Back in the Saddle!

Back in the Saddle!

Week 10 – March 7, 2016

Weather: Mainly cloudy with 60 percent chance of showers early morning then mix of sun and cloud. Wind southwest 20 km/h gusting to 40. High 10°C . UV index 4 or moderate.

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

Variable Attire based on the temperature: sleeveless dress, and 180s ear muffs.

My last blog post was February 12th and since then I have been travelling all over the Province, but unfortunately my bike was parked in the garage.  My week in the Dominican Republic was beautiful and warm.  In keeping with my commitment for heathy living, I walked over 10,000 steps per day and played three rounds of golf.  I worked hard to rest and eat well, but with unlimited food and alcoholic beverages …. Well you get the picture.

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The week of February 22 saw me in and out of Toronto every day for 7 days straight, along with two days in Ottawa.  My vehicle was of course needed for these trips and I did not enjoy the time away from my bike.  The Ottawa trip was complete with a winter storm and significant flight delays.  This resulted in a last minute change to take VIA rail back to Toronto and the UP Express to Pearson where I met my driver for a ride back to Waterloo Region.  I was home and in bed before my flight from Ottawa even landed in Toronto!

Last week saw me back into Toronto on Monday followed by a winter storm event Tuesday night and into Wednesday.  I put my upper back out and spent much of Thursday at the Chiropractor and Massage clinic….Friday started at 7 am in Downtown Kitchener followed by work then travel to Niagara Falls for #cuvee2016.  Suffice to say, cycling was not in the horizon for last week either.  I thought about my bike a lot in Niagara Falls this past weekend as the weather was stunning and there is so much investment in cycling infrastructure in and around the area as well as the surrounding wine region. I was longing to be on my bike.

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It is 10 degrees of beautiful today! I cycled to the office. I am uncertain if I can still refer to this commute as “winter cycling”.  Today will also be my first commute from my new workplace to City Hall.  There is a lot of construction along my preferred route related to a new rail commuter train known locally as the #ION so I am a bit uncertain as to what trails are open, partially open or altogether closed, but I plan to find out.

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Feb.12-Winter Bike to Work Day!

Weather: Mainly cloudy with 60 percent chance of flurries. Wind becoming southwest 30 km/h gusting to 50 this morning. High minus 6°C (wind chill -21). Flurries ending this evening then clearing. Local blowing snow this evening. Wind northwest 40 km/h gusting to 60. Low minus 23. Wind chill minus 38.

Consistent Attire: As previously discussed.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: long-sleeved jersey dress, and Bula balaclava.

Today is the last day of my first week at my new job.  It was also winter bike to work day.  Friday, February 12th, 2016 was the 4th annual international Winter Bike to Work Day as established by http://winterbiketoworkday.org/ almost 10,000 people around the globe committed on line to the ride, including me!

The ride was very “fresh”, well maybe cold, but completing it made me feel that I accomplished something.  My new colleagues at work are likely wondering if I they are now working with a crazy lady 🙂

The extra 1.3 km of commute is not much, but in the morning it feels like an eternity!  I don’t know why this is.  I just keep telling myself to keep calm and peddle on 🙂

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I am leaving tomorrow for a week of ‘fun-in-the-sun’ with my 20 year old son.  The golf links in the Dominican Republic are calling to us.  Upon my return I am speaking at the Ontario Good Roads Association Conference on building bicycle friendly communities.  If you are at the Conference and a follower of this blog be sure to drop into the workshop and say hello.

Signing out until February 25. CHEERS!

 

A New Job = A New Commute!

Over the past while I have set my mind towards undertaking a career change!  As exciting and challenging as that can be, one priority for me to consider was to ensure I could continue to actively recreate while commuting to and from work.  In considering where I could/should look for work every consideration came with evaluating my ability to access work actively.  I considered the following:

  1. The “BIG” City: Toronto, Ontario Canada: my commute to this location would include a 15 minute bike ride, a 30 minute bus ride and 2 1/2 hour GO Transit ride. I have worked in Toronto before and I love Toronto, it is an amazing City. Although careers in Toronto can be very exciting they can also be a challenge to get to with the magnitude of grid lock that exists for commuters travelling on the major Ontario Highways or choosing public transit. Spending over 6 hours per day commuting is not desirable no matter how much I might Love Toronto.
  2. A “near-by” Community: Kitchener and Waterloo, Ontario Canada are often referred to as the “twin-cities” because the boundary between the two, for the average visitor, is non-existent. A career in Kitchener near to the city borders would be an easy commute by bike or by a combination of bike and bus. As you head out to the suburban areas of Kitchener a commute by bike and bus could easily become in excess of 1 or even 2 hours each way.
  3. A “neighbouring” Community: Guelph and Cambridge, Ontario Canada are a 30-50 km commute each way depending on where you are going in those communities and the roads available for a cyclist. I would need to use a light-weight road-bike to undertake these distances and I would require the destination to have access to a shower for sure. For Cambridge I could combine my commute with bus transit.  For Guelph I could consider using the GO Transit which has limited hours.  Either choice would result in a significant multi-modal commute (minimum of 1 1/2 hours each way) that would become rather in-flexible without easy access to a car.
  1. Stay in town: When you narrow your search for your “dream job” down to a reasonable in-town bicycle commute of 10 km each way, you certainly narrow your opportunities too.

