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.

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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).

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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.

Week 1 – Day 5 January 8, 2016

Weather: High of 1, sunny and no precipitation. All roadways were clear.

Consistent Attire: No change from previous posts.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: Bula balaclava, and my awesome KSL Sport Marie-Soleil Dress under my coat. The photo is not me 🙂 

marie-soleil-dress

I am working from home today, but I had an appointment 3 km away.  It was supposed to be freezing rain, but thankfully the forecast changed and it is now expected to hold off until tonight.  Who could not ride in the beautiful sun shown in my feature image!

The office I attended was in a commercial plaza.  Upon arrival there were no, and I mean zero, bike parking areas.  So…I brought my bike right into the office.  One other client commented that his ride had four wheels and a gasoline engine.  I said (to the packed lobby) I have one of those rides too, but operating it in results in an increase to the size of my personal tailgate.  A laugh was had by all and I was wished a safe ride.  Although a humourous exchange occurred, a clear message was sent around the health benefits of choosing to actively commute year-around.

Week 1 – Day 3 – January 6, 2016

Weather: High of -1 but the morning ride was -6, sunny and no precipitation. All road ways were clear.

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: Bula balaclava, MEC thermal arm coverings.  I also was wearing a sleeveless wool dress under my coat and sweat wicking leggings.

Winter is a time of the year that my natural instinct is to hibernate.  In years past when I have given in to the hibernation I just feel awful.  Not only do I turn to food and my favourite wine; I want to sleep all of the time!  To combat the winter blahs and the February blues I turned to downhill skiing about 4 years ago.  I took lessons and learned how to ski.  The skiing helped me learn about layering my clothing to stay warm and dry and to look forward winter.  This personal winter commuting challenge is a next step in finding ways to push myself to remain active and enjoy the Canadian winters.  One thing I am certain of is that I am only temporarily able bodied, so I best enjoy every minute of every day that I have been blessed with.

I talk a lot about gear because I have asked a lot of avid winter cyclists what they wear and they always answer with “layers”.  I would try to ask, what are your different “layers”? and the answers were usually vague.  I was typically asking hard-core cyclists that also tended to be men. Their answers were not always applicable to someone who wears dresses and needs to look like a professional business woman upon arrival.  Here is a photo of the “layers” that I wore today.

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The road conditions are so nice that I decided to leave the Batpod at home today and ride my beloved Trek Cocoa ladies commuter bike.  I was thinking the ride would be so much easier on my hybrid tires, and upright bike.  I learned that I was wrong.  I felt like I committed the same amount of labour on my regular commuter as I did on the Batpod.  From this, very scientific research, I conclude the following:

  1. The cold weather fundamentally affects the ability of my muscles to expend energy;
  2. Lung capacity is hindered by the cold;
  3. Under inflated tires; and/or
  4. I am out of condition.

It is quite possible that all of the above are true, but until I feel that I am in “good” condition I cannot rule out that obvious variable.

I had to make two stops on the ride home and there was either no bike racks (Homesense) or they were buried in snow (Zehrs). So I pushed my bike right into the stores! Maybe I got some folks motivated to try winter cycling. Most likely they just thought I was crazy. … I have been called worse things.

Week 1 – Day 2 – January 5, 2016

Weather: -6, sunny and no precipitation. All road ways were clear.

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 micro fleece jacket (see image below). Serfas cycling glasses with Rx insert of my eyeglass prescription (www.serfas.com).

MEC Micro fleece Jacket

Skin protection:  I have highly sensitive skin and protect it against the wind and cold with dermalogica skin care products (http://www.dermalogica.ca/ca/).  The barrier repair product is amazing to protect against the winter weather.  I also wear kinesys sunscreen (http://www.kinesys.ca/) every day regardless of whether or not I see the sun.

My close friend Rose said she saw me yesterday stopped by the side of the road to remove my fogged up glasses.  She thought I was crazy to cycle on a day that was -25°C.  I let her know that I actually overheated.  Of course she did not believe me as it was really cold.  Exercise in a gym is really warm and comfy, but I love the fresh air even if it is really cold.  I have seldom taken the easy road (pun intended) in life so this winter commuting adventure is yet another example.

Rob, a cycling friend from Barrie and fellow fat bike winter rider, once told me that if you leave the house feeling too cold, you likely have the right gear as you will warm up fast.  He is right! It is hard to do though because the cold is, well, cold.

