Tag Archive: wind

Well… blow me down!

“Shiver me timbers!” and “well… blow me down!”

How fitting Popeye’s classic phrases were for my commute home tonight! Barely out the door, I set out into the blustery night and very nearly got swept up and away by the cyclonic winds literally whipping me around… and then I very nearly sailed into a parked police SUV and suddenly got flung (nearly) back out into traffic. Keeping the rubber side down and keeping from crashing were my two foremost concerns … and I could barely do either. Finally at a stop light, I withstood some more wind… and finally safely dismounted my bike and walked the block to the next light. By then I knew I would be out of the wind tunnel and more safely able to navigate my way home on two wheels.

I’ve posted before of the joy of winds at my back to push me home, while RL has posted about how “headwinds suck.” And Jack answered the question about fighting the wind. My tips for commuting in gale force winds were even posted on LGRAB. Tonight my route definitely worked against me (at least in sections) but my outer layer (my hi-vis yellow Endura commuter jacket) blocked that chilly wind from whipping straight through me. And I had no shame in walking when I knew it was safest.

Good thing I ate some spinach today! That guy Popeye was on to something.

Waterproof enough

Last night’s commute home in Chicago was a wet one. Last year I dreaded commutes in this kind of springtime weather – cold, damp, soppy and windy. Somehow, though, I find myself enjoying the rides this week so far. (For me, it beats the snowy commutes that our neighbors to the north in Wisconsin are facing – and I wish you a return to springtime soon.)

But – the wet weather commuting brings its challenges: namely staying comfortable (reasonably dry and warm) while riding. During a summer rain, I don’t mind just getting wet, especially during my commute home. But when the thermometer reads 39-degrees and the wind is whipping out of the northeast and in my face at 15mph (gusts up to 35mph), I must strategically dress for my commute.

This evening, my layering went accordingly:
* first thing I put on was my cycling cap with visor to keep the rain out of my eyes.
* then my fleece balaclava to keep my head warm (and dry)
* helmet
layering for my head in rain

* I had worn light wool long underwear (top and bottom) since wool dries quickly and insulates well even when wet
* On my bottoms I wore a newly acquired pair of Marmot rain pants that I picked up from an online sale last fall; tonight was my first chance to really test them in a steady rainfall
* my usual hi-vis yellow commuter jacked (windproof and waterproof) from Endura covered my torso
* on my hands I wore simple wool gloves I picked up from an army-navy surplus store, covered by an outer windproof, water-resistant lobster style shell mitt.

The full outfit – upon wet arrival at home:
full rain gear

By the time I got home, I was reasonably dry. The good news:
My visor had done its job of keeping the rain out of my eyes. My waterproof pants performed excellently; too bad they aren’t cycling-specific… as they could have been a bit longer with better movement in the knees, but my legs were dry and they breathed well.

Unfortunately, some not so good news:
Seems the my waterproof jacket needs to be re-waterproofed. Thinking back, this jacket is two-years old, so it is time to wash and reapply a waterproof coating to the jacket. Water had seeped through to my arms but the rest of my torso did remain dry. Luckily, I was home, so I quickly changed into dry, comfortable loungewear for the night.

Earlier in the day my mom had sent me an email after her wet, messy morning commute (by car) saying “I thought about you as I drove … in the rain. I don’t know how you do it! Ride to work in the rain.” I responded that my commute was invigorating and so much more enjoyable than being stuck in a car (or a bus) – at least it seemed that way from the glum looks on peoples’ faces in their cars or waiting at the bus stops I pass along my route.

Overnight, my bike served as a drying rack for all my gear to dry before my commute today.
bike drying rack

And today I’m recharged for another day – dry! – of bike commuting.

What are your best stay dry/warm tips for this season?

Skirts, bike shoes and lunchtime rides

Nearly 60-degrees mid-February in Chicago?!? Yes. That was one week ago today. Perfect for a leisurely lunchtime joy ride with Dottie from LGRAB.

This week Chicago is back to the usual frigid, snowy weather. In fact, I encountered “thundersnow” and sleet on my bike commute home last night – definitely no joy ride last night.

In honor of the springtime warm-up, I dressed for the occasion – wearing a skirt with bike capris layered beneath and just a long-sleeve top (and only packed the lightweight windbreaker).
spring fashion

For the first time in months, I donned my bike shoes and clipped in for the commute. Amazing feeling and oneness with my bike again, especially to battle the headwind on the bike commute to work. And on my hands — Look ma! – exposed fingers!
fingerless gloves

And then I did something I usually never do — I took a lunchtime bike ride along Chicago’s lakefront. My friend Dottie from LGRAB joined me as we huffed our way into the wind toward the Museum Campus and then enjoyed the push and effortless ride back north to our respective workplace afternoon meeting appointments. Along the way we frolicked through puddles and muddy lakefront path terrain.

(Thank goodness our bikes are decked out with full fenders for the mess we encountered.)

Like giddy school girls at recess, we played and photographed our way along the lake. Neither of us wore our jacket/sweater.
dottie-no jacket

I even endured a bit of chill on the way back north in defiance of the cold. And Dottie had her own snag in her tights (tell-tale sign of too much fun during the work day?).
tights snag

Even if it only lasted one day, spring was in the air. Ah! Breathe it in and feel the vitality all around. Hopefully it keeps us all going until spring arrives for good and all that snow finally melts into a sunny summer.

Bike Commuter Reality Check

As the theme song to the 80’s tv show “The Facts of Life” says – “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life.”

Those words ring just as true for the realities of bike commuting, too. My blissful rides home this week with the south winds pushing at my back have been countered by the more difficult bike commutes into the forceful 20mph winds going to work. On the up-note — I’m getting in my resistance training. πŸ™‚

And then yesterday morning – feeling invincible as a bike commuter sailing past traffic at rush hour and loving the warmer weather – I experienced my first flat tire since starting to ride my current commuter bike ‘Toro’. Luckily the air pressure held to get me to my workplace destination where it promptly went completely flat. With the bike propped upside down in my office, I called on the help of a fellow bike commuter colleague and he provided support as a patched my barely punctured tube. It’s always more fun to face these bummer realities with a friend at your side. We both got our hands dirty and shared tricks and tips for flat repairs. In this case, I patched the tube – even left the wheel on the bike; sadly the skewer system I have in place on my wheels were on their too tight for either me or my co-worker to loosen. Then on my way home I did pick up a couple new tubes from the local bike shop along my route… and got my skewer unstuck so that I can remove the wheel when needed.

The flat tire totally surprised me and left me floundering — until I realized that I just need to reach out to the bike commuter community. I was not alone in my need and support was only an email away. The bad reality brought the good community back to bike commuting. It also reminds me that in this weather — with the snow all nearly melted — to look out for all the debris in the roadway that can cause flats.

There you have it – the good along with the not-so-good = the fact that I would (usually) always rather be bike commuting.


Spring is in the air as winds out of the south blew me home last night.

Those happy, free-as-a-bird feelings of bike riding rushed back to me as I easily pedaled home – face uncovered for the first time in months, now that the winter thaw has set in. Ah… With warm 40-ish temperatures and the nice breeze to propel my journey, I felt invigorated.

Back on Groundhog Day I posted that the groundhog predicted the end of winter. I’m sure ready to embrace the less-layered and bundled look in favor of spring temperatures. (just hold off the chilly spring rains – please)

Tomorrow Chicago may reach a high of 60-degrees! For those of you in warmer climates – hush! – but for the rest of us… get on your bike and enjoy the weather while it lasts.