Derailed – but Back in Gear!

Week 4 – January 25-29, 2016

Weather: January 29, 2016: -9°C (with wind chill -21°C), Cloudy. 30 percent chance of flurries. Wind northwest 30 km/h gusting to 50 km/h. Main roads are clear, side roads are icy.  On-road bike space ranged from clear to snow covered with some icy sections.

Consistent Attire: As previously discussed.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: MEC thermal arm coverings, 3/4 sleeve dress, and Bula balaclava.

Since Friday of last week, my daily schedule has seen me needing a car to be able to attend meetings at various locations throughout the Region of Waterloo in Ontario Canada.  Some of the destinations were a reasonable distance by bike, but in the winter weather would have taken me approximately 1 hour to ride and I only had 30 minutes between meetings.

My first instinct was to beat myself up about not mounting the bike seat, but I took a step back and reminded myself that the whole point of this blog and my efforts at winter cycling are related to improving my health.   Mental health is just as important as physical health and I need to be kind to myself.  So I looked to the other times in my day where I could keep my health commitments.  These included riding my indoor bike on a trainer and ensuring that I was eating healthy.  Returning to a healthy weight is my big goal for 2016 so ensuring that I eat right, and not too much on the days I do not cycle are critically important.

Friday January 29, 2016 saw me back in the seat.  Although the forecast called for clouds, it was a beautiful sun shiny day!  The side streets were snow covered and very icy, but the Norco #Bigfoot, aka the Batpod managed those roads expertly.  There was a significant headwind so I wanted to move into a lower gear.  This gear change resulted in the realization that my front de-railer was iced up. I promptly dropped and jammed the chain.  So much, unexpected fun! So I now know I have to buck up for hard riding. The front will remain in high gear until we get a good thaw and any range in gears will be limited to the rear de-railer.

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No No Don’t Make Me Go!

Week 3 – Day 3 – January 19, 2016

IMG_20160112_114257Weather: -5°C (with wind chill -13°C), Cloudy. 30 percent chance of flurries early this morning. A few flurries beginning near noon. Wind becoming west 20 km/h near noon. Roads were clear on the way to the office and snow covered with tracks bare.  The bike space was completely snow covered.

Consistent Attire: As previously discussed.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: MEC thermal arm coverings, sleeveless dress, Bula balaclava and wool felt jacket.

For reasons I cannot explain I did not want to mount the bike seat today! I had to work from home in the morning because I had a contractor doing work at the house. I think my hibernation instincts kicked in and I really, Really, REALLY wanted to give into them.

Words cannot describe how I laboured to put on my cycling gear and make my way up (because everything is up hill right?) my street.  Thankfully the major streets to work were clear and that helped improve the riding effort.

In the same vein as, “what goes up must come down”; upon riding to work, I must also ride home.  Therefore I give much less thought to whether or not I wish to ride at the end of the working day.  It snowed much of the afternoon so for the ride home the cycling space was snow covered.  I like riding in the snow, but navigating through vehicle tracks is very tricky.  The bicycle tires are drawn into the track and exiting the track is very hard.  It is especially difficult in the spaces where the busses pull over to pick up and drop off passengers.  Any snow that might be caught in the bus wheel wells typically release from the effort of starting and stopping adding a few more obstacles for a winter cyclist.

To my friends who are automobile drivers I would like to share with you that if you think you are teaching me a lesson by crowding me and scaring the life out of me? Please know, I am not giving in to your tactics but I am taking down your licence plate number. With Love, Diane

Tackling the Hinterland

Week 3 – Day 2 – January 19, 2016

Weather: -5°C (with wind chill -13°C), Cloudy. 30 percent chance of flurries early this morning. A few flurries beginning near noon. Wind becoming west 20 km/h near noon. Roads were snow covered with reduced visibility because of snow and blowing snow.

Consistent Attire: As previously discussed.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: Not needed today.

Today was one of those days where I needed to be everywhere at the same time.  As much as I wanted to cycle to work, I knew that I did not have enough time between meetings to be able to use public transit as my primary mode of transportation.

