#30DaysOfBiking Day 17 – Oh Spring, Where Did You GO?

On Day 16, less than an hour after getting home from my day’s ride, my watch made an urgent buzz and displayed the text “STORM ALERT”. The watch has a barometer inside and if it drops quickly it means a storm is likely approaching. If I am out on a long bike ride, or hiking on top of a big mountain above treeline, this is really good to know as it might give me time to find shelter. A few minutes later the blinds began blowing in the wind, the sky darkened and it started raining. At the same time, the temperature started dropping all of which brings me to Day 17.

On Day 17 the wind and rain persists all day. The temperature hovers in the low single digits and by the time my work day is over, my Google Home tells me that the temperature is 4°C and feels like -1° due to the wind. We see now the value of manipulating behavioural friction. On the positive side, I had all of my warm cycling clothes clean and available. At the same time, I increased behavioural friction for riding indoors by putting the indoor bike in the basement hundreds of feet below and putting the trainer in the closet. So I dig out the gloves, warm headband, wool long johns and helmet cover out that I truly thought I was done using, put them on along with a pair of rain pants and get outside before I can get any other ideas.

I also have another voice in my head these days. I’ve been dreamily, and as I mentioned, a bit jealously reading cycle tour memoirs. These books are not all warm sunny days with a slight cooling breeze and no hills. Some have terrible days with rain, snow, numb hands from cold or hills that never seem to end. And honestly, on some level this is a life I’m dreaming of having – not just because of the lovely days riding alone on a gravel road through a forest but the challenges to my own will. Those times I’ve powered through that – walking through forests at 11PM 130 km into a 100 km day’s ride or bonking 30 km from anywhere with no idea what to do – those have been the most satisfying and the memories that stick with me to this day. Why would I deliberately choose to avoid experiences like those just because they happen to be closer to home? And really, if I did get to take a major tour like a transcontinental one, it wouldn’t hurt to be acclimated a little bit more to discomfort than the guy who used to look at the weather, see nice temperatures but maybe a 20 km/hr headwind and decide to take the bus.

Once I get outside it’s worse than I imagined. A cold rain is steadily falling and a stiff crosswind on the bridge across the Don Valley to the trail is enough to keep me on my toes so I don’t shift out of my lane. I get on the paved trail where black ice brought me down in 2021 and am fortunate that the weather is still enough above freezing that this isn’t a concern. However, I carry my bike down the last stairs to the trail, set my bike down on the metal bridge and start off. My rear tire spins and slides to the right. It’s not ice but it’s as slick as. I carefully walk across and start on the paved trail.

Despite the cold rain and wind, I’m actually in a far better mood than Day 16. Not only that, the trails are almost completely empty. In the entire ride I pass two people walking their dog. My attitude toward others is so refreshingly restored that I consider trying to high-five the one runner I see out on the trail then check myself because that’d just be weird.

My intent was to keep the ride short so once again I’m riding in the neighbourhood and so I’ll show you a couple of things I love about our shared back yard.

First up, it’s listed on Google Maps as “The Great Honey Kiln of 1800” – though I can find a few citations saying that this is likely around 200 years old, I’ve yet to find anything identifying what exactly it was or what it was used for. In any case, it’s a fun little find just a little bit off the main trail.

From here I headed a bit further south until I got to the turn for Crothers Woods. This is an excellent recreational spot in the city. There are a number of gravel trails which you’ll see a few of below. At the same time there are some really well cared for mountain bike trails for far different bikes than mine ridden by people with far more skill than I have. However, they’re excellent for walking and trail running. Here’s a sample of what you’ll see.

One of the interesting things about this space for me is that until the 60s, this was a landfill for the Leaside neighbourhood: an ugly and smelly dump. But take a little care, quit dumping trash and messing up the land and things can slowly get back toward normal.

In this part of the park I see no other humans. It is just me and, no doubt, many deer, coyote, racoons, raptors, and other animals (all have been seen here – I’ve even been lucky enough to see some). Part of this park includes a large, steep hill up from the river and I have to work hard to get up it – likely in part due to my recent blood donation. (Back when I was on Zwift and tracked my performance with a few more sensors I noticed a 10% power drop – which makes sense as I had about a 10% blood volume drop as well). But one thing I notice when I stopped to take that last photo is that while my body and hands were really cold for the first couple of photos, riding up the hill turned on the heat. My body is now completely warm, even my hands, ungloved to take photos.

I reach the exit from the park at Bayview Avenue, quite winded but still there’s a bit more climbing to go. I push through it and I ride through Leaside toward home. Along the way I remember the recent route tweak I discovered. The fastest and most direct route from Leaside to home requires that I go on Millwood, a busy road with high speed limit and a left turn onto our road. My technique there is to wait for the red light to stop traffic, turn right, take the lane and hit it as hard as I can, getting my 30+ lb bike up to 35-45 km/hr and if I’m lucky get a green light at the half way point to maximize speed and minimize driver encounters. But now, with a slight detour through quiet residential streets I cross at McRae, which puts me on a quiet road through an industrial area – barely traveled at this hour.

I ride home and am surprised when I get back inside the bike room at just how warm it seems inside. I was out for 40 minutes (about 30 minutes more than I wanted to!) and only spent the first 10-15 actually feeling uncomfortable. Something to remember the next time my mind makes excuses. (Note: It is currently 4°C and snowing off and on and I haven’t done today’s ride yet)

2 thoughts on “#30DaysOfBiking Day 17 – Oh Spring, Where Did You GO?

  1. Great post! I love how you incorporated the storm alert feature on your watch to plan ahead for shelter. My question is, how do you balance the urge to push yourself through discomfort and challenging experiences while also taking precautions to ensure your safety while cycling?

    Mr. W

    1. It really depends on what the weather threat really is. I’ve ridden in sudden downpours and it’s not an issue. If I’m in a populated area I’ll take shelter in a building if available. On one trip when a storm came in I found my way to a school (it was closed as it was the weekend) but sat in a covered area near the doorway until the storm let up. (Then it got much worse on the way home).

      So for me this feature is mostly for comfort at least in our area. Strong lightning, large hail or tornadoes are not that frequent though in the face of that I’d use that alert for awareness and keep an eye open for somewhere low and safe to take shelter if needed. Now if I were in Kansas in August, or on a mountain above treeline, it would be different. But even then it’s a matter of using such an alert to mean “Watch the incoming weather carefully” and not “Run home ASAP!”

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