Fortunes shone on me and I accepted an position as a Senior Engineer working for a Architectural firm located just 1.3 km further than my previous commute!  I am navigating so much change this week.  For 23 years I worked as an environmental consulting engineer and now I am shifting gears to working as a senior engineer with an Architecture firm.  Imagine the joy and nervousness that is combined with this move!

I made my first trek to my new office yesterday.

Weather: February 11, 2016: -12°C (with wind chill -20°C), Cloudy. flurries. Wind northwest 20 km/hr gusting to 40 km/hr. Main roads clear, side roads snow covered.  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, sleeveless wool dress, 180s ear muffs and Bula balaclava at night.

The ride in the morning was sunny with light flurries.  The cold did not seem to be to unmanageable, but the ride home at 8pm was a bitter cold.  It was the first time I have had to stop riding to try to warm up my hands.

My new ride in the cold and snow is about 20 – 30 minutes depending on how much snow is on the roads.

Bottom Line?  I have a new job and I have tackled my first winter commute to the new location and it was GREAT!

Budget Day Stress Buster!

Week 6 – Monday February 8, 2016

Weather: Cloudy with 70 percent chance of rain showers or flurries.  High plus 4

Routine Gear: As discussed previously.

Variable Gear: Bula balaclava, long sleeved dress, winter boots.

Today was budget day at the City of Waterloo.  The work associated with the creation of a three year budget began over a year ago.  I spent the better part of my Birthday yesterday working through the budget documents (again) so I left the house this morning with much on my mind.

It was cloudy so I did not receive the sunshine hit of vitamin D, which I always look forward to.  Never-the-less, the ride was wonderful.  About ½ way to City Hall, I realized I left my cell phone at home.  This realization actually caused me some concern.  When I am cycling I feel that my cellphone is a part of my emergency management plan.  I have been rear-ended by no less than two vehicles on two separate ‘preventable collisions’ and having my cell phone to call for police and EMS brings me a sense of peace while riding.

The budget work reflects the commitment of the City of Waterloo to supporting active transportation.  In 2015, the City of Waterloo counted over 1 Million trips (walking and biking) across all City trail counters. The counts are reflected in the graph included.

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Budget day did not end until 10 pm.  By that time it had snowed for some time and it was wet, slippery snow.  Because I did not have the fat tire bike I “called a friend” to bail me out and drive me home.  The lucky friend was my hubby 🙂

Coldest Bike Ride of the Year? Not Quite

Weekend 5 – Saturday and Sunday February 6 and 7, 2016

Weather: Mainly cloudy with sunny breaks. Wind west 30 km/h becoming light after Midnight. High plus 3. Sunday February 7, 2016 was sunny with increasing cloudiness.  Wind becoming south 20 km/h early this afternoon. High plus 3

Routine Gear: As discussed previously.

Variable Gear: Bula balaclava, long sleeved dress, Fluevog Locke short boot (not insulated)

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Saturday was another beautiful day to ride.  The roads were lightly snow covered from an overnight dusting of snow so I decided to ride the “Batpod” this morning.  I awoke with a slight head ache and very tight shoulders.  I was thankful to be heading out on the bike as I knew it would be a great stress-buster.  My first meeting of the day was breakfast with friends at a favourite local establishment known as the Daily Grill.  It is now going on 6 years that I have been requesting a bike rack at this restaurant.  To date I have made no progress with the restaurant owner or the property owner.  I still remain hopeful 🙂 Until then, the above tree acts as my temporary lock up provided the area is not loaded with snow.  The tree has also grown so much that my U-lock no longer fits around the truck!After breakfast I rode to a near by transit terminal to board the bus to downtown Kitchener.  My Norco Bigfoot fat tire bike does not fit on the front rack of the bus.  The bus drivers today were awesome and encouraging to me when I brought my bike on board. Some times I jam the rear wheel against the folding seats on the bus as shown below and other times I stand with the bike.  When I am standing I keep a hand on one of the brakes so the bike does not roll.

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The City of Kitchener active transportation committee organized the annual ‘coldest bike ride of the year’ event.   I am uncertain if I should say the weather did or did not co-operate with the planned ride.   It was far from being the coldest day this winter, but the warmer weather combined with a burst of sunshine seemed to motivate more cyclists to participate. There were 18 bikes and one wee toddler passenger.

The group of us rode from Kitchener City Hall to Waterloo City Hall using the brand spankin’ new Spur Line trail.  This beautiful off-road trail is paved and complete with overhead lights!  From the Spur Line trail we rode on the Iron Horse trail to the Berlin Bicycle Café located in a part of Kitchener known as Belmont Village.

