Monday, January 24, 2011

Hangin' out in the glacier

Today started at 17 degrees below zero (F). Winter made a New Year's resolution to be cold and snowy, so January has been marked by some of the conditions that have made New England legendary.

Not that we have not had some of the other conditions that have made New England legendary as well. I've logged several rides toward my 2011 total. We had a wet snowstorm that ended with more outright rain than was forecast. Since then, however, the snowfalls have been dry. The arctic air has come to visit.

Some sort of snow event is lining up for Wednesday. Most sources won't declare anything, but the cellist heard a rumor of 16-18 inches when she was at her Maine gig this morning. That could be a left-field prediction from a daring forecaster or just your typical panic in the streets before something more mundane. Maybe someone caught a glimpse of 6 to 8 out of the corner of their eye when running past the TV this morning.

This winter's pattern does closely resemble the winter of 1992-'93. That one shifted to snowy in early January. The climax was the Blizzard of '93 in March. It has been called the Storm of the Century. A Google search on it turns up many accounts of its effects from the deep south to Canada. We got more than 24 inches here in the 'ham. Other places got much more. And we got another big storm after that. As a marginally employed back-country skier, I was all over that stuff. Not so much anymore.

One or two die-hards around here are trying to ride. One of them has good studded tires and some sense, but another one who came to me last week is learning about extreme cold and salty roads the hard way. I keep saying "fixed gear, fixed gear" to these people, but they'd rather torment themselves by trying to keep a lot of moving parts moving in highly adverse conditions.

I might get to do some skiing. It's very difficult to get a decent workout on a work day. If I don't get a regular schedule going, it's pointlessly destructive to try to go hard on two days back-to-back, only to go back to normal sloth for the next five. Bike commuting season makes it all so much easier. But that brings its own logistical limitations. I won't be dashing off to play fiddle on Thursday evenings in a town 15 miles out of my way if I have to get there by bike in the time available.

Cut off from the activities that make winter worthwhile I think about liquidating all my assets and going on a world tour of tropical beaches until the money runs out.

Whatever we get for snow, I know I'll be up on my roof next Monday, shoveling to keep ahead of whatever the winter brings next. That's kind of like mountaineering, especially because I set up a belay. I don't want to end up like countless gimpy roof heroes who sneer at safety lines. If I'm going to get busted up I want it to be for something more glorious than that.

Eventually the crevasse I'm in will reach the face of the glacier in March or April. I'll tumble out, blinking in the spring sunshine, brush off the slush and go looking for my bike. If the weather shifts toward hard frozen snow in the woods and clear, dry roads any time between now and then I'll head out on the fixed gear. Right now it's just good weather for hot chocolate and imagination.


RANTWICK said...

Yeah, welcome to the cold snap, baby! Forecast is for warming up a bit for me over the next few.

My rear disc brake froze in a half "applied" position on this morning's ride. I just grunted it out until I could get to work and free it up properly. Moving parts, indeed.


cafiend said...

At least our meteorologists aren't blaming Canada for this. It's an "Arctic air mass" not a "Canadian" one.

A guy brought his single-speed in for repairs. It's really hard in winter, because the workshop goes over to skis. My work stand is embedded in a hanging forest of rental skis.

Steve A said...

I feel your pain. We had a little frost on the grass this morning ourselves!

Kelly said...

I'm in Southern Maine so I feel your wind-chilled pain! We were supposed to get yet another 2-5" overnight, yet again we got closer to a foot.

adventure! said...

I remember the 1993 "Blizzard of the Century". There was quite a bit of snow in Western Connecticut, but the thing I hated most about the storm is how late in the season it was. Mid-March? I want spring!

What are your feelings regarding internal hub gears for winter riding?

cafiend said...

Hi, adventure!

Internal gears should be better than an exposed drive train unless temps get cold enough to stiffen whatever lube is inside the mechanism. Also, briny road glop might manage to work its way in over time.

I have preferred a fixed gear for wet or wintry riding because the direct drive gives immediate speed control. The constant pedaling helps me stay warm. The limited gear keeps me from getting unseasonably frisky. However, your terrain or load needs might dictate more gear options.

Anything enclosed has the advantage of greater protection from the elements, but less easy access when it eventually needs repair. That being said, there are some mighty old Sturmey Archer hubs out there that have never needed to be cracked open.

cafiend said...

BTW, adventure!, as a comic artist you might like Ink and Snow, by a New York/Alaskan currently doing a short hitch in downeast Maine. i believe I have it linked on Citizen Rider.

adventure! said...

Thanks for the heads-up about ink & snow. I'll definitely check it out.

I've always had good luck with my Sturmey-Archer hub gear in the winter. Granted, we only have to deal with rain here in Cascadia, not the snow/slush/salt y'all get in N'england.