Disclaimer: These aren't my fingers, but this is what I feared. Please read below. I apologize if I've spoiled your lunch.
Friday morning's pre-dawn commute saw a temperature of 11° Fahrenheit in downtown Omaha. That's not exactly ideal cycling weather.
However, since my mantra lately has been, "I'll keep biking to work as long as there's no ice and snow on the streets, and even then, I'll think about it," I rode in.
Historically, I've shunned weather reports, using the philosophy of "I'll wear tomorrow what I should have worn today," but since the weather can be dangerous now, I've made a habit of checking a day or so in advance. Seeing the predicted lows, I added the Canari Evolve Pro long sleeve jersey to my arsenal on Thursday night, made easier using a great Sports Authority coupon. I figured at 11°, I could use something more in addition to my multiple thin layers of wicking shirts over baselayer.
I also added a fleece balaclava, pulled down over my face, but stretching the hole so that eyes, nose and mouth were exposed. I can't stand the feeling of breathing in and out through a face mask. The balaclava was long enough to completely cover my neck, and that made a huge difference.
For my legs, I tried pulling the AmFIB tights over polypro baselayer tights, but that didn't work. The fleece lining was just too grippy on the baselayer, so I changed the order. Pulling the baselayer tights over the AmFIB tights was easy, and helped add another thin layer of warmth without restricting leg movement too much. I am still using the Gavia gloves. They are made from AmFIB material, but relatively thin.
So opening the garage, I headed out with only a few square inches of skin exposed on my face. I noticed that my brake cables felt a little sticky from the cold. Also, the sound of my tires on the street was a little different. At two blocks away, I got the cold air Sinead O'Connor-style tear (see 3m:28s) that rolls down my cheek each morning. I found it harder to get oxygen out of the air, so I took it a little more slowly and in a gear lower than normal.
About 15 minutes into my 30 minute commute, I felt my outside fingers on my left hand colder than I have every remembered. At first they were just very cold. Then they hurt. Then they quit hurting. That can't be good, can it? I pumped my fist, and also tried squeezing my forearm with my other hand. My fingers started hurting again. As much as I like the Gavia gloves, they aren't suited for this temperature.
All day Friday, and even now on Saturday night, my ring finger still tingles a little. It's not swollen or discolored in any way, but I can't help but wonder if I suffered some mild frost bite. Perhaps frost nip would be more appropriate.
I will most certainly be shopping for warmer gloves before the next bout of temps in the teens in early December, according to Accuweather's long range forecast. I'd really like a pair of split finger or lobster claw style glove/mitten hybrid, but I'm having a hard time finding anything like that locally in my size. Given the holiday week coming up, I don't know that Amazon could get them to me in time. I may have to go with a warm, more easily available full fingered glove.
In summary, I feel my first crazy-cold commute was successful. With the exception of the frigid fingers and a few cold toes, I was comfortable enough, and the satisfaction of arriving at work under my own power, despite the cold weather, was very rewarding.
A major part of the Shift is learning from all experiences, pleasant and unpleasant, so that adjustments can be made, knowledge increased, and then make the next ride all the better.
Credit: Frostbite photo from http://adventure.howstuffworks.com/how-to-survive-the-freezing-cold.htm/printable.
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