Saturday, November 22, 2008

Things Are Different At 11° F

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


munsoned said...

My finners got chilled also. I have the years previous version of the Gavia, and that's what I wore that morning. I have a set of polypro liner gloves that make all the difference in the world. You might want to hit Canfields or someplace like that to get really thin liner gloves to fit under you Gavias before going full on lobster glove. Could save you some mullah. I'm really wishing I had had my liners on Friday, but like you said, it's all a learning (re-learning in my case) experience.

Great job keeping up on the commute though.

Scott Redd said...

Wow... Monday's and Tuesday's 25 degree rides felt like a warm summer morning compared to the 11 degrees.

That's the nice thing about relativity. You can't know hot without cold, good without bad, light without dark, etc., etc..

I took advantage of an Amazon gift certificate that I had in combination with some earned Mechanical Turk money and ordered a pair of Louis Garneau lobster claw gloves for $20, including fast shipping.

I don't think I'll need them for the rides remaining this week, but the temps for early December look pretty bad.

Thanks for the tip on liners, Munson. I'll look for some. I read somewhere about using ordinary vinyl or latex gloves in a pinch. Do you do anything special for your little piggies when it gets dangerously cold?

Have a great holiday!

munsoned said...

I've never tried to do anything longer than my 15 minute commute in temps lower than 20 degrees. When I did some cold (mid 20s with wind) long rides before, I'd wear glove liners with my lobster gloves. As soon as the temp got up to 30 though, the glove liners would have to come off. I'd start to sweat and soak my lobsters otherwise. Not a good situation.

brady said...

I think you'll like the lobsters under 20 F a lot. I wore mine on this 11F day without liners and was quite comfy for the 25 min commute.

brady said...

Also: I'd like to hear a little more about your mTurk account (you're the first I've known to do this).

What kinds of tasks and what kinds of rewards for work done?

Scott Redd said...

Hi Brady:

My total Mechanical Turk sum is about $24. Probably about half of that came from a special situation where I reviewed some food dishes and provided photos of them from my visit to Austin, TX.

Since you followed my travelblog to New Orleans, you may have noticed that I have an odd habit of photographing my food when I visit interesting restaurants. The webmaster of was specifically looking for reviews from Austin, and as I had the pics already, I was happy to oblige.

The web site no longer pays for reviews, so the days of the fat MTurk bonuses are gone. More typical are tasks that pay from $0.01 to $0.05 for things like helping to sort out pictures of items for sale, tag a photo, rewrite a paragraph, transcribe text from an image, or transcribe an audio file.

Sometimes they are silly things like "write a poem about a robot," and "draw a picture of a robot." One was "write 'I turk for (fill in the blank)' on a card and photograph yourself." These are presumably for art projects.

I'm pretty picky, and choose things that I can do within a minute or so. There are other tasks that might pay a dollar or a few dollars that involve researching email addresses, phone numbers, etc. I won't do anything that looks like service to a spammer.

You won't get rich being a turker, but to me it's similar to wasting time on the computer playing a game or puzzle. The money isn't much, but putting in a little bit here and there will eventually earn a few dollars that can help finance an Amazon purchase.

I earned about $3.50 last week and applied that to the purchase of the gloves. It helped offset the expedited shipping.

Sometimes it's fun being a cog in a machine. I can say now that I've participated in "crowdsourcing." But be careful not to get addicted to it. Moneywise, you'd be better off giving your time to Qdoba or Taco Bell. At least there you get the opportunity for a free burrito.

Scott Redd said...

Today was another 11 F degrees day. The new Louis Garneau lobster claw gloves made a big difference. My fingers still got cold, but never to that painful level.

I also added an extra pair of thin socks under my Smartwool socks. The Highgear store had Trek brand summer socks for about half-price a couple of weeks ago and I picked up a pair on the cheap.

A long sleeved baselayer on top of the long sleeved baselayer helped, and I put a polypro balaclava on the top of my head and while the fleece one was pulled down over my face.

Do they make any sort of tongue warmer? I seem to ride with my mouth open, so my tongue was cold.

All things considered, I can honestly say that I was not cold riding this morning, with the exception of the chilly fingers. After the first hill, I'm generating enough heat to stay comfortable.

brady said...

tongue warmer? I pull the balaclava over the mouth. Even if it's gross, sometimes it's a necessary evil