Posts tagged ‘weather’

February 23, 2012

They’re Coming Back! Spring and Health

Reasonably good indicators on both fronts: returning health, and returning spring. Biking keeps me attuned to both conditions–my physical well-being and the turning of the seasons–in ways that driving could never provide.

Health: My uphill ride home is a real indicator of whether I’ve shaken off whatever crud has attacked.

Not good: I sound like someone you’d want beginning nurses and doctors to listen to with a stethoscope for the definition of the word “rales” because I’m still crackling like a bowl of Rice Krispies.

Not good: Still a most unladylike amount of nasal fluids being produced.

Good: On the last couple of climbs toward home I’m no longer in first gear–I’m in third. Woohoo! These are hills that I usually do in the middle ring of my front derailleur, not the little ring, so I still have a way to go, but this is progress.

Spring: Like fall, it’s another shoulder season when I start playing “musical layers”–take off one, take off another one, decide I need that one for a few more days after all….

I also play musical gloves: lobster-claws in the morning, five-fingered in the afternoon because my hands would sweat in the lobsters.

Right now I need to be dressed more warmly for the ride to work because I create more speed and thus more windchill factor going downhill, it’s colder in the morning, and I don’t have the warmth of working to go uphill. In full summer it’s the same morning and afternoon.

Today’s outfit:

  • Black cotton/Lycra leggings
  • Lightweight Helle Hansen long johns–not the thick Hot Chilis I was wearing a few weeks ago
  • Wool socks
  • Tall gray boots (a souvenir of my trip to New York City with Second Daughter)
  • Camisole
  • Microweight cream-colored long-sleeved wool tee from Swrve
  • Gray cable-knit hoodie sweater from REI
  • Cute scarf
  • Morning: Windbreaker, lobster-claw gloves
  • Afternoon: Stopped halfway home to take off the windbreaker; five-finger gloves
  • Long gone: The face mask I was wearing to block windchill and warm my breath; a cap under the helmet; fleece neckwarmer; another layer of wool stockings under the long johns and leggings

Biggest indicators of all that we’re turning toward spring: blue skies, fat, puffy clouds instead of gray overcast dullness, birds chirping, and the sunlight on the road as I headed home around 3:30 (can’t quite hack a whole day yet).

I can’t wait for full spring and full health. Meanwhile, the bike helps me feel more optimistic about both coming back soon!

Ride Report

  • Days ridden: 27/54 (goal is 250 days this year–travel and illness are hurting my percentages right now but I’ll get back on track)
  • Miles: 203.5 (goal for 2012 is 1,200)

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Did you ride today?
January 26, 2012

Winter Ride Report: Sunshine and Splatter

Alas, you can't see how the two peachy pieces on top complement each other. But you can see the snow on the ground. Luckily I don't have to ride in it with my skinny tires!As I’ve written several times throughout this weird, weird winter: Yep, still riding!

Mind you, the deep snows of last week would have stopped me, if I’d been in town. Instead I was in Olympia, where if anything it was even worse because everything was encased in ice. Limbs shattered off trees from the weight, reminding me of the 1996 ice storm in the Spokane region (so severe it’s in Wikipedia). I had thought I might try for a bike-share experience in Olympia since the hotel I stayed in was only 2.2 miles from the Capitol, but not in those conditions!

Back home again, I drove Monday (“Mom Taxi” duty made me miss riding on a day of brilliant sunshine), bused Tuesday (kinda gray but would have been rideable, although the end of the day had a “wintery mix” per the weatherfolk that meant fine, cold, drizzly rain), looked at the forecast for Wednesday and said, “Heck yeah!”

While ice patches and clumps of snow-plowed grayness still filled the majority of the bike lane, the road was mostly bare and wet and very rideable, with enough pre-planning to brake in time for stops and no leaning into the corners because of the possibility of an unexpected patch of ice and a quick fall.

The day’s outfit was–seriously–just like what I was wearing in September. October. November. December. Recently the Copenhagenize guy took after Momentum Magazine for their article on dressing for winter riding, blasting them for making it sound as if biking in winter required “special” clothing.

