Wednesday, January 8, 2014

In Which I Wonder: Can I Ride Downhill Both Ways?

Jan. 7, around 7:50 a.m., Francis parked by my office. Another faculty member saw me wheeling Francis in and said "you must be among the healthiest people on the planet." Sadly, it's not true, but I'm sure I'm healthier, if not saner,  from having biked in on this winter morning.

It was a little breezy this morning, but not bad. The temperature was sub-zero, but only barely, something like minus 2. I had driven the streets of my bike route yesterday to answer the question: Where they clear enough for biking?

I’m not sure a sane man would say the answer was “yes.” But, I don’t know that anybody says CR Biker is too long in the “sane” department. Mostly, I thought they were OK, so, yes, I rode my bike to work on this cloudy, cold morning.

I was fine. Zero sounds very cold, but, after minus teens and wind chills of 40 below, it’s almost balmy. Wear good long underwear, three pairs of socks including a thick winter pair, put on two long-sleeved shirts, one a warm sweatshirt, wear a jacket that cuts the winds and has a hood that fits under a helmet, don mittens instead of gloves and jack your wife’s scarf—it can work.

The streets were a mixed bag. Both Rockwell-Collins and Mount Mercy University have done decent jobs of snow and ice removal on their own drives and parking lots, thank you very much. Most of the streets I ride are busy enough that traffic brushed off the layer of snow.

Me, after the ride. Despite my cold appearance, it was OK.
But, in the neighborhood south and west of Kenwood School, the Cedar Rapids special winter street white ice glaze completely covers 37th Street and other adjacent roads on which I ride. Heading west on 37th  behind the school, I was going down a little hill.

Remember my trail ride? I decided it would be foolish to repeat my spill (on a hard street) by trying to control my speed with my brakes. On this little stretch of road, when the pavement is dry, I try to get up to 20 mph on my way to work—I don’t usually quite make it, but 18 or 19 mph is common. That’s on dry pavement.

No, I don’t want to do that on the CR slick white snow ice. So, both to slow down a bit and prepare myself in case of a wheel slip, I simply deployed my landing gear. I rolled down the hill with both feet skating over the street.

I probably didn’t go over 9 p.m., but it did feel a bit scary as I slowly gathered momentum and speed, and was unwilling, with good reason, to use my brakes.

Anyway, out of the 4.5 mile ride, six blocks, call it half a mile, were very slick and challenging, but I made it with no mishap. The rest of the ride was pretty good—the streets, such as F Avenue, were sometimes made narrow by ice or snow, but dry pavement nonetheless was available for an intrepid or insane biker.

Now, the only question is how to get home. In the morning, I can deploy the landing gear and coast/slide down that Kenwood neighborhood hill. I’m thinking that same strategy might not be quite as effective on the way up …

1 comment:

  1. Update: Yes, I rode home. Yes, it was OK. But I would have rather been going downhill. The weather only allowed one ride this week. Many more to come, I hope!