So, in keeping with my promise to myself I hopped on my indoor training set up and cycled for 30 minutes.  I am so used to building up a huge sweat while riding that I had all the windows open in my sun room. Not exactly a wonderful thing for the rest of my family 🙂

To add in a bit of humour be sure to check out this video produced by this hour has 22-minutes and called: Hinterland Who’s Who-Winter cyclist: http://www.cbc.ca/22minutes/videos/clips-season-22/hinterland-whos-who-the-winter-cyclist

 

Me, My Bike and My Confidence Meet Mr. Snow-Miser

Week 3 – Day 1 – January 18, 2016

Weather: -9°C (with wind chill -20°C), Flurries and local snow squalls.  Local amount 10 – 15 cm.  Wind west 30 km/hour gusting to 50 km/hour. (Snow squall warning in effect). Roads were snow covered with reduced visibility because of snow and blowing snow.

Consistent Attire: As previously discussed.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: Sleeveless dress, MEC thermal fleece arm covers, Bula microfleece balaclava.

Winter in Ontario, Canada is never complete without a good snow squall!  Today was truly a winter wonderland.  When I looked out this morning I exclaimed to my husband what a beautiful day! Hearing no hint of sarcasm he asked you are kidding right? He further exclaimed surely you are not planning to cycle today?  I said of course I am planning to ride.  The snow creates a high traction surface and the trail riding in snow is incredibly beautiful!

In reflecting on today’s conversation with my husband I realize that in years past I would NEVER have ventured out on a bicycle in weather like today.  In fact many automobile operators do not even want to be out today!  What has changed? Many things including: me, my bike, my gear, my confidence, my desire to change my life and my keen interest to encourage others to consider ways to leave their car at home.

To account for a slower ride I allow my ride time to be about 1/3 longer than it would take in the summer months.  Today it was even longer because I had to stop for some interim bike alterations and some photo opportunities.

While tackling major roads, the sidewalk was my preferred cycling location.  In weather such as we have today, adding a car target, like a cyclist, to the roadway is very frustrating for drivers.  Being a driver, I know that and chose to cycle on the sidewalk.  I stopped at all crosswalks, dismounted and pushed my bike across.  Preventable collisions happen most frequently at intersections.  Please keep this in mind as you engage in our transportation systems.

Where the bike was concerned, my rear de-railer froze and I locked the chain when I tried to shift gears.  That was a fun experience that I would prefer not to repeat too soon.  This happened because I rode in slush yesterday.  The temperature in my garage dropped to -7 °C last night so the slush located in my rear de-railer froze.  I need to grease the bike up a bit tonight to ensure that this does not happen again too soon.  The frozen de-railer had a chain-reaction (pun totally intended) that resulted in a ride wherein I was stuck in one gear :-).  I was able to trouble shoot the problem while still within a block of my home.  I made the decision that I would ride in a “tougher” gear than I would have preferred.  I am Canadian…and willing to work harder in our Canadian winter.

It was a wonderful morning ride to City Hall! Four neighbours were out shovelling driveways, pre-heating cars and scrapping windshields.  I said good morning to all.  One neighbour hollered good for you! I responded with thanks and commented how lucky I am with no windshield to clear.

While riding the trails I met City of Waterloo staff who were busy clearing the trail to ensure it is accessible for all users.  I also caught up with the City of Waterloo 55+ hiking group also enjoying the trail.  I was again reminded that I am not the only one to use the City trails. IMG_20160118_094702

It continued to snow all day and riding in the dark on unlit trails can be very sketchy.  My commute home was initiated by partnering with Grand River Transit for a bus lift to Conestoga Mall.  I pushed my bike through the mall to the exit located in the direction of my home.  It was my plan to cycle home from the Mall on less travelled side streets and through community parks.  I did take this route, however, the mall parking lot had yet to be fully cleared, the roads were not easily passable, the park trail was not cleared, it was sheer ice under the snow,  and the sidewalk on the major road to my home had yet to be cleared.  So a huge SHOUT OUT to the home owners who had cleared the sidewalk in front of their homes.  Between riding on the cleared sidewalks and pushing the bike through snow drifts and the un-cleared park trail I made it home.  The commute tonight tested my resolve much more than my commute this morning.  It snowed a tremendous amount today and upon my arrival I shovelled the driveway and front porch.  My adult boys had previously shovelled so the work was not as significant as it could have been.