What your boot looks like after around 2.5 miles on wet roads.

What your boot looks like after around 2.5 miles on wet roads.

I subscribe to Momentum and thought their article was fine. It told people that dressing for winter biking is like dressing for winter, period, and you can just keep riding. Sure, they showed some cute bike-specific product, but who doesn’t love to shop?

My outfit reflects their sensible advice: Dress in layers, wear wool underneath, keep your feet and hands dry and warm, remember that it’s dark and gray and drivers aren’t expecting you so dress for visibility. In Copenhagen? They’re expecting you on the road year-round. In Spokane? Not so much. Pays to be flashy.

My “special winter biking gear” consisted of:

  • SmartWool tights
  • SmartWool socks
  • Boots with a good grippy sole that cover my legs and stay on the pedals
  • My cut-off long johns that serve as knickers under skirts
  • Long gray wool knit skirt–another Goodwill $4 special
  • Peachy sweater–this is either a Goodwill find or possibly from Sequel, the resale shop in the Paulsen Building at which I’ve been scoring some cuteness recently
  • Lighter peachy suede jacket–from The Reclothery (yes, you’ll note a trend–I do love one-of-a-kind finds and those are only possible at vintage and resale shops where no two things on the rack are the same)
  • High-vis jacket; in the morning sunshine this is mostly for its value as a windbreaker, but riding home in the dark it’s a safety feature
  • Trusty black velvet scarf
  • Helmet with knitted earwarmers and helmet cover from Hub and Bespoke in Seattle (you can get them from me too)
  • Lobster-claw gloves
  • Face mask for the morning ride–not needed for the evening ride

The coffee cup in the bike bottle holder on my seat tube took a hit from the street splatters too.I walked my bike out of our incredibly icy driveway and set off in absolutely brilliant sunshine. Within no time at all my boots were completely splattered with muck from the road. I want to get some Splats from Rivendell! Or potentially these Canadian MEC shoe covers that Patty from Belles and Baskets has worn for years and highly recommends.

Leaving work after 5 I rode in heavy traffic on Browne because I was racing the clock to meet my daughter at Empire Dance Shop to provide the debit card action before they closed. At the corner of Browne and Sprague a pedestrian hurried across the street after the “Don’t Walk” sign had started flashing. I called, “Hurry, they’ll get you!” She laughed and said, “I know–I’m not as brave as you are!”

Not brave–just habituated. And so happy to be on the bike again after slushing around via “two-foot drive” on snowy sidewalks.

How this day relates to my 3 words for 2012 riding: I’m consistent, in that I’m still riding. It’s variety because I’m definitely riding in heavier winter conditions than I have in years past. And I’m mindful because that icy is slippery!

And then there's what the road does to your actual bike.... This will necessitate some serious clean-up. Grime is not good for gears and chains. Now, where's my Sweet Hubs when I need him?

Ride Report

  • Days ridden in 2012 (as of Wednesday, Jan. 25): 17 of 25 days. My goal is 250 days; this total includes a couple of days on the trainer indoors racking up some sweaty mileage. At this rate I wouldn’t be able to hit this target, but given that it’s winter and I’ve been out of town I’m behind my usual riding frequency. No problem catching up in the balmy days of spring, summer, and fall, when only the unfortunate lock themselves into steel boxes.
  • Miles: 144.01 miles. My goal is 1,200, which is only 100 miles a month. I’m on track for this one, no problem, but why move a bar I’m going to clear?

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Riding?
  • What do you wear to deal with the mucky bits?
  • See weather forecast below (for Thursday, Jan. 26). With a forecast like this would you plan to ride?
January 3, 2012

Starting the New Year off Right: On my Bike!

I know, I know--the green ear covers don't match the red, black and white outfit--but they DO go with the spiffy new handlebar tape Sweet Hubs put on my bike over the holidays!

This has been an amazing year for riding through the winter, at least so far! I rode the bus two days in November right before Thanksgiving because the snow looked like a little bit more than I’m comfortable riding in when the drivers are still remembering how to stop in snow. (Hint: Locking up your four-wheel-drive doesn’t work. We call that a “skid.”)

