, but no word for removing pants?) then you've made a committment, but until you've dropped trou you might still weasel out of the ride.

Fortunately, while vacillating do-I-stay-or-do-I-go I received a phonecall from my bike-riding friend R and I said aloud, "Yeah I'm just about to go out", so once I'd verbalized it I had to go, and it became easy — because I had to.

I rode to the local Podunk post office to drop off outgoing mail, and felt like the functional part of my ride was accomplished. Rode further north through Rochester PA which I LOVE because I get to ride the bike around one of the few actual roundabouts in Western PA, and everybody does so well and nobody has ever got their driver-panties in a bunch over a bike acting like a vehicle.

When there's no traffic I'll go around the roundabout a few times, but when there's cars and trucks etc I play it straight because they're being nice to me and even not killing me.

Rode north through New Brighton and Beaver Falls to Geneva College, which sits on top of the hill. Reversed and headed back to the Rez via a slightly different route which involves a sustained climb, which was nice because it kept me warm.

It was pretty cold out, 28F before the wind chill but I was mostly comfortable. There's a troublesome dynamic in winter cycling, in the form of a perplexing syllogism:

  • Responding to mechanical issues requires manual dexterity.
  • None of the buttons, levers, devices, or implements work with gloves on your hands.
  • When you take your gloves off, you lose your manual dexterity.
My conclusion is that any sustained mechanical response will involve either walking the bike out to heated shelter, or suffering through repeatedly working until the hands lose function, putting on gloves to restore function, and repeating. Ugh.

So, winter riding seems like an exercise in preparation, planning, good equipment, situational awareness, and judgement - which makes it a fun operation. Do it right and it seems easy; take it for granted and the wolf will be at your throat.

After I reached the Rez without casualty I got the bike inside and faced the Second Strip Challenge of the day: taking off the ride clothes in the cold bathroom to get into the shower. Our bathroom is not unusually cold, but I was spoiled to have a very warm bathroom in my youth.

For three winters I lived in a Levitt house with radiant heat in the bathroom floor, and the bathroom was in the center of the house (no exterior walls) and adjacent to the furnace closet. That bathroom was warm beyond description, and today I resisted changing for the second time, unwilling to get colder. I don't miss much about those years, but I do get nostalgic for that warm bathroom.

Finally I realized that I must HTFU and face the music; the transition was brief, the shower was hot, and life was good - I was inside and under roof on a harsh, cold day, and my foray outside was strictly optional. 25 miles in the bag.

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