2013…you’re here already?

How time flies when you’re having fun, spinning through Christmas in a full opposite-lock power drift, getting hammered by round after round of the latest cold or flu (children really are disease carriers…but cute ones), scrambling into the new year and suddenly it’s the end of January before you’ve taken a breath.  Or so it seems.  I’m so used to having no spare time that just the tiniest bit feels like a whole bunch that I don’t know how to deal with. Now there’s microcontroller projects scattered about the place, bits and piece of remote control helicopters littering the desk, the poor Rescue Bike is still wheels-up on the work bench waiting from some – any – attention, the stack of un-read books grows taller every day and this here venting outlet grows cold and dark.

Many an idea flowed through my synaptic gaps over the intervening weeks, but none seemed capable of firing the circuit to actually sit down and write.  There’s the success of the Pearl Izumi P.R.O. winter layers I snagged through a deal on Amazon – a huge, smashing success if I’m honest.  I wouldn’t ever have guessed that 2 flimsy thin layers of whatsit material would be capable of keeping me thawed through Calgary’s winter but I was so wrong.  My usual riding attire consists of a long-sleeve Merino wool jersey – super thin, you hardly know you’ve got it on, my layered Pearl jackets and a toque (and helmet) on top.  The coldest temps I recorded were in the high sub-zero teens…or is that low teens.  Numerically higher, but colder like -20C plus whatever wind-induced chill in addition to the cycling induced wind chill.  I continue to arrive sweaty, without fail. 

My legs aren’t as warm but they’re typically dressed only in the MEC Roubaix pants and on the coldest days some Driwear long underwear.  I’m not a fan of the latter to be honest – they feel like they trap moisture leaving me clammy by the time I get to work.  The Roubaix on their own are okay but when it’s nudging -20C, despite being warm and sweaty up top, the legs have gone from chilly to plain cold.  I might be able to tough it out for 60 or 75 minutes but that last bit would be painfully miserable.  I tried wearing my Gore-Tex rain pants over top but that led to similar cold-clammy end-results.  Need to keep trying stuff out but in the meantime, of the 420km I’ve managed this year, the Roubaix have held their own.

New, or mostly new, are the Northwave Celsius Arctic GTX (what a mouthful) winter shoes…or boots.  Whatever.  They’re great! </Tony-the-Tiger>  From multiple layers of socks inside the Sidi summer shoes with home-made duct-tape covered sock covers to simply socks in the Northwaves.  Less bulk, less weight and warmer!  They’ve performed flawlessly thus far – better than expected – but active temperature rating is important, especially the active bit.  The sizing is entirely out to lunch on the Northwaves but there doesn’t seem to be any sort of consistent Euro to US sizing conversion.  My Sidis are Euro 45Ms, the Northwaves are also 45s and my plain old shoes are 10.5.  The Sidis list a conversion as being size 11 and the Northwaves claim they’re size 12(!)  They’re not – they’re both 10 ¼, maybe 10½.  They’re also great footwear choices, size conversion anomalies be damned.

I’ve continued to mile-up the Ridley X-Fire Disc through the winter of course.  It’s now sitting with a little over 2200km on the clock, the bulk of it in the snow.  Actually at the moment it’s sitting with the dealer having a noisy bottom bracket dealt with as it started making unhealthy-sounding clicking / popping noises in the last couple of weeks.  Didn’t seem to affect its performance (I can do that all on my own thanks) at all but it wasn’t going away either.   Hopefully they’ve got it sorted and we’ll be back in the saddle for Wednesday – just in time for the latest round of cold temps to dissipate back to something slightly more pleasant.  I love this bike – I’ve put more miles on it since October than I managed in all of 2011.

I’ve read many things that I wanted to respond to but most end up forgotten.  One managed to stick in my mind, like a sliver that hasn’t worked its way back to the surface yet.  I stumbled across an article about winter riding written by a fellow Calgarian but this one left me cold.  Don’t wash your bike in the winter.  Bearings hate water and they hate ice more. 

Well that’s just about the stu….<whoa…easy there….> fine.  That particular bit of advice seems to have been written tongue-in-cheek – I can think of no other rational explanation for such an idio <hey…that’s enough…play nice>…sigh.  Right – okay. 

Here’s the deal.  Bearings do hate ice and water (in the summer too).  However they, along with your chain, sprockets, cranks, wheel assemblies and paintwork also hate salt, sand and other bits of flotsam and jetsam that find their way onto the roads and pathways.  Not washing your bike is tantamount to bicycle abuse in the winter.  As a mechanic, bicycleenthusiast and all-around cheap-skate (see earlier comment about duct-taped socks as shoe covers); I can’t fathom not washing the…shit off your bike on a regular basis.  Granted, don’t use a pressure washer on your bottom bracket or your wheel bearings, but that advice applies in the summer too.  I suppose if you lack the facilities – IE your bike won’t fit in the shower – then perhaps washing it routinely will prove tough.  From a maintenance philosophy, washing the bike gets me hands-on over the entire bike.  Loose fasteners, cable adjustments, nicks in the paint, spoke tensions and so on and so forth.  It allows one to address maintenance issues while they’re loose screws and not broken or missing parts.  Don’t wash your bike…sheesh.

Enough.  Tune in next time for a return to the initial purpose of this space – How and Why.

To be clear here – I’m not trying to tell you to wash your bike  – it’s just what I do and why.