Beyond that, it’s been bike-bike-bike! Barely any extra layers or protection from the wet needed, either.

Monday’s outfit is pretty typical of what I was wearing back in October-November that I continued to wear in December and now January.

  • SmartWool tights
  • Wool socks
  • Boots: These have nice Vibram soles for pedal grip.
  • Cut-off long johns to create “bloomers” for under my skirt. (If I had been just a titch smarter I would have cut them off below the knee for riding, then folded them up shorter than skirt length for the office.)
  • Base sweater: Today’s is so thick and toasty I didn’t wear a base layer–I knew I didn’t need it.
  • Top sweater: A touch of red for some color in my typical fairly monochrome wardrobe. This is cotton so it doesn’t add much by way of warmth, but it zings up the black and white.
  • Skirt: Thanks, Goodwill, for this $4 vital basic! Cut is flippy enough at the bottom that it’s easy to jump on the bike and go.
  • Outerwear for the morning and evening ride: Ski jacket minus the liner (not shown in this pic because it was midday and I didn’t need it, and honestly I could downgrade to a lighter jacket and be fine); neck cover and face mask for morning but not evening; black velvet scarf shown here is more for pretty but does add some warmth around the neck; lobster-claw gloves; strap/ear covers and a thin skullcap under the helmet; cute black velvet helmet cover from Hub and Bespoke in Seattle.

Feet and hands are the biggies for me, followed closely by my neck and ears. If those are reasonably warm and the wind is blocked, I’m okay. The torso warms up with pedaling, the legs won’t freeze and fall off in my relatively short rides, and my arms seem to be just fine if the rest of me is.

I’m a big base-layer girl–was one even back before I biked to work because I just like to feel snuggly. If I have to watch for anything it’s for being too warm rather than too cold; I often leave whatever jacket I plan to wear in the office in the Donkey Boxx and just wear my wind-blocking outer layer because otherwise I’ll end up sweaty.

My biking goals for 2012 are to ride 1,200 miles or more and–more important to me–to ride 250 days of the year or more. Since knowing that I had to report to all of you on the 30 Days of Biking challenge in September kept me accountable, I’ll do an occasional ride report throughout the year to show you how I’m doing and to remind myself to stay on track.

  • Days ridden in 2012: 1
  • Miles: 6.68

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Are you a winter rider?
  • If not, what temperature or weather conditions do you look for as your signal to get rolling?
December 22, 2011

A Solstice Post: Gifts I Give Myself by Riding in the Winter

  • Zero worries about whether the car will start in the cold and no windshield scraping–my motor doesn’t freeze up and I don’t have windows.

    NOT my bike, although I wish it were--it's a cutie!

  • Permission to eat my sweetheart’s delicious hand-grated hashbrowns for breakfast because I’ll be burning potatoes on the way to work.
  • The sound of my skinny tires hissing through a light frosting of snow on the ground.
  • My own breath warming my face behind the face mask I wear to block the wind.
  • The smell of woodsmoke in my neighborhood and whatever’s cooking at restaurants I pass in downtown, along with the smell of coffee roasting at one particular location some mornings.
  • The feeling of fellowship with whoever rode in the bike lane before me and left a track.
  • The childlike feeling of glee at being the first to ride in the bike lane and leave a track in the untouched snow.
  • The chance to smile and make eye contact with a cold-looking pedestrian waiting for the light to change at a corner as we share a closer contact with nature’s realities than the people inside vehicles.
  • The delicate tracery of frost on the black bike rack at work.
  • Rosy cheeks that require no Maybelline or L’Oreal whatsoever.
  • The sound of geese honking overhead (shouldn’t they be somewhere farther south this time of year?!) and unidentified little birds in the bushes.
  • The realization that cold weather just isn’t as—well—cold as people seem to think it is if you get out and move around a little.
  • The realization that fingertips that were cold when I began the ride are now warm thanks to the blood pumping through my veins because I worked on that uphill stretch.
  • The silence on a traffic-free side street.
  • A sincere appreciation for my warm house and a hearty bowl of soup at the end of the ride home.
  • An awareness of the difference between the soft black of a summer night and the crisp black of a winter night.
  • The joy of riding my bike.