On the ride home I decided to hitch another GRT bus ride for a part of the way.  I wanted to get home so I could get ready to celebrate my Birthday on Saturday night with friends!

Sunday was my birthday! Like most Sundays I walked to and from Church in the morning. That was the extend of my exercise today because I had to work on my City of Waterloo Budget package in preparation for Budget Day tomorrow.  Outside of preparing for tomorrow I had a lovely Birthday.

Toronto Bound!

Week 5 – Thursday-Friday – February 4-5, 2016

Weather: Thursday February 4, 2016 High of 1 degree C. No precipitation. February 5, 2016. A mix of sun and cloud with 40 percent chance of flurries.  Wind southwest 20 km/h.  High of 0 degrees C.

Gear: Walking gear!

My meetings on Thursday and Friday of this week found me working at the Offices of Professional Engineers Ontario located at Yonge and Sheppard in Toronto, Ontario.

As much as I wish I could say I commuted by public transit, I cannot.  Sometimes time really is money! I did however park the car and walk the 1 km from the hotel to PEO.  As well, because I was not getting my high cardio time in the bike seat I also had to manage my food intake.

Friday saw me walking and riding the “Red Rocket”, also known at the Toronto Transit System. Ahhh the joys of the ‘big city’.

 

I’m Riding on Sunshine!

Week 5 – Tuesday and Wednesday – February 2-3, 2016

Weather: Wednesday February 3, 2016 was the warmest February 3 on record at a high of 14 degrees C! Rain in morning and increasing winds during the day.

Routine Gear: As discussed previously except I only needed spring riding gloves.

Variable Gear: I80s earmuffs, 3/4 sleeve dress, Fluevog Locke short boot (not insulated).

Tuesday was one of those crazy days that started out with 7:30 am meeting in South Kitchener followed by meetings in North Waterloo.  Although the weather was spring like, I had to leave the bike parked in the garage at home.  When the sun came out around noon I was so wishing that I was sitting in the saddle of the Trek Cocoa!

Wednesday was the warmest February 3 on record with a high of 14 degrees C.  I had a day that would include a couple of 30-40 minute rides. Although it was raining when I left the house, I still wanted to ride and enjoy the fresh air.

When you commute daily remember to check tire pressure at least once per week.  I had to pump up the rear tire on my Trek commuter prior to heading out.  I have an awesome hand floor pump that includes an easy to read pressure gauge.  If you do not own one of these it is worth the investment.  They are not too expensive and I use it on our family bicycles as well as my Vespa.

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It was lightly raining when I left home this morning but it was still an excellent, fast commute. I did not have to worry about glasses fogging up so I was able to wear my cycling glasses.

I love my cycling glasses!  I wear Serfas www.serfas.com.  I have had them for about 5 years.  They came with four inner changeable lenses as well as an Rx insert I had filled with my eye glass prescription.  Eye protection while riding is very important, we only have one set of eyes.

As the day wore on, I headed out for my much anticipated 30 minute ride.  Unfortunately the head winds became so strong that I had to make a change on the fly and ride home to exchange my two wheels for my four wheels with a gas engine so that I would not be late for my meetings.

The winds remained high for the balance of the day but I still enjoyed the blazing sunshine from the seat in my Hyundai Tucson.

The Promise of Spring

Week 5 – Monday – February 1, 2016

Weather: Mainly cloudy. Wind west 20 km/h becoming light this afternoon. High plus 2.

Routine Gear: As discussed previously.

Variable Gear: I80s earmuffs http://180s.com/, MEC thermal arm coverings, sleeveless dress, Fluevog Locke short boot (not insulated) www.fluevog.com

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It was a beautiful day to ride.  The roads were clear so I decided to ride my Trek Cocoa urban commuter bike.  I was headed to City Hall for a 9 am meeting.  It was the City of Waterloo Capital Budget Day, so upon arrival I knew it would be a day of heavy, thought-filled conversations.  The ride really helped to clear my head and prepare me for the day.

The off-road trails were clear in appearance, but there were many areas of both ice and “black-ice”. I passed a “fellow” bike commuter in the morning pushing his bike.  I was so focused on not arriving to City Hall late, that it was not until after I passed him that I realized he may have been in need of assistance and require a bike pump or something of that same ilk.  I felt like a smuck until I passed him in the evening on the ride home and was able to ask if he had needed assistance in the morning.  He informed me that he had taken a fall in the morning on black ice.  He injured his knee and leg and was walking the balance of his commute when I passed him because he did not want to risk another fall.  I observed that he rode clipped into his pedals.  Admittedly I have taken a few topples while clipped into my pedals and prefer to not clip in during winter riding conditions.

By the ride home, the roads and paths were clear of ice.  The fresh air, as always clears my mind.  The sun streaming through the trees on the off-road bike ways remind me of the promise of spring.  I am thankful for the beauty of our changing seasons.  I take it for granted, but I should not.  Every day is a blessing and should be lived to the fullest!

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.

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