Riding throughout the year is a challenge for many reasons, but clothing is certainly one of the trickiest. We have always been told that layers are the way to go, and for riding, particularly year round riding, this couldn't hold more true. Unfortunately, when we go to our motorcycle oriented shops, we are presented with a lot of top layer options, but almost nothing when it comes to suitable base layers. When it comes to dealing with temperatures, it all starts with what you are wearing closest to the skin.
Pro athletes have known this for years, and have had access to gear that has only become widely available to the consumer in the last few years. We probably know it best by the brand image of UnderArmour, but good moisture wicking compression style gear is available from many companies, and ranges in price from $10 to well over $100, depending upon your needs. Good base layers apply to all four seasons too, with some providing warmth and others working to more efficiently cool. There are added benefits as well. Recent studies in the sports world show benefits from the compression gear in terms of reducing muscle fatigue and improving recovery, in addition to the protection from the elements.
A couple of weeks ago, the BBC ran a fascinating article into the psychology of why so many drivers hate bicyclists. I know many motorcycle riders also hate bicyclists as well, but the fascinating bits in the article is how many of them also apply to motorcycles. In many ways, I see this as a huge factor into why lane splitting is so feared and deemed illegal in 49 states:
2012 was a year long focus on getting healthy. Much of this was driven by the challenge of running a marathon with my brother. This year, that focus will continue, and part of that is to expand upon my own healthy living. I have always been a recreational cyclist, but this year, I am expanding the bicycles rotation in commuter vehicles in my life. Using it to get to work, and the gym, and to do some light grocery shopping. In order to accommodate this, I have begun the process of refurbishing my old mountain bike and turning it into a commute friendly bike.
This is important to me, as like the scooter, I view it as another step in getting another car off the road, and raising the awareness of alternatives. It is also an important step in staying healthy and fit.
This coming summer, instead of just running for my own health, my brother and I decided that we wanted to run for something more. We sat down and decided that this year we wanted to raise money for cancer research, as it is something we both want to see addressed with a real cure sooner than later. After some research, we found an organization that was set up to do just this. So this year, our big run is the Disneyland Half Marathon in Anaheim, CA.
Well, it has been basically 8 weeks between days that were viable days to ride safely. The weather since the holidays around these parts has been equal parts, wet, cold and windy. I can generally handle any two, but all three mixed together, and, well the car just seems like a better idea. It doesn't really help that in there I was, sick for 2 weeks, and hurting from the marathon for another 2. Today however, everything came together and I got to pull out the bike and ride to work.
Oh my word did it feel good. Vehicular Therapy. The sounds, the feel, the wind, it all comes together to bring about a nearly instant smile. Did I care that it was a mere 32 degrees? not even a smidgeon. The sun was out, the bike was under me and the roads were out there to be ridden. It was glorious.
Within a couple of miles though, I realized something else.
The pure joy of riding doesn't hide the fact that being off the bike for a bit, letting the brain gnaw on some things, I've forgotten how much more alert the experience of riding is. Just a few weeks of being in the cage, and all of those creature comforts, and I see again how 'tuned' out even the most aware and sensitive drivers become. Radios, phones, other people, even the climate controls are distractions. The isolation from the road, the sounds of traffic and the odors that indicate things in the roads, it is so easy to forget that there are other people out there dependent upon our attention. As I rider, I know these things. I see them every day I ride. Yet, in just a short time, those distractions claimed my attention as well. Only upon getting back in the saddle do you see just how much those distractions cost in terms of safety and awareness.
As much as I love riding, sometimes that love is not enough to overcome other aspects of life. This fall and winter has certainly shown it's impact upon my riding. Between rain, wind and children I simply haven't been able to sustain the riding patterns of the last couple of years. There are just certain realities that we all face as riders. It is hard to get geared up to ride to work when it's 40 degrees, with heavy rain falling, and gusty wind conditions. Add in the need to haul a child to some event, and all of the sudden, the car becomes the most attractive option.
I admit, I compounded the problem by deciding to get fit last year. That decision has been a good one, and the results are good, but running gear and riding gear are not generally a good match, with few places to change at the various trailheads. Somewhere along the way, I decided that I needed to get back to basics in terms of my gear choices, and to a lesser degree my entire life style.
It is time to do more with less.