With appreciation for the friends on Facebook who shared their own special winter riding experiences, a couple of which reminded me of items for my list.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What do you like about winter riding?
December 14, 2011

Still Riding!

In case you wondered, yes, it’s still riding weather! Cold, sure, but the roads have been bare and dry. Sometimes the road is lightly frosted in the early morning so I allow for more braking time and don’t really lean into the corners, but other than that riding now is like riding in September or October. Actually, it’s drier! We had more wet days in the fall than we do right now. And this morning’s light frosting of snow? Easy enough to handle, as long as I’m gentle.

As for the gear and clothing, it’s about where it was a few weeks ago when I started adding the face mask to the morning gear. [Fashion tip: If you wear lipstick, don’t put it on until after you get to work if you’re wearing a mask.]

Take Tuesday’s outfit, for example. Or, well, don’t, because it’s a favorite of mine for its simplicity and ease of dressing, mounting/dismounting the bike, and moving around while feeling as if I look pretty good.

  • Under it all: A sleeveless undershirt and “bloomers” both made by Cuddle Duds. They’re not high-end long johns or merino wool, which I adore, but they feel nice and provide one more insulating area for warm air to be trapped. I don’t know the R value  ヅ(a measure of insulating power usually used in the construction industry).
  • Dress I’ve had for years: 70% polyester, 30% wool, with a turtleneck and short sleeves.
  • Blazer (some kind of PVC–fake leather–doesn’t breathe but does block wind on the parts it covers)
  • Crocheted wool stockings from Hub and Bespoke in Seattle (so cute!)
  • Shoes from The Walking Store
  • Ski jacket without the liner–just the outer shell
  • Scarf
  • Neck gaiter (to pull up so there’s no gap for the wind to sneak into between scarf and face mask)
  • Face mask
  • Lobster-claw gloves
  • Skullcap
  • Helmet with knitted wool ear straps
  • This morning I had a pair of North Face wind-resistant pants from Mountain Gear added on–more windchill going downhill fast on the way to work than going uphill slow on the way home!

This was just about right. I was warm enough on the way to work, and warm when I got home thanks to the uphill workout.

Temps? Oh, around 24 degrees or so when I left. Overcast skies, unlike yesterday’s brilliantly sunny 21 degrees. I’ve biked to work every day so far in December and the forecast isn’t giving me a lot of reasons to change my habits yet. We may get a touch of snow Thursday of this week but the forecast is sunny from then on straight through to Christmas.

How’s the riding in your neck of the woods?

Related Reading

November 19, 2011

Keep Your Weather Eye Open

weather eye. n. An ability to recognize quickly signs of changes in the weather.

Idiom: keep a/one’s weather eye open. To keep watch; stay alert.

Having a weather eye is apropos for biking no matter which meaning you use. We need to stay alert and we need to pay attention to the weather. My skill at both has improved thanks to riding my bike.

“Henry!  Henry!  I can’t find Dorothy!  She’s somewhere out in the storm!  Dorothy!” –Aunt Em

This post was prompted by a recent exchange on Facebook and also by the conversation I’ve had so many times I’ve lost track, as follows:

Someone who doesn’t ride bikes: “You rode in this weather?”

Me: “Yes.”

SWDRB: “Wow, you must be really [choose one] hardcore/committed/determined/crazy/cold.”

Comments on about weather.

“This weather” can be anything from an overcast day to a drizzle to frost to wind. Whatever it is, it falls short of the views of SWDRB about “bike weather.”

I’ve come to appreciate weather a great deal more thanks to riding. I pay attention to it in a way I never did when its effect was only going to touch me directly between front door and car door.

I check the forecast but I don’t solely rely on it. I use my “weather eye” to gauge the skies, the wind, and the road. This past week when meteorologists were forecasting a snow dump Wednesday night—and again Thursday when it didn’t happen Wednesday because, surprise! they’re sometimes wrong—I looked at the conditions and chose to ride. It just didn’t look bad enough to duck and cover.

