For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been having to quit work by 5:30 if I want to bike home if I want to avoid riding home in the dark. And before that, I’d been skipping a couple of bike commutes because of the rain.
Well, the rain isn’t going to stop — this is Seattle — and it’s only going to get darker. And this year, I want to bike through the whole winter.
So over the weekend, I finished “winterizing” my bike.
I had fenders on my road bike last year — briefly. They were always rubbing on the wheels and making rattling noises. Then at a start once, my toe caught the bottom of the front fender and tore it loose, after which I just got rid of the fenders and abandoned Winter riding for the year. Yeah, that was the year I got up to 192 lbs.
This year, I did things a little smarter. I took my road bike in to Sammamish Valley Cycle, where Kent Peterson said they specialize in fitting fenders to road bikes. $30 for the fenders, $20 for the labor.
It was the deal of the century.
I’m honestly not even sure what brand these fenders used to be, and it almost doesn’t matter. By the time these guys finished cutting, fitting, zip-tie-ing, and ad-hoc-bracketing these fenders, they were a Sammamish Valley Cycle Special. They don’t rub, they don’t rattle more than is reasonable, and they fit my bike and give me great coverage.
With these on, riding in the rain has beeen nowhere near as miserable. I don’t love it — I doubt I’ll ever seek out a ride just because it’s raining — but it’s no longer a reason to abandon the ride.
I Will Not Call This Subheading “Let There Be Light,” Because Everyone Who Has Ever Written About Bike Lights Has Used the Subheading “Let There Be Light.”
One of the things I like about living in the NW is how much daylight you get in the summer. I mean, you get great heaping globs of daylight. It gets light at 5 and doesn’t get dark ‘til 10.
On the flip side, though, is fall and winter. Already, it doesn’t get light ‘til around 8, and it’s close to dark by 6. And it’s going to get much, much darker. If I didn’t have a good light setup, I could just forget about biking to work.
Luckily, years of mountain biking at night has left me with all the lights I could need. I’m using a NiteRider setup I’ve had for years. It only holds about a 90 minute charge, but that’s enough for commuting, and with dual halogen beams, it’s super bright. I’ve zip-tied the bottle cage-mounted battery in so it won’t rattle out, then uses more zip ties to route the cable along the bottom side of the top tube. Then, by setting the switch and status indicator up on the stem, I’ve left most of the handlebars free.
Interlude: An Ode to Zip Ties
Between the fenders and the light setup, I estimate I have 16 or more zip ties on my bike now. Apart from duct tape, has there ever been a more useful thing in the world? I love their elegant simplicity. I love how cheap they are. I love that you don’t need any tools at all to use them. I love the sound they make as they go on. I love how snugly they hold stuff together. I love how you can chain them together to make as big a fastener as you like. I love that when you want to remove them, you just snip them with scissors or cut them with a knife.
Let’s hear it from zip ties. Yay.
Carrying More Stuff
In the summer, it’s easy to fit everything I need for my commute into a small messenger bag: shorts, t-shirt, towel, computer and that’s about it. When biking to work in the Fall and Winter, I find it’s almost impossible to fit everything into my old Timbuktu messenger bag.
What you’re looking at here is:
- long pants
- tights for trip home
- long-sleeved jersey for trip home
- computer in carrying case
All this doesn’t even come close to fitting in my messenger bag. And with all the rain and crud, I wouldn’t dare put the computer in, anyway.
Luckily for me, a little startup company — Banjo Brothers — has sent me a prototype of their big messenger bag to test. The thing’s got a 2000 inch capacity, so it holds all of this stuff, easily (and it came with a computer sleeve, which is nice), and so far seems totally weather-proof.
I’ve only had this a couple days, but it seems like it may be just the thing for making it possible to bike commute right through the winter. Expect to hear more on this bag as I get used to it.
Of course, a big bag with all that gear isn’t light. I’m carrying about 14 pounds on my back, including up Inglewood Hill (slooooowwly) at the end of each day. Plus, between the fenders and the lights, my road bike now weighs about the same as a mid-priced mountain bike: 23.2 lbs. I’m not sure why, but you can really feel that five pounds on a road bike — a lot more than you can feel it on yourself. The bike is hard to get up to speed and just doesn’t feel as limber.
I guess, though, that riding in the fall and winter isn’t about speed, it’s just about staying on your bike. I figure if I can do that, I’ll have a better chance of keeping the weight off.
Today’s weight: 163.2