Spring comes slowly to Michigan, I’m learning, and then suddenly it is HERE! I can officially say spring has sprung. Of course there's been signs. The sounds of lawns being mowed, the return of flying bugs, all that once was green is green again. Mostly, though, it's the people. I'm no longer feeling lonely on my commute.
Most times, the racks at Allen Elementary are empty. Granted, as the morning progresses and the upper grades start arriving, there's a few bikes that eventually show. It's not packed, by any means. Six, I think, is the most I've seen at any given time. And yes, I do count. I'm a bike nerd, after all. Wee-One is by far the youngest to lock his stead to said racks. He's a preschooler at what otherwise is a 350 student Elementary School. Preschool happens to exist there, but it's your traditional K-6.
If it all happened to the same bike, I'd have to call it cursed. Three very different bikes; three very different breakages. The crank could have been accompanied by a pretty bad wreck, the frame could lead to a horrific future crash, and the spoke, well, it was the third thing to break. Weird, (and you'll see why), but no biggie. That all three led to some fortunate results, I'll chalk up to serendipity.
A combination of forces resurrected the Xtracycle, and we're loving every minute of it. The bike sat for over a year, unridden. Tragic, right? It never came out of its stint as winter bike last year, so was left to languish in the elements and let the salt wreak its drivetrain havoc. Truth is, we had the boy on a bike thing covered and we had two functioning motor vehicles to choose from. That "had" two vehicles is very past tense.
My winter bike--a happy blue mixte--and I have gotten quite a workout these last few days. As I've noted before, our winter has been relatively mild, but this week we got a pretty significant snow storm. The temperatures are reasonable--upper 20s, low 30s--but the snow is deep and has challenged my commute.
Today's jaunt to preschool brought with it the boy's first witnessed fender-bender. We were crossing the ever busy Packard Road--a 40mph section of semi-residential speedway--when an SUV locked up all four and hit the car in front of it. It wasn't a bad wreck. There were no injuries or major damage. But it was loud, happened quickly, and occurred mere feet away. We were positioned beside our crossing guard, wearing full day-glow regalia and holding a stop sign which literally beams the word "STOP" through its built-in LED lights toward oncoming traffic. There was more than ample time for all cars to stop. It was the rather typical "right lane stops, left lane oblivious" occurrence that brought the two vehicles together.
When I saw the SUV approaching, and heard the screeching sound, I instinctively said, "Hold on, Butter." The nickname is a conflation of an instance where I was caught between saying "Bud" and "Duder," and it just sort of stuck. In any case, on my ride home sans child, I began thinking through what brought us to a four-year-old merely holding on... This links to an article I wrote on Hauling Kids if you'd like to Read more
Earlier this week in his guest column, Mark Pooley opined, that "commuting in winter isn't as 'hard core' as many believe or claim it to be." That may be quite true, but I still feel pretty bad-ass when I ride to work in temperatures like today's. Brad might feel otherwise, but it was cold! Overall, we've had a pretty mild winter; I guess we picked a good one to start our bike-centric lives.
There's been enough snow and ice to let me get used to my studded tires, without being overwhelmed. The past few days, though, I've ridden through multiple snow flurries. These snow flurries aren't the big, soft flake kinds. Instead they are flurries made of angry snow, swirling around, and insistently pecking at my eyes--the only part of my face uncovered. Still, it hasn't been so cold that I couldn't mostly stay warm during my 4 mile rides. But here's the thing: I HATE being cold! And as I've gotten older, I feel colder much more quickly. I'm always the coldest one in our house. The little dude runs around barefoot on our fake wood floors, while I'm huddled under a blanket with two pairs of socks, slippers, and all the fleece I can find.
Keeping warm on the bike is something of a challenge. I get a little obsessed with my layers, though I think I've got it mostly dialed in. This morning, I had to add a second Smartwool neck gator to keep my face warm enough and a pair of Brad's gloves to wear over my own. But I did it, and that's the point!
For those curious: (from right to left)
SmartWool Tank Top
Icebreaker Wool Undershirt
Icebreaker Merino Baselayer pants
Handmade Wool Socks
Shimano MTB Shoes
Eddie Bauer/Goodwill Lined Wool Pants
Marmot Thin Gloves
Thinsulate Full Finger Men's Gloves (I should add I have thin Pogies on the bars, too. Toasty fingers!)
SmartWool Neck Gator (x2)
REI GoreTex Shell
Bring it, Winter! Not really. I'll be happy if my new low is as good as I get this year.
We've been thinking about snow and salt and steel here at Bicycle Hubabaloo as of late. Cinda rides steel bikes. So do I, mostly. And we're contemplating new (to us) rides to augment our current fleet now that we're car free. What better time to visit ways that winter can impact our steeds than with a guest contribution by Mark Pooley. Don't get us wrong. We all like winter just fine. It just can wreak havoc. Here's Mark's story of fixing (yes, a pun) his Pugsley for those not so faint of heart.
This weekend I had a free afternoon to go explore, so went in search of interesting alternative routes to get from home to downtown. I found a few, with tree-lined streets and joggers aplenty. But I also was confronted with not so subtle reminders of what it means to be bicycle dependent.
Four unrelated things have me thinking about Sharrows. Unrelated, that is, except that they all involve sharrows. First, my personal Facebook account reminded me of this image I shared some four years ago. I've dubbed it the worst sharrow ever, and for good reason. I'll detail why below.