Promises Made and Promises Kept!

Weekend 2 – January 15 – 17, 2016

Weather: Ranged from plus 3 to -6 degrees C. Precipitation included rain, freezing rain and snow. The roads ranged from clear to icy to snow covered.

Consistent Attire: As per other posts.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: Sunday the weather was -6 degrees. For this ride I wore a sleeveless dress and MEC thermal arm coverings.

This blog includes my write up for the weekend and for last Friday.  The weather on Friday was rain with the temperature dropping from a high of 3 degrees C through to minus something cold. 🙂  I had meetings in Guelph Friday morning and while I would have liked to say I commuted, the 37 km, I did not.  The ride would not be “do able” on my fat tire bike.  Further many of the roads are posted 80 km/hour and not conducive to supporting winter cycling options.

Even though I did not commute outside on Friday I did start my day with a 45 minute ride inside on my road bike and CycleOps trainer.  I used this time to prepare for my 9 am meeting by reading the 147 page meeting package.  I will willingly share with you that I did not feel like getting up at 5:45 am and I did not want to put myself in the bike seat.  Nonetheless I made a promise to myself to undertake 30 minutes per day of exercise.  When I completed my indoor ride I will admit I felt great and ready to take on the day.

Saturday started out both quiet and lazy!  I loved it!  For those who know me well, they would tell you that I do not “idle” well.  As the day progressed, I reflected on how many calories I chose to enjoy last night at the Kitchener Rangers Game and the call to the bike seat got louder as the day wore on.  So at 8pm I finally mounted my bike on my indoor trainer and started turning the pedals.  Again I did not feel like exercising, but that promise to me spoke louder than my dissent so I exercised.  Every time this happens, I always feel better to have rode the bike!  Great excuse to enjoy an outdoor time in the hot tub after.

Sunday I attended the New Year Levee for MPP Catherine Fife.  I completed this 4 km commute in the snow on the Batpod.  The minor subdivision roads were icy and snow covered, but very manageable on my Norco “Bigfoot” bike.  The major roads were track bare and the bike lanes were snow covered.  The snow covered bicycle space was excellent.  The snow provided for very good traction.

Upon arrival at the Levee I parked my bike inside (no bike parking) and what a wonderful conversation generating tool the bike is!  Many asked how I managed the roads.  I responded by saying that when speed is controlled so is the bike.  Without question, I feel very safe and in control while commuting on the Batpod.  I also love the crisp weather air.  Week 2? Done and Done. 🙂

 

1m Passing Law Applies in the Winter

Week 2 – Day 4 – January 14, 2016

Weather: -10°C (-18°C with wind chill) snow.  Roads were snow covered.  Bike lanes in the morning were snow covered with slushy sections especially around bus stop locations.

Consistent Attire: As per previous posts.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: Leggings (Costco), and a dress with full-length sleeves. Notice I am starting to layer less and less?  I am really learning how much heat I personally generate while riding.

Bikes still belong and the Ontario one-metre passing law still applies in the winter.  Over the past two days I have observed three kinds of motor vehicle operators.  The first is the “old school” who will drive into oncoming traffic to provide adequate clearance for a cyclist. The second is the one who will crowd a cyclist and where possible drive in the marked bicycle lane.  The third is the one who drives “just right” 🙂

For all those non-cyclists motor vehicle operators who just might be reading this Blog there is great news for you! Clear guidance on how to share-the-road the road with a bicycle is provided in the Ontario Highway Traffic Act http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/safety/bicycle-safety.shtml.  Here are the details:

One-Metre Passing Law:

Q1: What is the penalty to drivers for not leaving a minimum of one-metre distance when passing a cyclist?

The penalty for not leaving a minimum one-metre passing distance is a set fine of $85.00 plus a $5 court fee plus a $20 victim surcharge fine for a total payable of $110.00.

