Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Journey of a new bike commuter: Mistral morning, exitious evening

Monday was my first real day to ride in high winds. Last month — the last time we had a crazy wind storm — I decided to take the bus to work rather than deal with fighting the force and possibly being blown into traffic. It seems my fate is always to miss the bus, so when I left work that evening, I missed my bus and had to wait an hour for the next one. Rather than tempt my lousy bus-fate again, I decided to take on the wind.

I wheeled my bike out to the curb, hopped on, and headed east. This wasn't too bad! It sounded so much more windy in my house than it actually was. There was a steady breeze, but I could totally handle it.

Of course, then it delivered a strong gust and I suddenly found myself trying to keep from tipping over. Ok, so maybe I shouldn't let my guard down; with that in mind, I kept riding. I turned on to Howard and headed south. After crossing Boone, I was ready for my morning coast past the Arena. Of course, to my surprise, that coast was about half the speed it would have been on a normal day!

Without any further incident, and amazingly without being blown sidelong into traffic (wait, is there traffic on Howard at 9 am?), I made it to my office. Pretty good deal! It was a little extra work, and I definitely didn't get there as quickly, but I made it. What a pro! Maybe I should sign up for the next century ride...

The winds didn't die down all day. I sat in my office, nearly oblivious to the blustery gale outside my window; I had no idea what was really happening out there. No idea until I read my twitter feed at 5:30: Downed power lines! Broken trees that have closed roads all over Spokane! The X is about to go flying off of the sign at the Fox!

Umm... wow. Am I really going to make it home, or will I end up in some far away place like Oz?

Well, I wanted to get home, so try I would. I hopped on my bike again, clipped in, and headed west into the wind. Yeah, this was going to be a bit of work again, but don't forget, I'm a pro now!

Bending down closer to my handlebars, I plowed onward. When I got to Howard, the light was green, so I checked for pedestrians and made the turn without slowing; just like every day. Of course, today was not like every day, and suddenly I was hit by a wall of air which nearly sent me flying from my bike and onto the pavement beside me. Uhhhhh, whoops! I hope no one saw me, riding like I had just taken off the training wheels....

After that near miss, I decided to unclip and flipped my pedals over to the platform side. I'm still fairly new to clipless riding, so I felt a lot more secure knowing that I could instantly stick my feet out in the event that I was blown over, without having to think, "twist, then lift!"

But, once again, the rest of my ride was without incident. The next time I made a turn, it was in to the wind, so I wasn't suddenly thrown off balance.

Overall, I was pretty impressed that I hadn't ended up like that canopy swing.

Or my neighbor's trees.

I'm glad to say, I made it home, safe and sound. Phew!
No doubt about it though, the next time it's really windy, I'm still not going to let it keep me from my bike. A little extra caution, a little extra work, and a lot of interesting sights!


Anonymous said...

I remember riding that day. Heading east to work was no problem. But, coming home was more of a challenge, my legs were burning by the time I pulled into my yard.


John Speare said...

Wow. I've never been blown off a bike, but that day was the closest I'd come to it. When the wheels spin, they act like a sail and cross winds can be brutal.

Two crummy parts of that commute for me: I got a good gust of grit blown in my teeth/eyes. It took a few hours before my eyes felt normal again -- like there wasn't grit in them. #2 -- pedaling down the Inland Empire Way hill into the wind. Missing out on the one downhill coast of my commute home is a bummer.

On the flip side, I had a bitchin tailwind on the way to work. I just thought I was really strong.

Rachel said...

I hear ya, John. I found myself wishing I had a pair of goggles!