I was right on. I rode in cold but definitely manageable conditions, and the snow didn’t really dump until Friday night.

We got a little snowfall Thursday night. Friday morning the snow was reduced to slush and bare, mostly wet roads where the vehicle tires had worn the snow away. I rode cautiously because of the touch of frost on side streets and used my “weather eye” to stay alert for drivers who were blithely ignoring said frost, but I didn’t let the conditions push me off the bike.

That’s the second weather effect of riding regularly that I particularly appreciate. Not only am I better able to assess what’s really happening around me, but I’m also less bothered by it. I don’t mind being a little damp or cold. As I mentioned in a post on barriers to biking as perceived by those who don’t bike, many are willing to put up with far worse conditions in the name of recreation.

I’ve always said I loved having four seasons. What I really meant was that I loved the perfect exemplar days of each season: mild, budding spring; clear, warm (but not too hot!) summer; crisp, glorious, sunny fall days; beautiful winter wonderlands with sparkles glinting off the drifts. Note that my description pretty much counts on sunshine.

I didn’t really appreciate the seasons. I didn’t fully recognize the shift that makes 50 degrees in spring a different, warmer 50 than the 50 degrees I rode through last week as we shifted from fall toward winter.

I would look out the window at a gray, dry day and think it looked “yucky” instead of what I think now: “Yay! Still rideable!”

Similar to the shift in my attitude toward time, I both accept more and celebrate more about something that others might view as a hassle. (Here’s my definition of hassle.)

In my era BB (Before Biking), I thought about seasonal clothing changes more in terms of closet organization and what I wore inside the office—Is it time for bare legs yet? When do I put away the sweaters?—than in terms of what the clothing did in a practical sense to provide the appropriate amount of heating, cooling, ventilation, and water protection. Now that I’ve shifted my clothes-shopping decision-making filters, I suppose I appreciate my clothes more, too.

“Better get under cover, Sylvesterthere’s a storm blowing upa whopper, to speak in the vernacular of the peasantry. Poor little kidI hope she gets home all right.” –Professor

I’m not saying I’m crazy and I’ll ride through tornados like Miss Almira Gulch (although, come to think of it, she did make it….). But I’ll accept—and even enjoy—a far wider range of weather conditions because they’re riding conditions.

A day I can ride my bike is always a day with good weather.


Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What attitude or attention shifts have you noticed as a result of riding?
  • How cold is too cold?
November 17, 2011

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

#1 most common phrase I’ve heard in the past few days as the temperatures dropped and the skies darkened: “You’re still riding?!”

The answer so far: Yes, and I’m not the only bike I see on the streets.

Weather statistics for Nov. 1-16, 2011, Spokane, WA, from

A slight downward trend in temperature seems to be developing, dear readers.

One of the ways I track the change of seasons is my layering: on for winter, off for spring. Kind of like a dog’s undercoat, if you have one of those shedders, although at least my extra layers don’t end up all over the furniture and your dark pants and clogging the vacuum.

The temperature drop from last week’s riding to yesterday morning is quite a swing, so it’s time to grow a winter coat.

Wednesday Nov. 9: Sunny, a touch of frost in the air in the morning with a high for the day of 51 degrees and zero precipitation.

Clothing choices last week looked a lot like those of the weeks before: skirt, wool tights, dressy walking shoes or boots, sweater, jacket or blazer. I had started wearing lobster-claw gloves some mornings but could wear full-finger regular gloves riding home. (I don’t wear the lobster-claws when temps are above freezing because they make my hands sweat.) On my head: Helmet with helmet cover and knitted ear warmers, and a face cover just for the morning ride.

Wednesday Nov. 16: The mercury stood at 18 degrees when I left the house at 7:45 a.m. I rode through sunshine first thing in the morning through midday, then later under lowering gray skies foretelling the sleet that would start falling around 6 p.m. or so.

