Frozen Out

February 3, 2015

frozen pond

It’s cooooold at the moment. I knew this cycling home from the Community Council meeting last night when it felt like my cheeks were freezing in the wind, and I knew it when we woke to ice on the inside of the windows … and I knew it this morning when I set off before the sun had properly got up to go and be photographed for the paper about icy cycle paths.*

winter dawn

But if I had wanted confirmation, I would have got it when it took five minutes for the teacher to defrost the door lock so we could get into our yoga class this morning. ‘What’s the opposite of hot yoga?’ someone asked. That’ll be Scottish yoga, I guess.

For those awaiting with bated breath for updates on the Yoga Wars front, Yoga Bunny has proved herself a fair weather bunny and hasn’t appeared for the last two weeks, along with almost all of the newbies. But I’m too cowardly to demur when the teacher tells me where to go, and besides, I’m getting to like my new mat neighbour. So I am practising my zen mindset and remaining in my alloted temporary slot until its owner comes back from her computer course. And then I shall strike, and the corner space will be MINE.

snowdrops in snow

In other news, the snowdrops are out. Their timing is terrible, but I suppose they’re tougher than they look…

* for a minute when I got to the newspaper offices I thought we’d been foiled by the council actually clearing the path because the icy rutted mess that I’d originally complained about was suddenly beautifully clear. But fortunately their zeal or their salt had run out about ten yards further on so there was plenty of ice for me to be photographed on doing my Angry People in Local Newspapers face


Priorities Please

February 2, 2015

Well, I might regret saying that sunny snowy winter days never get old, as it seems to have ushered in days of sub-zero weather and the snow, the ice – and definitely the wind – are beginning to feel like house guests that have begun to outstay their welcome.

bike and snow

We haven’t had any more snow, but it appears that the wind has been doing more than just freeze our ears off – when I went down for the paper this morning I discovered that the few inches we had on Thursday had been helpfully swept off the surrounding hills and gathered neatly along some stretches of the road instead.

wind blown snow

The rest had been sculpted into some attractive shapes.

wind blown snow

Fortunately for us there seems to be a new policy of clearing rural roads of snow (or perhaps the local farmers have just gone out and done it themselves – I will find out tonight at the community council meeting) unlike our last big freeze. This is nice for me, because even with the ice tyres, rutted icy compacted snow can be a bit tricky. As it was, the place where I nearly came off my bike was our own driveway. I had shovelled myself a nice path out of the shed and onto the drive but had neglected to do the bit right by the road where I need to turn right just as all the ruts are trying to send me left. Oops.

This is slightly embarrassing given that a little rant I unleashed about the state of Bigtown’s pavements has been picked up by the local paper. I’m due in town tomorrow early for a traditional sadface shot next to the icy path right by the paper’s offices (unless the coonsil get wind of it and get the grit down overnight) – hopefully not with injuries from where I came off the bike on my own ice.

Still it does seem bizarre that the back road to Papershop Village, a road used by myself and about three farmers, has had more snow clearing than the pavements in most part of Bigtown. In fact, the pavements in Nearest Village have had more snow clearing than the ones in Bigtown, thanks to the community resilience scheme whereby they just give community councils a big bin full of grit and a hopper and tell them to have at it, which they do. There was more salt down than the Dead Sea when I cycled past this morning. It seemed to have done the trick, though. Perhaps the coonsil could take note.


Snow Day

January 30, 2015

sun and snow

Well, I needn’t have worried about missing out on all the snow – there was plenty left today, and it was a gloriously sparkling day to boot.

chain oil on hands

I really must remember to moisturise with something other than bike grease…

But first I had to get my hands dirty – and at least try and get the hang of swapping my wheels around to put my ice tyres back on the bike. It’s not that I don’t know what to do – it’s the actual doing I struggle with, from making sure the wheels are on straight, to doing the bolts up tight enough that they’ll stay that way, to adjusting the brakes (annoyingly, the ice-tyre wheels are a different width), to translating ‘lefty loosey, righty tighty’ into actually turning the spanner in the correct direction. Even turning my bike upside down is a bit of a struggle, but I managed about two-thirds of the wheel changing process, and then let the other half finish off the tricky bit of getting the wheels on straight. What I probably need is more practice … and if the weather continues the way it’s been recently, I’ll be getting plenty of that.

It was worth it in the end, though.

sun and snow and road

Sunny, snowy, winter days never get old…


Toasty

January 19, 2015

wintry skies

Oh, okay, not really. I have to admit it was a bit of a wrench to leave the Rayburn and head out on my bike for the paper this morning in minus whatever temperatures but I did have the bright idea of trying the overshoes again and it was a revelation – no more frozen toes, which is a bonus for a chilblain sufferer like me (at least I think that was down to the overshoes – but the only way to know for sure would be to wear one on one foot, and my usual boot on the other foot and even in the interests of the blog I’m not doing that). So now all I need is a pair of overshoes that has been printed so they look like a pair of normal* shoes so I can still have warm toes without going around looking as if I have absent-mindedly put my socks on after my shoes.

