Monday, January 29, 2007

Frost Bite

Around 6:00 am the morning news reported 11° and 10 mph winds from the southwest at O’Hare. A thermometer outside my back door read about 5°. I wasn’t too concerned about the cold with the exception of how my fingers and toes were going to handle it. For my hands I wore two pairs of glove liners and another pair of light fleece gloves I kept in my pocket. For my feet I wore socks, bike shoes, old wool socks over the shoes, plastic bags and all of the above protected by neoprene booties. I was relatively confident my feet would be ok. Not so sure about the fingers.

The roads were empty and really dry. I biked down Green Bay Road as opposed to the Green Bay Trail. In Wilmette a well lit bicyclist was headed in the opposite direction and I rang my bell in greeting. Nothing. He didn’t even look in my direction. Oh well. I think I’ve passed him on the Green Bay Trail on other occasions and gotten nothing then as well. Maybe next time I’ll throw a water bottle at him.

My left hand was getting really cold and the steady headwind seemed to aggravate the problem. It must have poor circulation. On Poplar in Wilmette I donned the other pair of gloves but I think it was too little too late. For the next forty minutes I was kind of preoccupied with my hands to the extent that I wasn’t enjoying the ride very much. At times I’d pick up the pace to increase my blood flow but the stiff winds started to wear me out.

At around Montrose my left hand wasn’t bothering me anymore and my right hand felt pretty normal. At first I thought my hand had warmed up until I realized I just couldn’t feel it anymore. My hand was like a stiff claw. Terrific. So I started flexing it until it started to sting a bit. That was a good sign. The winds continued to be stiff, my Accelerade was near frozen, and I was just ready to be done. Unfortunately I still had about 10 miles to go.

The downhill section just south of Fullerton was plainly covered in ice. The Chicago Park District had the foresight to make a nice detour uphill from the lakeside path well beyond where the lake can cover it in ice.

There were few people on the Lakefront Trail and not one bicyclist until I was just south of North Avenue I saw a blinking tail light far ahead. I was hoping to see it continue past the Oak Street curve but it disappeared from view before that. I really didn’t want to extend this ride more than I had to with a detour if the curve was impassable. Once I got to the curve I saw it was covered in smooth and brick sized chunks of ice. It definitely wasn’t passable by bike but I walked it without much trouble. This added a slight bit of adventure to my morning routine. The path south to Ohio Street Beach was slick from the weekend’s snow which made it fun to bike on. By then my left hand finally thawed and I began to enjoy the ride.

On Roosevelt at Damen I was stopped at the red light. I smiled to a well bundled commuter on a road bike heading north who actually nodded in response. Oh joy.

The frigid temps made a plastic bottle of chain lube so fragile that it busted in my bag. Luckily it was near empty and I've gotten in the habit of putting everything else in plastic bags; so the mess was minimal.

My hand still feels the effects of exposure. I'll have to do a better job protecting them.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1799.7 miles
Price of gas: $2.28


Core said...

Today was exceptionally brutal. These violently pervasive WSW winds just cleave through one's defenses in no time. But stay warm and keep on riding!

P.S. I'd be the FIRST person to reciprocate a cold-weather greeting! Please keep it up.

GeekCyclist said...

Look at 'lobster' style gloves. They are like mittens with a split so your fingers are paired together. My wife got me some for Christmas a few and I love them for days in the single digits.

edgewater_roadie said...

I took inner LSD from Oak to Grand Monday morning for the first time. It's a good alternate with the ice on the trail. Not sure if I would take it northbound in the evening with all of the oncoming LSD headlights making you less visible to drivers coming up behind you.

Steve said...

The winds were definitely getting me down on this ride.

I should have gotten lobster gloves a long time ago but I'm afflicted with a terminal case of cheap-skate-ery. As long as it doesn't get below 25°, my current system seems to work. I'll check out eBay for a long term solution.

I've only tried the inner LSD once. It isn't a bad alternative but I probably won't attempt it in darkness. As long as I can walk my bike through the piles of ice, I think I'll be able to manage the Oak Street Curve. But if the ice is smooth I definitely wont risk it.

steve said...

I use liner gloves, cheap ski gloves, and a set of overmittens to stop the wind, which works pretty well. I tried lobster gloves once but they just didn't do it for me - plus they were way more expensive than my ski glove/overmitten combo for less functionality.

Plastic grocery bags over the socks are great as a vapour barrier to keep toes warm, too!

Steve said...

I was thinking the same thing. I found some $9 Thinsulate mittens at a local hardware chain that I'll wear over my gloves when it is really cold and stash in my bag once I get warmed up.

The plastic bags over my feet have been critical. If more people biked in tougher weather I think there would be something better suited than your typical neoprene bootie. My ride is so long that I feel I have to be clipped in.