Drivers who contest their ticket by going to court may face a fine of up to $500 if found guilty (fine range is $60 to $500). Upon conviction, two demerit points will also be assigned against the individual’s driver record.

Q2: Will cyclists also be required to leave a minimum one-metre distance when passing a vehicle?

Cyclists are not required to leave a specific one-metre space; however, they are required to obey all the rules of the road.   Cyclists who are being overtaken should turn out to the right to allow the vehicle to pass.

Q3: What if there isn’t enough room to allow for a one-metre passing distance?  Can a vehicle cross the centre median line to pass the cyclist?

A motorist may, if done safely, and in compliance with the rules of the road, cross the centre line of a roadway in order to pass a cyclist. If this cannot be done, he or she must wait behind the cyclist until it is safe to pass.

For clarity the above law applies to the roads year around and not just for spring, summer and fall months where roads may seem more supportive of cycling as a commuting choice.

I know that we all feel that our lives are too short to slow down and share-the-road, but the truth is a decrease in 10 km/hour of speed across a 1 or 2 km road way typically adds less than a minute to you drive and may save a life.

Today the roads were completely snow covered and the ride was slow because it was very technical.  Just like a car, the Batpod has more control when I ride more slowly.  I had a scary moment today when I was passed by a vehicle which chose to crowd me by driving into the marked and visible bicycle lane.  They continued to drive in the marked and visible bicycle lane for a long way.   I was also passed by a few folks who, even with a lot of room, chose to operate their vehicle inside the 1 metre passing area.  If I was operating my bicycle in the middle of the road I might understand these choices (well actually I would not understand them) but I was riding in a clearly visible, marked bicycle lane.

Having been hit by two cars in the past, these few vehicle operators unnerved me a bit today so I rode through some parking lots to get to work. 🙂 My resilience was tested.  I passed and I feel great about it!

Building an Inclusive Community

Week 2 – Day 3 – January 13, 2016

Weather: -10°C (-18°C with wind chill) snow.  Roads were snow covered.  Bike lanes in the morning were snow covered with slushy sections especially around bus stop locations.

Consistent Attire: Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) rain resistant, breathable knee length jacket, motorcycle cold weather leather gloves with high gauntlets, MEC thermal barrier tights and winter boots.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: MEC thermal arm coverings, 3/4 length cycling pants and a dress with full-length sleeves.

I am not alone!  Over the past week and a half of my commitment to winter cycling I have learned that I am not the only one seeking active transportation as a tool by which to commute around the City of Waterloo.  I have seen bike tracks on roads, and on trails.  I have passed other intrepid cyclists making their way clearly geared up for the ride. I have passed pedestrians and runners.

In addition to observing bike tracks I also observed wheelchair tracks.  This observation really stayed with me. It reminds me why it is we build communities for all people.  It reminds me that each and every one of us is only temporarily able bodied.  It reminds me that when we build active transportation corridors we build an inclusive community. It reminds me of my responsibility as a City Councillor to continue to ensure our community supports all transportation modes including: cars, buses, trucks, motorbikes, bicycles, pedestrians, runners, wheelchairs, scooters and more!

I am thankful for what I am learning.  My observations will make me a better Councillor.  Pushing myself to continue my health filled commute and to write this blog is giving added purpose to my daily routine.  I am learning that I will not freeze in our beautiful Canadian winter and I am building personal resiliency to change.  The cold, fresh air and exercise is also helping me sleep like a rock! 😀

I am not alone! If you are an active commuter and you are willing to share some experiences please email them to me and let me know if I can include them in a blog post.  You can email me through my personal website: www.dianefreeman.ca.

Week 2 – Day 2 – January 12, 2016

Weather: -5 degrees C, snow, snow squalls with a special weather statement related to winter storm conditions. Roads were snow covered with icy sections. Trails were snow covered.

IMG_20160112_114257

Consistent Attire: Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) rain resistant, breathable knee length jacket, motorcycle cold weather leather gloves with high gauntlets, MEC thermal barrier tights and winter boots.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: MEC thermal arm coverings, 3/4 length cycling pants and a dress with 3/4 sleeves.

