Monday, September 21, 2009

MFM Day 23: The Worm Turns

September 21st, 2009: Motor Free Month Day 23

I awoke last night to the sound of thunder, "how far off," I sat and wondered
-- Bob Seger, Night Moves

Boom. ok here it is, the first rainy, cold, really crappy day since I started my Motor Free Month.

Ok, waking up to thunder is never a good sign, particularly in Colorado. In Colorado, thunder is typically heard in the evening, and then is followed by a brief refreshing cleansing rain shower that makes everything green and pretty.

Morning thunder on the other hand is typically followed by an all-day gloom-fest with soggy drenching showers that put everybody into a foul mood and flood the bike paths. Morning Thunder is also a tea, I believe. I don't like it. The tea or the weather phenomenon.

First order of business; check the weather forecast. How cold is it? Can I expect rain all day or will it pass? My favorite web site Weather Underground -- no relation to this Weather Underground, or this song of the day: Weather Report, Umbrellas -- provides the answers, which pretty much make me want to go underground myself:

Yea, motor free! I should be steeled for this, as it's my 23rd day of Motor Free Living, but I'm probably more annoyed now than I would have been if this deluge occurred earlier in the Month. Can we just get this experiment over with without it sucking so much right now? That'd be great, thanks. Well so what. I've ridden in worse. I rode my bike to work in 5 degree Fahrenheit weather one day last Winter. Still have the bit of frost-nip on my cheek to prove it. So I can handle a 40 degree rainy commute for a couple of days. Suck it up, daffodil!

It's all about gear. Proper gear = tolerable ride. Earlier this month I could ride to work in my work clothes, and nothing extra. As documented last last Friday, though, lately I've found it necessary to wear a jacket, and even on some days light gloves during my morning commute. Usually by the afternoon and evening it's warm enough to dispense with those accouterments but I can smell the change is coming (you can smell it).

But rain requires a whole new level of gearing up. in addition to the light jacket and thin hat, the first required new clothing element is the rain jacket. Bright yellow and non-breathable for me, thanks. Then the rain pants. Unless I want my legs to be absolutely soaked by the time I get to work, proper rain trousers are essential. Heavy water-proof gloves are also on my list. None of these thin knit gloves or half-finger riding gloves. Time to bust out the heavy waterproof leather fireman's gloves. Man gloves. Something Howie Long would endorse. Wouldn't want to ride far in these bad boys due to the brethability/sweat factor, but dang they're nice for the short commute. My hands do get the coldest when riding in bad conditions so I don't mind over-doing it with the gloves.

Lastly, and totally optional, is the plastic bag over the shoes look. Keeps the feet dry but they are annoying to get on, and they get all torn up by the pedals, so they're not terribly reusable. Not to mention really geeked out. Those riding with clips and those special clippy shoes can opt here for special weather-resistant shoe covers which are pretty slick. Or one can put the bag between sock and shoe, sacrificing shoe but keeping foot dry and uncomfortable (again, breathability. Like drinkability, only less so). I choose to go without the shoe bags today because I know that worst-case scenario, I have another pair of dry shoes at work. Which reminds me that it's important to bring an extra pair of dry socks on a rainy day, lest you arrive at work with sodden feet. Not a pleasant way to pass the working day, I can assure you.

And although it's not clothing per se, let's not forget the all-important Rear Fender. Otherwise my rear tire will kick up all manner of mud and road sludge, subjecting me to the highly embarrassing Brown Line of Shame, which will emanate from my posterior in a pointillist line of fashion hell towards my skull, like Pollock emulating Seurat on commission from UPS. At this point I really should be waring a dunce cap, although the bike helmet will suffice as a beacon of geek in this case. Luckily for me my rear pannier seems to do the job, and my back pack takes most of the additional abuse, leaving the back of my shirt and trousers brown-free. Of course I can not see my backside so I really don't know how successful I am at avoiding this fashion faux pas. Dark slacks are recommended for rainy days. Brown, mostly. Unless you live in Flagstaff, in which case ochre might be better.

Well let's see how I did today:

  • Light jacket: check

  • Light hat: check

  • Howie Long-approved gloves: check

  • Extra shoes at work: check

  • Rain pants: missing, presumed with camping gear (also determined to be missing after frenetic search)

  • Plastic bags for feet: rejected. Not rainy enough!

  • Extra dry socks: forgot

This resulted in my hands and torso being warm and dry, and my legs and feet getting absolutely soaked on the ride into work. Although I've successfully hiked a 14er in Dockers Khakis before (the by-product of another frenetic and unsuccessful search for camping gear), I can't completely recommend them as one's first choice for poor-weather commuting. So I got to spend the morning at work in soaking wet khakis and sporting my office-stashed shoes "commando" style, sans socks. I'm amazed they let me in the door to the office.

What have I learned here? Planning. Jeez, wasn't I a Boy Scout once? Be prepared, buddy. I know the plan, I just don't bother to execute completely. Partly I think, eeeh, it's only a 2 mile commute, how bad can it get? Pretty bad. Just have to look in the mirror to see the little frost nip on my left cheek to remind me of other 2-mile commutes gone horribly wrong. That small spot on my cheek may look like a freckle to you, but it is really a badge of, um, stupidity. Also I think, eeeh, tough it out, ya wilting lilly! What would Howie Long do? (drive a truck, actually.) We don't need no fancy water-proof gear! Just stand out there and get wet like your ancestors!

Happily, conditions improved quite a bit by lunch, and I was able to ride home and back without getting wet. But it was windy! So now we've got that to deal with. Wind, though, not nearly as bad as rain. Tougher to pedal through sometimes, but far fewer comfort-related aftershocks to deal with. But I thought I spied patches of snow in the hills off to the West above Rist Canyon during a break in the clouds. Might I be able to make this day a trifecta of weather-related bike commuting fun? Autumn Soon, indeed.
But as things turned out, the weather did improve gradually and grudgingly throughout the rest of the day. It remained blustery and raw, but stayed dry, which was many times better than the morning's rain. I rode to yoga after work, and rode home just as the sun was setting, a colorful but grim sunset on a still fairly nasty day. But I survived it. Maybe I just need to get used to the fact that Summer is over, and rougher weather is going to be more common for the next few months. I certainly need to find those rain pants at least.


  1. hey scott ~ that's the same weather we're having and i'm going to try to join you in the pursuit of motor-free this week. peace,corinne (more at my blog)

  2. duuuude. I had to bike to orthopedic center of the rockies at 8:20 yesterday. I have 2 pairs of rain pants (1 for cycling in the rain/snow; 1 for hiking/backpacking/non cycling snow activities) but I was stupid and didn't wear the plastic bags over my shoes OR waterproof gloves. Just a light pair of wind proof fleece ones. What was I thinking? Oh yeah, I also spent the day in comando style extra dry shoes at work. You'd think we'd learn, eh? 3 cheers for a clear commute this morning :)

  3. Hey, I've got some rain pants for ya'.... I use them on my 9 miler to my office. Alas, I didn't use 'em yesterday or today. So ride on down to Olde Town... Arvada, that is... and I'll loan them free of charge.

    In the meantime, you may be needing a dose of Heavy Weather.... the Juggler w/Pastorius will give you a cheer ;-)