Frozen Pissing, Muffled Moaning

Winter is on the way to Prague, make no mistake. Actually, you could make that mistake today looking up at mysteriously blue, cloudless skies. It’s currently 8 degrees in the hlavni mesto, and the people are confused, skittering this way and that in their manager mobiles like old folk setting aside their walkers to take a stab at the shuffleboard court.

The other denizens of Gattaca are  serially amazed that I continue to show up every morning on my bike. “Isn’t it too cold?” they ask? Well, yes, it is too cold, if you’re dressed in your short lycra Tour de Tightpants kit and huffing along at 6 km/h with a liter of gatorade freezing in your Camelback. The secret, I tell them, is not to mind getting a little wet and to ride like you’re trying to get someplace.

Intentions aside, I’d like to make a short PSA for winter riding, especially after catching an eyeful of this monstrosity posted on the Guardian. Form before function, my lad.

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Really, Guardian? Really? And what's with that left pocket anyhow? Missing some coin for the bus, missus?

Now, this girl may look to some as though she’s ready to cycle the whole winter through, but she looks to me as though her daddy the Duke has just rousted her out of her bedchamber and sent her down to the local to inquire after the drunken stablemaster. As her left hand indicates, she perceives that she will inevitably meet the stablemaster’s stolid, working class son, who will forthwith strap on his wellies and bring her round the back of the bikeshed for a proper greasing of her bottom bracket. Or whatever. Honestly, what is happening to our English speaking world? Americans turn lazy, ignorant and bible-thumping while the Brits turn foofy, impractical and Parisian? Is it opposite day on planet earth? I guess it’s all up to the Australians to carry on manning up in the name of phonetic dissonance, practical outerwear and unclear prepositions.

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Then again...

I myself forgo cashmere in favor of 1994’s buzzphrase: waterproof breathables. Here’s the kit that keeps me pissed off on my way to work in the morning, through the miserable dark of Prague’s unholy half-year winter.

  1. It’s all about the layas. I start with a tee-shirt and boxer shorts. Tighty whiteys are chafing. On top of that, I pile on some winter jogging tights from the local vietnamese shop and a long-sleeve thermal top from same. Up onto that go my waterproof cycling shorts (baggy and without logos) and a hoody. The hoody is good because it is warm. Overtop the hoody goes my magical waterproof shell jacket thingy from Marmot (incidentally the most expensive item of clothing I own.) I top it off with a turtleneck thing (just the turtleneck) which is sort of a scarf replacement. I don’t know what you call it, and I’m sure you can get one from a London shop for 48 quid if you like. My fancy cycling hat and an old pair of Chuck Taylors finish it off. At this point, I look sort of like a blue penguin with Mickey Mouse legs, but it’s all good. I’m not heading down to the local to inquire after the fucking stablemaster, now am I? No, I’m riding to Gattaca like regular folk.
  2. As any bike blog worth its adwords can tell you, it’s also all about the accessories. My winter accessory kit consists of the Dakine backpack I bought for my wife years ago. She doesn’t wear it because it got dirty once and she’ll always remember that time. Fine by me. I also rock my Knog 8-ball fingerless gloves, which some people think is “mad” in the winter, but I like to feel the wind through my knuckle hairs. Glasses are important. I use some with yellow tinted lenses, which give the impression that Prague actually has color in the winter. This isn’t true. Anyway, the lenses keep my eyes from tearing up and freezing in the Siberian blasts of wind. I also have a pair of heavy duty hiking socks that I cut off the ends of. These I tuck over the tops of my Chuck Taylors, as they repel water a little bit and also keep me warm and complete the Oliver Twist chic.
  3. Every serious biker prepares his/her machine for the cold. I celebrate the coming of November by cleaning my chain and replacing the oil with some other oil. It works really well. Seriously, the grit and garbage that collects on a winter road in the city is murder on your chain, so I always check it out every 3 or 4 days, just to make sure it’s not gathered a cat up in the links or whatnot. I also make sure my tubes have air in them, which reduces friction and helps me ride faster. The best thing you can do for your bike in the winter is to order a new pair of colored tires. It’s well known that colored materials reflect heat more readily than black materials, which absorb heat. What you want to do is to use all available light/heat/energy to melt the snow and ice forming on your shins and the road ahead. Colored tires make it happen.
  4. Before riding, I like to stretch a bit. Knees are problematic, and a nice round of stretches will also squeeze all that gas out of you generated by the tacos the night before. A lighter rider is a happier rider. I also like to massage the steel tubing on my bike a bit as well before the ride. We don’t want those bits snapping from an unexpected pothole now, do we? Here’s a helpful diagram:

massage

Happy winter riding, everyone! And Honza, don’t think I haven’t noticed you didn’t change to your winter tires yet!

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~ by themicah on November 5, 2009.

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