“Should I stay or should I go?” (The Clash). That was definitely what I asked myself this morning as I looked out at 6:30 am to see the world blanketed in about 3 inches of snow and a steady snow falling.  My first meeting of the day was 8 am and 7 km from home.  I decided to go! (below is a photo of the tracks left behind as I left my home).

IMG_20160112_083214

I left while it was still dark outside so I was loaded up with lights and reflective gear.  The cars operating on the road were noticeably sliding and traction for the cars was very poor.  Not wanting to contribute to an already harrowing motor vehicle drive, I once again felt obligated to ride on the sidewalks.  The City snow plows were working very hard but there was really no space for a car to share the road with a bicycle.  Also being a car driver I could imagine the concern I would have seeing a cyclist on the road during a winter storm event.

At my first opportunity I headed into the off-road trail system.  What a “Zen” experience it was.  Although I was not the first set of tracks on the trails, I did not see anyone or anything except for the mallard ducks frolicking in the sections of open water I passed over or rode alongside on my bike.  It was a beautiful ride.

After my meeting I combined my commute back to work between Grand River Transit and cycling.

I left work midday.  The snow had fallen, gusted and drifted all day.  The ride was slow and technical.  I took every chance I had to ride through business parking lots and stay clear of the snow covered, slick and narrow roads.  The bike tires operate much better on snow than slush.

All in all, I was glad I chose to ride today and I really built some confidence on a very blustery day!

Week 2 – Day 1 – January 11, 2016

Weather: -10°C (with wind chill -16°C), sunny with light snow, 40 km/hr winds gusting to 60 km/hr. Bike lanes were snow covered and slushy.  Trail connections were icy and snow covered but very passable on the soft 4″ tires.

Consistent Attire: Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) rain resistant, breathable knee length jacket, motorcycle cold weather leather gloves with high gauntlets, MEC thermal barrier tights and winter boots.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: Sleeveless dress, thermal fleece jacket, Bula microfleece balaclava, contact lens (no more fogged glasses), cycling helmet. Hair is finished in a bun on the top of my head because I think it will be a high cardio sweaty ride.

Winter has arrived in Ontario, Canada! Today was the first day where my winter mettle and the Batpod metal were put to a real test.  When I looked out the window and saw the trees bowing to the wind I really wanted to pack this whole winter riding thing in.  But, I made a promise to me. This blog is really helping me to keep that promise, so thank you for reading and sharing it.

The morning ride was sunny and very windy. There was many times where I was riding in first gear.  Because of the winter storm we had last night the on road bike lanes were thick with snow and slush.  The car lanes looked icy and slippery so in some locations where the road was narrow I rode on the sidewalk.  Sidewalk riding goes against everything I try to stand for, but living to see another day outweighs the potential traffic violation.  I have no patience for glasses fogging up anymore, so I am wearing my contact lens on the bike.  The “contacts” work very well and my eyes did not dry up or even water as much as usual.

I loaded my bike up with lights.  The snow combined with low light results in the world looking black and white.  A black bike and a rider in a brown jacket will just not stand out in those conditions.  So regardless of the time of day I am now riding with a flashing red tail light and a bright white front light.

The bike handled very well on all of the snow, ice, and slush conditions.  The ride was labored, but that was mainly a result of very very heavy panniers.  Today was a laptop, lunch and ipad transfer day. The bags weighted around 20 lbs.  Between the weight, the cold, and the wind my 15 minute 3.3 km ride took closer to 30 minutes.  It was quite the workout. 🙂  Upon arrival at the office I really felt that I had accomplished something and that was a super feeling!

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I had meetings at City Hall starting at 1pm today so I mounted the bike for the 7 km ride to Waterloo City Hall.  For the majority of my ride, I travelled on a multi-use trail.  Below are some photos of the trail conditions during the ride.  I rode on the Forwell trail, Hillside trail, and the Laurel trail.

The trail was lovely to ride on.  The trees blocked the wind and snow.  The fat tires travelled well on the surface.  My ride to City Hall took about 45 minutes, but I did stop a number of times to take photos so the timing is not likely quite right.

