Monday, February 05, 2007

Really Really Cold Bike Ride

I ventured out this morning with great trepidation. The morning news reported temperatures at -9° and 10 mph westerly winds. I didn’t even want to look at the thermometer outside as it has always read about 5° lower. But venture out I did and it wasn’t that bad. My $9 mittens kept my hands quite warm and the only part of my body that bothered me were my toes.

The subzero temperatures were tougher on my bicycle however. Shifting was initially non-existent but eventually it was just sluggish. My cassette was also acting up. Early in the ride after every time I coasted, I’d pedal but the cassette just spun. Eventually it would catch but I worried I had ruined my hub. After a while it became more reliable but was never 100% on. I was extra careful at intersections because I was never sure I’d be able to accelerate out of trouble.

My glasses frequently fogged up and my balaclava formed a chunk of ice from my freezing breath. I actually had a 1” icicle dangling from my chin; it looked pretty disgusting. I developed a brain before my ride and decided to keep my water bottle in the rear pocket of my jersey instead of the cage. It was obviously tougher to get to but at least it wasn’t frozen. I downed about half of it once I got to Roosevelt Road.

The cold was also tough on my electronics. My Planet Bike blinking lights on the front of my bike and the back of my helmet both gave up. The batteries in my front light are pretty fresh but I think the helmet light is due for a change. The fresh rechargeable batteries in my GPS also ran low much too early. My rear flashing blinker was pretty strong though; which is most important.

The cold is taxing my bicycle’s drive train. From time to time I’ll hear a sickening and chilling snap as the chain pops out from a tooth on my front chain ring. Mostly it is when I’m maneuvering or accelerating. So far I haven’t seen any missing teeth or broken the chain but it is really unsettling.

I was glad to arrive at work but this was actually an enjoyable bike ride. In fact the worst part of the trip was the three minutes or so it took to lock up my bike, detach my pannier, and stow my mittens and helmet. That was when I really felt the cold.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 freaking cold miles
Distance to date: 1896.9 miles
Price of gas: $2.35


edgewater_roadie said...


Your blog entry was quoted on on 1/30/07.


Steve said...

I saw that. I was tempted to make a comment but I didn't have anything to add. If I had worn proper gear, it probably wouldn't have been such an "inspiring" ride.

Was gonna bike home today but work is keeping me late. Plus it has really sucked out there. Have you been biking in this God awful weather?

edgewater_roadie said...

I haven't heard how the trail conditions are yet. I'm anxious to get back out there, but am concerned about the ice. The streets look OK, but I prefer the trail - its much quicker and easier.

steve said...

If the cassette is spinning it might be too cold for the pawls to engage - the grease in there might be solidifying. I flushed the hub out with oil, which is a trick I read about on I just flushed it out rather than completely disassembling it since it was a new wheel anyway. I haven't had any problems with skipping down to -22C (-7F) as yet.

Steve said...

Thanks for the tip and the terrific link. I thought the mechanism must have gotten a bit chunky because of the cold. But finding documentation of the problem is comforting as opposed to thinking I trashed my hub.

I've never overhauled a hub on my own since I don't have many of the tools. It looks a bit daunting. I think I'll wait for it to get a bit warmer before I venture out anyway.

steve said...

Flushing the hub out isn't that bad, it just needs somewhere where a bit of a mess can be made without complaints from significant others ;-)

Take the cassette off and have a close look at the hub, there will probably be a small hole where oil can be dribbled in - if not, just cover the inside of the hub with oil and it should soak in. Keep the wheel horizontal but at a slight angle towards the hole to make the oil run in (or roll the wheel round till it soaks through if there isn't a hole). Once it starts dripping through to the other side, keep pumping oil through till it runs clear.

This is based around information I've pulled from various sites, so you may want to take it with a pinch of salt - it's worked well for me so far, though. I might pick up another wheel for summer use that stays greased up, though.