Similar to yesterday, the morning ride was very sunny. My glasses and goggles fogged up completely again so I had to stop to take them off within 10 minutes of cycling.  The micro fleece jacket had a hood that I pulled up under my bike helmet which worked very well.

The fat bike, I now refer to as my Batpod (thanks to my husband Peter), is a huge amount of work to pedal compared to my trek cocoa commuter bike that I ride outside of the winter months.  The downside is that my ride in the Batpod is much slower and much longer.  The upside is that my cardio workout is much higher.  I am feeling totally out-of-shape, but alas the truth is, I am out of shape.  I am on the path to change my health and I am sure that in a few weeks the workout will feel like less of an effort.

In the mornings I also pack my lunch, snacks, beverages, favorite chai tea and water for cleaning the bike.  This adds a lot of weight to the rear panniers and contributes to the slower ride.  I am very motivated in the day to eat all of this healthy food to ensure that my ride home is much lighter.  Someday I will be much lighter too resulting in a faster ride. 🙂

The evening ride was refreshing.  To be honest I like riding home after dark.  I always make sure I am lit up like a Christmas tree with reflective strips, a front bike light and a flashing red tail light.  I put a flashing red light on my helmet too.  My husband saw me last night and was happy to see how well I could be seen.  My front bike light is a “torch”.  The make is C&B Seen and it is incredible!  It was gifted to me by a friend but you can find out more information on the lights at this link: https://www.facebook.com/CABSLights/ .  If you did not know, the Ontario highway traffic act (HTA) has been amended to permit flashing red lights on bikes.  It used to be illegal. Other HTA bike safety information can be found at this link: http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/safety/bicycle-safety.shtml

Week 1 – Day 1 – January 4, 2016

Weather: -12 (with wind chill -25°C), sunny and no precipitation. Bike lanes were well cleared and trail connections were icy but not a problem for the soft 4″ tires.

Consistent Attire: Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) rain resistant, breathable mid-length jacket, motorcycle cold weather leather gloves with high gauntlets, MEC thermal barrier tights and winter boots. I typically buy my cycling gear one size too large to allow for me to wear a variety of different layers underneath.

Here is my incredible MEC jacket!  It is fully waterproof, fits over a cycling helmet and is equipped with many reflective strips for night riding.

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Variable Attire based on the temperature: Thermal sweat wicking long sleeve top and leggings, ultra-light down coat, Bula microfleece balaclava, ski googles, scarf and cycling helmet.

Work Attire: I typically pack the dress and cosmetics I planned to wear at work in my pannier.

The morning ride was very sunny. My glasses and goggles fogged up completely and I had to stop to take them off within 10 minutes of cycling.  My bike seat was 1.5 inches too low so I also stopped at a local car repair location to borrow an Allen wrench to raise the seat.  Thank you to the good folks at Benders Motors in Waterloo for helping me out.  Temperature wise, I was about right.  I worked up a sweat, but not so much that I felt uncomfortable at work.  I did not feel like I needed a shower which is my goal because there is no ladies shower at my workplace.

The bike handled very well on the sections of the trails that had ice and snow and once the seat was raised I could use the full extension of my leg which made a huge difference to my peddling effort.

I store the bike inside at work, so before bringing it inside I flushed the de-railers and chain with fresh (a little bit soapy) warm water to remove the salt from the ride and hopefully reduce rusting.  I used an insulated coffee thermos to transport the water and cleaned the bike on the lawn area outside of my office.

The evening ride was uneventful and I think it was a bit warmer.  It was dark so I used a flashing red light on the back of my bike as well as on the back of my helmet.  My MEC jacket has a reflective strip that I can cross over my body from shoulder to waist.  My MEC thermal tights also have reflective strips on them.  I make sure that none of these reflective surfaces are blocked.  I work under the assumption of see and be seen so I wear reflective arm bands too.

Winter Commuting – Experiences and Lessons

I don’t know if it is right to refer to my winter commuting plan as a “New Year’s” resolution, but indeed it is a part of my 2016 plan of ensuring I have exercise built into my day and a tool to meet my long-term goal of returning to a healthy body weight. Until the winter has turned to spring I plan to update this blog on a regular basis to talk about my adventures cycling throughout the winter months.

As “murphy’s law” would dictate, the first day of my new commitment is also the coldest day of the winter to date! Did I think of moving my start date? You bet I did, but I refused to give into my self-doubt so quickly.

My ride is a Norco Big foot bike fitted with an extra wide carrier and big o manufacturing fenders installed by the great folks at King Street Cycles.