After my meetings I needed to take a break from the bike seat 🙂 so I hitched a ride with Grand River Transit back to Conestoga Mall.  The bike will not fit on the front bike rack so I need to ask permission of the driver if I can bring it on board. Today’s driver was not to keen to allow the bike on, but in the end the driver permitted it.

The forecast for tomorrow is a winter storm so we will see if it looks safe to be on the roads when the cars are slip-sliding away.

Weekend 1 – Saturday and Sunday – January 9, 10, 2016

Weather: Saturday High of 5, fog and rain.  Sunday High of 4, rain until noon. Temperature dropping to -10. 1pm ice pellets 3 pm snow and wind gusting 80 km/hour.
As a part of my personal commitment to me, I am striving to undertake 30 minutes or more of exercise per day.  I had planned to downhill ski on Saturday, but it was raining so I put my Norco A1 Forma road bike on my cyclops fluid 2 trainer.  My A1 Forma has been fitted with a trainer tire for the winter months in an effort to extend the operating life of my road tires.  The cyclops trainer is really amazing! www.cycleops.com/.  It is utterly silent and I can cycle without waking up my household of sleepyheads!

Trainer

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You may observe in the above photo that I have equipped my bike with a holder for my tablet.  I love to read when I am cycling indoors.  I read downloaded books and/or magazines from my local library or through my “texture” app and subscription.  I purchased a Yorkville Sound – iPad/Tablet Mic Stand Mount which fits quite nicely on my handle bar.  I purchased my mount at Long and Mcquade our local music store. www.long-mcquade.com/.   I sing, play guitar, and keyboards so the Mic Stand Mount will be well used.

tabletholder

I ride the bike/trainer in my sunroom with the windows open in the winter.  I really need to feel the fresh air on my face and see the sun and/or clouds.  I always get overheated so in addition to my MEC cycling shorts I simply wear a sleeveless tank top.

In work as an environmental engineer, and an elected politician.  I am a member of the Council for the City of Waterloo www.waterloo.ca in Ontario, Canada.  Over my almost 10 years on City Council, I am proud to say that the City has become a Silver Bike Friendly community as awarded by the Canadian Share-the-road coalition. www.sharetheroad.ca.  Waterloo was the first city in Canada to approve a “complete streets” policy in the Official plan document.  The City also commits financial resources to build dedicated bike infrastructure.  I am proud of the work my colleagues and I have done on Council related to active transportation and look forward to doing more.  The saying “if you build it they will come” from the movie field of dreams is very applicable to describing investments in active transportation infrastructure.

Sunday was an interesting day weather wise.  I walked to church in the morning in 4 degree C weather and rain.  I had lunch at home then commuted by bike to the City of Waterloo Mayor and Council New Year’s Levee for 1 pm.  The weather undertook a rapid drop in temperature and by the end of the event it was blowing snow.

Whenever there is snow on the way I choose to ride my Norco “Batpod”.  I am sure glad I did! I rode to the event (4.1 km) in headwinds complete with ice pellets.  I wore a thermal fleece jacket under my MEC commuter coat, waterproof pants, waterproof winter boots and motorcycle winter gloves. When I left at 3pm it was blowing snow and wind gusting to 80 km/hour.  At one point I walked my bike across a crosswalk and between the frozen surface and the wind I had a hard time not sliding.  The ride was uneventful other than it was very challenging cycling into the strong wind.  The bike handled beautifully and rode over the ice and snow with ease.  When I arrived home, my husband was surprised to see me and was sure I would call for a ride in the blustery conditions.

I am feeling good about my tricky ride home and starting to build some confidence in cold and challenging weather.  I wished I had had more lights for the ride.  Even though it was still day time, the poor weather reduced the visibility substantially and flashing bright bike lights would have been a very good thing to have.

At the event I brought my bike out for people to see.  I received a lot of comments and children had fun sitting on the bike seat for photos.  When it was time to leave a few folks were quite surprised to see a woman, in a dress, gear up and head out on the bike. Sweet! 🙂