Clothing choices: Not quite enough on my legs! I wore thick wool socks and a pair of light Helle Hansen long johns under a long gray wool skirt and boots. On top I wore a Thermasilk base layer and an incredibly thick gray wool sweater I bought years ago, along with a scarf. I wore the lobster-claw gloves—no messing around with full-finger gloves that would have left my fingertips hurting—and added a skullcap under the helmet/ear warmers/helmet cover, along with the face cover, which I wore on every ride throughout the day.

This felt like enough inside the house. When you dress for cold-weather riding–similar to cross-country skiing or running–you don’t really want to be completely warm when you leave the house because you’ll overheat as you start moving. You do need to plan for wind effects, though, since you’ll be making your own.

What I hadn’t anticipated was that the long skirt had to ride up a bit for the pedaling action so my knees were exposed in nothing more than those thin long johns—no wind resistance whatsoever and it was cold enough to sting before I was halfway to work. The thick sweater with underlayer seemed to be enough on top; I might have added a high-visibility windbreaker vest but I was fine.

As cycling friend and founder of Belles and Baskets Betsy Lawrence has said, it’s not as if they’re going to find my body a cold, frozen lump when they defrost the streets next spring.

I live 2.5 miles from work—in a house I chose in part based on ease of commuting via bike and bus. Even with the wind-chill factor the odds of me dying or getting frostbite in a 9-minute ride to work? Pretty slim.

Total bike time for the day, by the way, is worth noting for those people who assume (or insist) that biking for transportation only happens on the nicest of midsummer days. The bike time is actual pedaling time per my cyclometer; it doesn’t include time waiting at traffic lights, but I wait the same amount of time drivers do so I don’t think of it as a factor in travel time comparisons.

  • Morning commute: 9 minutes
  • Midday run to a meeting on the other end of downtown: 8 minutes
  • Return from meeting: 9 minutes
  • Travel to meeting end of day: 5 minutes
  • Total mileage for the day: 6.73

But wait! You clever, logical people, you—you will notice that this list doesn’t mention riding home at the end of day.

Nope. Dearest Sweet Hubs picked me up after my final meeting of the day in his pick-up.

My taillight battery was dead, it was dark, the forecast was for snow, he had driven to work instead of biking because he’s still fighting off a heavy cold, and my meeting location was conveniently located on his route homeward.

I list all those facts because of course I need an excuse for not riding home, right? If you’re inclined to pounce with an “Aha!” because I didn’t ride home I will look at you blankly.

  • I suppose I could have ridden home with no taillight, but ninjas are dangerous.
  • I could easily have thrown my bike on an STA bus (they all have racks) and made it home.
  • No one should feel obliged to apologize for carpooling.
  • But most importantly, I write this blog in part to help people realize that riding a bike for transportation has to work for you—and it can. If it will make it work for you to ride your bike for part of your transportation needs, and to use a vehicle for the rest of your needs, then do it. No need to apologize.

Forecast for today: Low of 29, high of 36, possible snow. Stay warm out there.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What are some of your favorite bits of gear that help you keep riding into the colder weather?
  • Will you keep riding when there’s snow on the ground?
November 10, 2011

Beautiful Fall Riding

A simple post to celebrate the joys of autumn biking

Bike helmet with black velvet cover, green knitted ear warmer/strap cover.

If you're a knitter look for this ear warmer/helmet strap cover design on Ravelry.

What an utterly beautiful morning yesterday! Wednesday I left my little side street around 8:30 a.m., headed for a meeting on the north side of the river in downtown. The temperature hovered around 37 degrees, according to, but I wasn’t cold. The sun lit the red and gold leaves that lined my route along Rockwood Boulevard, and streets were bare and dry.

The work outfit: Black SmartWool tights, extra pair of wool socks (hate cold toes!), black boots, black knee-length skirt (thanks, Goodwill), red merino turtleneck (thanks, Nordstrom’s Half-Yearly Sale, held conveniently on the weekend of my birthday that just passed), and a little black fleecy cape (OK, so I really shopped at that Half-Yearly Sale; happy birthday to me!).

