Monday 29 December 2014

Late December Warm Spell

Late December brought us some unseasonably warm weather.  No kidding, we had a green Christmas for the first time in many years.  It's not great weather for my ice bike with its studded tires but it was a great excuse to pull out my hybrid.

Clothing at this point is kind of simple.  Winter jersey, thermal tights, cycling liner with chamois, thin gloves, merino wool socks, hiking boots.  With a temperature of 5C and some decent wind, I felt cold at first.  Which is perfect; ten minutes into my ride I was toasty warm.

You might notice most of the pictures are aimed at the ground directly in front of my bicycle.  I was trying out my new helmet mount for my crappy action cam.  It works but I set it at a bad angle.

But it does give me a chance to showcase exactly why I like riding my hybrid.  It's a versatile bicycle.  If pavement gives way to stone dust or mud, no worries.

There's a nearby trail that is perfect for getting the most out of my hybrid.  The trails are varied.  Pavement gives way to broken pavement, stone dust gives way to mud, leaves and pine needles.  The trail goes from smooth to cratered and back again.

It's also a great escape from the concrete jungle.  Scenic views of the river and wetlands that help you forget about the rat race.  It's nice to wind past the coniferous and deciduous trees and just let your stresses and problems melt away.

One of the positives about riding in the cold is the lack of insects.  With all the wetland areas it can get pretty buggy depending on the time of year.  There have been multiple days this summer where I took the trail and got swarmed by black flies, horse flies, deer flies and a legion of mosquitoes.  They are persistent (follow for many kilometers), mean (bite right through padded gloves) and the larger ones are faster than you (even on a bike).
The number of humans in attendance also declines drastically.  There were people still checking out the bird sanctuary and you do run into the occasional dedicated dog walker.  I never passed anyone cycling or jogging.

Of course, there are downsides to peace and quiet.  Further into the trail you don't see anyone at all.  It's also very inaccessible by car.  If your bike breaks down you are pretty much on your own.  The last time this happened to me I actually bent my rear wheel.  I had to walk 10km out half-carrying my bike.

Maintenance also takes a downturn.  It is normal to see trees fallen over the trail from late fall right into mid spring.  But hey, outside of cutting up some trees there isn't really a lot of maintenance done in fairer weather.  There are lumps in the paved sections of the trail (locals call them eggs) that are so large if you hit them you'd total your bike and probably endo as well.  Yet another reason why I prefer my hybrid here; my road bike probably wouldn't survive the trip.

Case in point, there is a bridge going across a wetland outflow to the river.  There has been an orange cone on this bridge since October.  Every once in a while the cone would get blown around the bridge.  Every week or so someone from the parks department would come out and place it back in the right spot.  Eventually the defective part of the bridge was identified with a board nailed to it.  And of course, the cone placed on it.  Which still gets blown around by the wind, so they continue sending someone out to put it back.  I'm pretty sure it's cheaper to just go out once and fix it!

Across the river is our neighbour to the south, the United States.  New York state to be exact.  Despite being a major seaway and an international border, it's remarkably quiet when you are on the trail.  Of course when its late December there's also no boat traffic at all.  Probably because everyone has winterized their boat and didn't expect ice-free water in December.

The ride itself is a pretty good work out.  My hybrid doesn't put out flashy big numbers for speed or mileage.  But I measure my effort based on my heart rate.  One hour of riding these trails  results in greater calorie burn and steady effort than my indoor cycling class.

I'm hoping to take my icebike into these areas sometime this winter.  It doesn't perform well in deep snow so I'm hoping for the time of year where the snow has melted and refrozen a few times making an icy crust on top.  Maybe next year I'll be able to pick up a fat bike and try floating on top of the snow.

I did notice that my hybrid is sluggish in the cold.  I had just cleaned and re-lubed my chain so it wasn't that.  I figure I will need to do some maintenance on my hub and other moving parts.  I feel like the grease is either old or not up to stuff in cold weather.  My icebike seems to have a similar issue and it gets worse as the mercury drops.


  1. It's been amazing year for winter biking.. I expected I would of stopped biking by mid-November, yet.. here we are. However, today was -15c. Which isn't that bad but we've been spoiled the last few weeks and now -15c seems horrendous.

  2. Yeah the temperature difference can be a bit of a shock! I was surprised for this ride to get the same weather we had in October/November.

    I'm a bit bummed on "real" winter biking due to free hub issues on SubZero. I need to check today if I can service it. If not, I may be shopping for a new wheel on Pinkbike or Kijiji.