Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Bike Commuting Through the Winter

Since I mostly use this just as a training journal and haven't been trying to reach out to lots of (or any) folks, I've been ignoring this blog off and on.  This post has been sitting in drafts for a month!

But I've still been on the bike.

Namely, I've been on my folder bike, Zelda, the Tern Link.  (Get it?)  Zelda is a fabulous little commuter.  I've thrown it on the metro more times than I can count- if the weather has turned nasty or if it's gotten darker than I'd intended to bike home in or if I'm just tired.  I've discovered some extra routes.  In good weather, it takes me about 25 minutes door to door.

I'm even learning the tricks of the keeping-warm trade, and my apartment just gave me a special key fob so I could get in through the upper garage door (and not carry my bike across the lobby all the time anymore).  I'm still working out the kinks- my three-layered ski jacket is definitely not the ideal bike jacket*.

Anyway, I've been riding in SNOW and ICE and SLUSH these past few days.  DC got socked with Snowzilla, a megastorm that raged for about 36 hours and dropped a lot of the white stuff upon us.  Minnesotans are making fun of us, but I support our weather wimpiness.  I moved here for a reason.  One of those reasons being I'm a weather wimp and I don't like snow.  The less of it the better.

Riding in snow and ice has been new to me.  Several Facebook friends have been calling me brave, intrepid, or stalwart.

All lies.  I am none of those.  What I am is stubborn and slightly competitive.  I signed up to play a game called Freezing Saddles.  My team is Team 11, and for every day I ride at least 1 mile, my team gets 10 points.  All that adds up.  I freely admit that I would probably not be riding in this weather if it were not for the fact that last week I was 12th out of 12 people on my team for consistency (I'd had a lot of night meetings and wimp days, ok? Don't judge.) and I felt bad.

When I am riding in the snow, I suppose I should feel free like a little birdie.

I do not.

I may feel a little smug, like last night when I jumped off the road and onto the sidewalk, and beat the bus home.  Or like when I rode past all the traffic backed up from Tenleytown past Chevy Chase because people in Maryland live under a government that doesn't know how to plow roads and everyone there has lost their mind and become infected by rage monsters who dwell in their car horns.  (Seriously, folks, stop with the honking.)

But I certainly do not feel brave.  In fact, what I've felt has been a mixture of anxiety, sheer terror, and occasional moments of irritation.  The irritation and flashes of rage are mostly reserved for taxi drivers.  They are the WORST for bullying cyclists for space.

I've had a number of interesting conversations with my Inner Anxiety Voice.  My inner Anxiety is totally the BFF of the Fear Emotion, and if she were an inside character, she'd be tall, cute, and curvy with a loudmouth- basically, imagine that Fear and Disgust had a little Anxiety baby.

Our conversations go like this:

"Oh, look at that ice. You are going to die. See that ice? You'll die there too. Oh, yes, and that ice there? The second you put down your foot, you are going to DIE HORRIBLY RIGHT THERE!! I bet you think you remember how to ride a bike"

"Oh, no," says Anxiety Voice, "You cannot ride a bike. Don't you think you'll tip over on this narrow snowblowed sidewalk section with fluffy snow on both sides? You will so tip over. And then die." I desperately seek out reasonably dry sections of pavement on which I brake slowly, slowly as if I were carrying a cargo of crystal goblets and babies, and put my foot down, praying that said foot will be firmly planted below me, instead of sliding out and away from me.  
"Ah," says Anxiety Voice, "Open road!  What a great place to die.  That area has to be covered with black ice.  And of course that's not just slush.  That's a solid SHEET OF ICE upon which you can die.  Yay, crashing!"  

It's been fun.  

I did pretty good through some of the worst snow, although sometimes I still "wimp out" and opt for other forms of transit.  

Every day, I conquer a little bit more of the anxiety birdie.  

*the ski jacket dilemma may have been resolved.  In frustration, I took it back to REI and had a conversation with a salesperson who, out of all the salespeople, concurred that maybe I was in the wrong size.  So I sized down to a medium, and lo-and-behold, a lot of the problems disappeared.  I'm not getting rainy or drafty spots in my shoulders (because water and wind can't go down my neck) and I'm not getting drafts from below (because it's snug enough).  So let that be a lesson to you.  Wear the right size of coat, y'all!  

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