Extras for the weather: The knitted ear cover/helmet strap that friend Wilma Flanagan made for me, a face mask I got years ago for skiing, and my lobster-claw gloves from Pearl Izumi (the ones that stupidly don’t have a nose-wiping patch). I also wear an adorable black velvet helmet topper that serves as a bit of a wind block, although I wear it more because it’s cute than because it’s practical.

The load: Po Campo loop pannier with laptop, notebook, and windbreaker. Donkey Boxx with Po Campo wristlet (what I use for my basic wallet-type stuff, since I don’t carry as much “essential” crap as I used to), cable lock, and five cans of the best cheese in the world—Cougar Gold, made at Washington State University’s Ferdinand’s Creamery.

Why I was carrying somewhere around eight pounds of delicious cheese: Whenever I go to Pullman I make a Ferdinand’s run for various friends, since it’s cheaper there than at the grocery stores in Spokane. Yesterday I got to (fan alert!) go to Pullman and meet Mia Birk, author of Joyride, president of Alta Planning, and Portland’s former bike/pedestrian coordinator/rock star, who was at WSU to talk about biking with campus planners, transportation coordinators, and advocates. Yes, she’s awesome.

The day’s mileage, destinations, and bike parking:

  • First, the Spokane Regional Health District building, which has a rack outside.
  • Then to the Riverpoint Campus via the Post Street Bridge (which someday will become bike/pedestrian only and lose the vehicle traffic, although it’s typically dead quiet anyway) and the Centennial Trail through Riverfront Park so I could enjoy more of those fall colors and the river sliding along.
  • Into downtown for a noon luncheon with the Inland Northwest Business Alliance (GLBT/Allies Chamber of Commerce) at Rain Lounge on First near Lincoln—parked by hitching to a streetlight post since there aren’t any racks in that block.
  • Back to campus, where we have bike racks next to every building.
  • At the end of the day I rode home in the dark with one of our newer faculty members, who moved up from Pullman this fall and is still learning the best routes but is an experienced commuter in general. We chose to take the Centennial Trail into downtown to the bike lane on Howard, then doubled back east along Fourth/Fifth to Sherman/Southeast Boulevard and the bike lane there. That’s a little out of the way, but a prettier and more peaceful route than the more direct options and better street surfaces to boot, for the most part.
  • Total mileage: 10.66

Beautiful weather. Dry streets. Sunshine. Golden fall. Mid-November in Spokane and still biking. I love it.

Your Turn

  • What fall riding have you been doing?
October 17, 2011

Shoulder Season: The Blogspedition Stays Toasty

We’re in what the tourism industry calls a shoulder season. I think of it as “cover your shoulders” season when I’m getting dressed for the morning departure on my bike.

Cover your legs, for that matter. Last Thursday the forecast was pretty good—lower 60s—and the sun was in the sky so I took off at 7 a.m. in a skirt with bare legs. Since the temps were around the high 30s/lower 40s at that point–not 60–those were some red and chilly limbs when I got to that first meeting! No more bare legs for me—tights all the way if I’m wearing a skirt. The next day, which was cooler, I was completely comfortable with a pair of SmartWool tights under my skirt.

As for shoulders and arms, it’s all about the base layers, baby. A microweight or midweight SmartWool base layer is your best friend under a tailored jacket, sweater vest, or cardigan. The businesslike top layer covers the flat-felled seams and other design elements of the top that say “sporty!” (Another of my asides to the clothing industry—please, please, use SmartWool but make things that look as if they came from Nordstrom.)

The wool does its magic when you ride: keeps you warm, wicks any sweat without letting you get chilled, dries quickly, and hallelujah, doesn’t stink the way synthetics can.

For many years I swore I couldn’t wear wool. The few sweaters I tried on, whether they were el cheapos from a big box chain or a lovely angora or cashmere at an expensive boutique, made me claw-at-my-neck crazy.

Then I discovered SmartWool and it was love at first touch. Merino wool is just . . . better. And SmartWool emphasizes the happy sheep in their business philosophy statement, which I like.

