Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Sip and speed

The temperature is slowly creeping up. I've been riding in a balmy mid-40's (F) range. Having a variety of gear really helps to adapt as the need arises. I suppose it would be possible to find just one jacket that worked all year but it hasn't happened for me yet. I have managed to narrow the choices to one pair of riding pants and two jackets.

During the cold, icy, and rainy winter the Aerostich Darien with the heavy liner is the jacket of choice. I've said it before but it bears repeating. Nothing, absolutely nothing, gets through this jacket. No matter the weather the inside of the jacket is always warm and dry. I've worn it for about three winters now and wonder if it will ever get totally broken in. This thing could almost serve as body armor. You're supposed to be able to take the liner out and use the Darien all year 'round. The jacket is cut long to provide more coverage. The length that is a blessing in winter is sort of cumbersome to me in warmer weather. I also have a little issue with the way the inside of the jacket feels without the liner. The canvas feels a little stark if I have a short sleeved t-shirt underneath. I'm one of those guys who likes to feel cloth against my skin. This iron butt hardcore rider has sensitive skin, you know!

As soon as the mercury climbs above about 35 degrees I retire the Darien in favor of the Roadcrafter. I suppose I could wear the Roadcrafter all winter. It just feels like my arms get cold from the little bit of air that comes through. I've tried wearing a thick fleece under the jacket. The Roadcrafter fits fairly snugly which is great but then I feel too confined and bulky with the fleece. I find that a sweatshirt works about right. One of my instructor comrades has a heated vest with heated sleeves. He uses this under the Roadcrafter in the Winter. His commute is about 6 miles and this works for him. I have an electric vest but I think the sleeve thing is a little "over-the-top". The jacket is also a little shorter which, again, works great in warmer weather. The jacket is designed to zip onto the pants and make a one piece suit but I always have trouble getting in and out of it. Ever see a dancing Gorilla? Funny if you're the observer but embarrassing to the Gorilla.

The Roadcrafter pants are awesome no matter which jacket I wear them with. Padded enough to be warm but flexible after broken in. I bought the bib top for the pants so they can be worn independently with either jacket. The combination of the Roadcrafter jacket and pants is perfect for a commuter. The pockets on the jacket are obviously planned and placed by folks who ride a lot. Did I mention the Roadcrafter jacket is Hi-Viz?

For the long distance commuting I do this seems to be the perfect set-up. It's always hard to integrate useful gear with the work environment. With the stuff I have I can easily pull it on over work clothes. The vents and zippers allow me to adjust for a cold ride in and a warmer ride home.

This morning dawned clear and cold. The weather guessers had called for rain. It turned out that the rain came in on a storm later in the day. Mother Nature decided to offer a jewel as a peace offering for the tempest to come. It was one of those rides where I wanted to wriggle inside like a puppy's tail, I felt so good. There's something about a clear and sunny day that makes the just-above-freezing air refreshing instead of a trial. My co-workers are coming into the office and stumbling for the coffee pot. The Intrepid Commuter is light on his feet, chilled, but alive and exuberant. More than once a co-worker has almost been driven to homicide before that first cup of coffee hits home.

I'm expecting to see bikes on my commute, now. It's not happening very quickly. Did see a couple of hardy souls on cruisers and that's it. Looked like they were on the short route but, hey, commuting nonetheless. Why else be on a bike that early in the morning? Still, I'm asking myself "Where are all the bikes"? "Come on, it's Spring, already!!!"

There was an entertaining stretch this morning. Highway 99 is the old road from before the freeway days. Out past my house it's two lanes each way with a middle turn lane. This goes on for about 5 1/2 miles until the road goes back to just two lanes. Not long after I turn onto the highway I see this old woman in a white Buick Regal slowly creeping up on the left. She has that perfect "old lady" hairdo. You know the one? The hair is whitish-blue and in a perfect little round bunch around her head. She has a travel-type coffee mug with her. As she slowly goes by me the woman picks up the mug. I presume it is coffee but could be hot Geritol for all I know. After taking a sip, she puts the mug down. Her speed increases until she's a ways ahead of me. I keep a steady throttle. Little by little I catch up. Her speed has decreased. I notice her take another sip from the cup. Same thing. Sip and speed. I watch this cycle happen four times. Sip and speed. Sadly, she turns off onto Hwy 34 towards parts unknown while I continue South. I almost wanted to follow her just to watch!

The ride home was a lesson in fighting wind and trying to see through the blowing rain. Still beats spacing out in a cage anyday. Can't wait to see what tomorrow will bring!

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