The bike was also decently shod – despite stretches of road that were decidedly dodgy, the ice tyres meant it continued to handle most of it with aplomb. On black ice, they’re brilliant – your only worry being that any car behind you isn’t going to be able to stop half as well as you are if the driver hasn’t noticed how slippy it is. On sheet ice the main problem was the glare of the sun bouncing straight into my eyes, although at the steepest part of a climb up a shaded bit of road I did get that uneasy ‘up a down escalator’ feeling as the back tyre began to slip downwards even as I pedalled upwards. The only stretch where I actually had to slow down and concentrate hard was a gnarly stretch of rutted ice on a bend. There are even more magical ice tyres that allow you to climb out of an ice rut but I don’t have those so I just had to pick a rut that was going the way I wanted to go and stay in it – and remember not to try and steer, just let the bike go the way it was going to go. Other than that, I had to stop myself from actually seeking out the icy bits of road to ride on just because I could…

We did hope that the freeze might be be deep enough to make the path up through the woods behind us less of a quagmire but that wasn’t an unqualified success.

frozen path

There’s really nothing that beats the sensation of breaking through a thin sheet of ice into the ankle-deep mud beneath to make you wish you were safely on a bike instead.

* or indeed abnormal ones – why not a pair of leopardprint kitten heels?


Rising Above

December 29, 2014

frost and fog

The ride to the papershop did not look a particularly inviting prospect this morning. It wasn’t just the fog, or the ice on the road, but the sheer biting coldness of it all. But the paper wasn’t going to fetch itself, and besides, what is the point of having magical ice tyres if you’re going to be frightened of a bit of a chill? So, having taken the precaution of leaving a jumper warming on the Rayburn for my return, I set off.

sun breaking through

By the time I’d got through the village I was pretty glad I’d opted for the lobster gloves because the fog and the cold were unrelenting. At least I more or less had the roads to myself. In fact, I seemed to have the whole countryside to myself.

above the fog

As the road wound upwards, though, I started to climb out into the sunshine. There’s something about seeing the blue sky and the sun breaking through the last thinning veil of mist that leaves everything extra saturated and bright.

Ready to descend back into the murk once more.

back into the fog

I was glad of that jumper when I got home, I can tell you.


Doctor Bike

December 12, 2014

There are days when you hum and haw over whether to put your ice tyres on the bike or not

black ice on road

This morning was not one of them.

I had to be in town all day and while the other half had, as he always does, kindly offered me a lift, I’ve been spending too much time stuck indoors and not enough time on the bike lately. A little bit of swearing and percussive maintenance later and the bike was shod in its magical spikes and I was away in the winter sunshine.

winter sun

I’d woken this morning with a dose of the grumps, but a bike ride and a day spent happily absorbed helping out with a spot of cut paper animation restored my equilibrium. Even being sleeted on on the way home couldn’t quite dampen my mood.


Slick and Tyred

November 19, 2013

So the unexpected downside of having amazing spiked winter tyres for your bike is the amount of emotional energy that goes into deciding when to actually deploy them. The easiest thing would probably be just to put them on the bike in November and keep them on there until the end of March but they are quite heavy and also quite expensive and riding them solidly for five months would wear them out too quickly. On the other hand, swapping the wheels around is not an entirely straightforward process, especially with the dynamo, and is much better done by the other half, for reasons we’ve discussed exhaustively already, so a bit of forward planning is required.

This morning, despite all the dire forecasts, things weren’t looking too bad by the time I ventured out on the bike. Fortunately (or unfortunately) one of the worst spots for ice on our road is the bit just outside our gate so I can usually decide whether or not to risk the ice spikeless by standing on the road and doing the little ‘how slippy is it?’ dance.* Today the verdict was that it was just about doable, with care and so it proved – although I had forgotten just how paranoid-making it is to cycle on a patchily icy road on normal tyres. This meant I spent most of the ride down mentally debating whether I should have just swapped the tyres myself or whether I should get the other half to swap the tyres tonight or whether I should stick it out until the weekend and if so how long before I’d have to take them off again, and the rest looking out for icy patches, leaving no mental cycles for my usual cycling activities of admiring the view, arguing in my head with people who have been wrong on the internet (I always win when I’m on my bike) and thinking deep thoughts.

Which is how I managed to look up and suddenly discover a kestrel flying straight at me, being chased by a raven. Both birds veered off before I had to take evasive action, which given the conditions was probably fortunate. I assume had it been a tractor heading straight for me instead I would have noticed sooner, but I can’t be 100% sure…

Maybe I’ll just put those tyres on and have done with it after all.

*you sort of twist your feet around from side to side along the lines of the dance scene from Pulp Fiction. Best done when no passing dog walkers, farmers or neighbours are watching


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