The trick, though, is not to be totally warm when you leave the house. If you have dressed in such a way that you’re warm and cozy when you step outside, you’ll be too warm with just a few blocks of pedaling. If you cross-country ski, hike, or engage in other outdoor activities in cool weather, it’s the same principle for bikewear. Be a little on the cool side when you start and you’ll be fine as soon as you get the blood pumping.

One factor that creates more of an issue on the bike is wind, since you can go faster than you’d move hiking or snowshoeing. Wear a wind-block layer on your front. Your back is less of a problem since the wind doesn’t hit it directly. This is why you’ll see biking/running tights with wind-blocking fabric on the front but not the back, so you can vent sweat and heat there.

This is where having a high-visibility jacket that lets you zip off the sleeves comes in handy. You can wear just the vest portion both for the added visibility (“Hi, Driver! Here I am!”) and the wind-block.

Advice from some other blogs on dressing for autumn and rain:

Where to Get Tights

  • In Spokane they sell SmartWool tights at Title Nine on South Perry
  • Mountain Gear has SmartWool leggings, but not tights, last I checked
  • Here’s my Amazon Associates store if you don’t have a local source

Your Turn

  • What are your favorite clothing tricks for dressing to ride in cooler weather?
July 1, 2011

Sweaty Betty: The Blogspedition Looks for Answers to that Special Glow

Woman with her back to the camera. Written on her back: Sweat Not Oil with a picture of a bicycle.

Sweat, not oil. Or, as I like to think of it, calories per mile instead of miles per gallon.

“Horses sweat. Men perspire. Women glow.” – Silly antiquated etiquette guideline for language usage

Like hell we glow. Women sweat. Not necessarily at the level of people with hyperhidrosis, mind you, but put forth a little exertion to pedal up that hill and you might pop a bead or two, although research with a batch of cyclists shows that men start sweating sooner than women do during exercise (thank you, science!).

Dealing with sweat comes up pretty often when I talk with women about biking for transportation. It presents a barrier to more women biking because who wants to show up for work all messy and stinky?

My brief tips for dealing with sweat:

Don’t work so hard! Admittedly I have a short ride to work (just under 2.5 miles and it’s downhill at the beginning).

My bike ride to work includes some traffic time and if I sprint on a hot day I will heat up. So why sprint? Leave yourself enough time so you don’t have to pedal hard and heat up. If you have a steep hill in your way consider the bike-bus combo; let Spokane Transit do the hard part and you can coast down later.

Enjoy the breeze while you ride. After all, you make it yourself! And it provides a little air-drying effect.

Use baby wipes or better yet, Action Wipes from Martha Van Inwegen, whose tagline is, “Your face is not a baby’s butt. Don’t wipe it like one.”  (another business whose social mission fits well with mine).

Keep a few wipes in the drawer at work. When you get there you’ll want to fluff your hair in the mirror anyway (yes, a Blogspedition on helmet hair is coming soon!) so just take a wipe with you and dab away as needed.

Choose the right fabrics: Anything that requires a long time in the dryer or on the line will take a long time to dispose of your ladylike sweat droplets.

Keep a jacket or cardigan handy. My office is air-conditioned enough that I might wear one anyway. If it’s hot and you went sleeveless for the ride throw on a little cover-up while you dry.

And now for great tips from women’s bike blogs around the globe—be sure to read the comments, too, for more tips:

Cycling in a Heatwave… Making Friends with Florals: Lovely Bicycle points out that some fabric patterns show sweat, some hide it.

Sweat: Short and basic list of tips from the archives at Cycling in Heels (scroll down to the Feb. 22, 2008 entry)

Ride Slowly, Don’t Sweat: Title pretty much sums up the advice from Let’s Go Ride a Bike.

And if all else fails you can think to yourself, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. At least I don’t smell like a bike messenger!” as explained by thatmessengerchick in “Why do couriers smell so bad?

So who’s Sweaty Betty? That’s the name of a UK-based line of women’s sportswear retail stores I found while compiling my big list of women’s bike blogs. I love their vibe and their values match mine. Style + performance, feminine + sporty, sweaty + betty, bike + style.

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