Cycling – winter riding… a pain in the butt (litteraly)

Phew.  Went on  my first, real winter commuter cycling expedition today and conquered the 20 some kms from Calgary’s deep SW to the downtown core in -8 degrees celcius.  I find biking to be the most enjoyable and freeing experience ever, but even I had a hard time having fun out there this morning.

With the sun barely up in the sky, I started out at around 8:15 am…

…giving myself ample time to get to work at 10:00… I knew that what is usually an hour commute in ideal surface/temperature conditions would take longer on the winter roads.  A lot of the time, my focus was on bodily comfort and on nearly-frozen fingers and toes.  I spent the first half of my trip huffing into my gloves to warm up my hands while thanking my lucky stars that my feet were warm… and by the time my hands warmed up and I got my blood flowing then my toes started to get cold.  Hats checked out as did mom’s knitted sweater underneath a light jacket (that wool could get you through the Arctic!), and ofcourse a huge scarf wrapped around my face.  The condensation from my breath and nose a-drippin’ makes for a familiar oozing, mucky, snotty mess…although it’s always preferable to exposing your face and having your jaw freeze.  All in all not a bad trip as far as temperature and comfort.

The surface, or I should say varying surfaces, is what exhausted me today.  Calgary neighbourhood’s aren’t all snow-plowed which makes getting out unto more frequented roads the first challenge.  Once out there, it’s OK, although I imagine cyclists annoy cars just a bit more than usual in the winter by riding right on the lanes as opposed to riding on the side of the road…where the mountains of pushed aside snow lay.  Then, you get to the actual bike-paths, and although these are heavenly in ideal conditions, they can be a bit dangerous for winter riding.  Calgary paths are rarely cleared, windy and very up and down… and if you don’t have winter tires it’s dangerous to go quickly on them.  Today, on a particularly exposed overpass above the Glenmore reservoir, I came riding out, quite fast, unto a solid sheet of ice.  I immediately knew that I wouldn’t make it through unscathed so, cussing like a sailor, I went down hard on my right side.

A pain in the butt indeed, with a bruise that should be big, bright and blue within the next few days!

Coming back home I took the C-train part of the way, much to the dismay of my fellow passangers, many of whom complained loudly at my bike, told me I would get fined, and generally made me, and my bike, feel very unwanted.

So, it was an interesting day for commuting – not a particularly spectacular one, more like a harsh reminder of just how tough it is to cycle year-round in a city like Calgary.

Tough…but, nonetheless, far from impossible.

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