Monday, January 18, 2010


For those outside of Omaha, we've had extremely dense fog for the past few days. Coupled to this have been temperatures below freezing. These conditions were ripe to create icy driveways, sidewalks and side streets.

Given the hazardous conditions, I opted to take the bus to work. Since the forecast called for warmer temperatures in the afternoon, I brought the bike along in hopes of riding home in the evening.

But as it was, I was short on time and decided to ride the bike the short distance to the bus stop. I reasoned that a couple of blocks with one turn was a manageable distance. I mean, I've got decent winter bike handling skills, so why not?

Since I didn't want to spill hot coffee all over my hands (or other parts) I quickly replaced the empty water bottle from its cage with the recycled paper coffee cup. I compression-cinched the empty water bottle to the messenger bag, slung the bag over the shoulder and put the helmet on my head. Then I walked the bike down the sloppy, snow-caked driveway and mounted it on the street.

Things were fine until I attempted to make the 90° turn one block from the bus stop. I approached the turn with caution. I knew fully well that the risk of a wheel washout increased while shifting weight inward to turn a bicycle. This is especially true on a slick surface.

So I gingerly negotiated the turn and... WHAMO! In the blink of an eye, the wheels lost traction and I crashed. The Bike and I came down hard on the cold concrete, my right flank absorbing the heaviest blow. The impact launched the helmet across the street like a slapshot hockey puck. The messenger bag had jettisoned the empty water bottle to a snow bank. Even the coffee cup was bounced from the water bottle cage, coming to a rest upended a few feet from the bike.

I jumped up right away. All was good. Aside from a thrown chain, the bike was fine, too.

As I went about gathering the goods from my impromptu yard sale, a car pulled up along side. The driver rolled down the window to ask if I was ok. I assured him that I was fine and thanked him for stopping. I stooped to pick up the upside-down coffee cup and was delighted to find coffee still in it. Mmmm coffee. While I wiped the salty brine from the lid and took a deep draw, the driver asked again, this time including the detail about seeing my helmet skid across the road. My thoughts raced. The coffee was hot and good. I was confounded how this little paper cup and lid remained intact, yet my helmet had not. I reassured the driver that I was fine and thanked him for stopping once more. As he drove away, I took another gulp and pondered.

Let's back up a few paragraphs. Skip the part about me acting like a professional cyclist giving a clinic on how to negotiate an icy corner. No, above that. The part about the helmet. Notice that I said that I put the helmet on my head. Well, that's all I did. I neglected to actually click-lock the chin strap.

What a knucklehead.

Later that morning I instant messaged a fellow cyclist. Here's the transcript

WSCG... Not riding today
Wes J...Yeah, I am thinking it is awful foggy
WSCG... that + freezing fog
WSCG... I crashed riding to catch the bus this morning.
Wes J...Are you OK from the spill?
WSCG... yeah - slight bruise on glute, but otherwise 100%.Total yard sale (threw water bottle, messenger bag and unclipped helmet popped off). 
WSCG... I dropped my coffee too. It was upside down when I picked it up. The lid saved the day. I still drank the coffee.
WSCG... Yes, I was stupid on the unclipped helmet. I was in a rush. Like cars, most accidents happen within a short distance from home
Wes J...It takes less then a second to clip the helmet! Do I need to bring my helmet from my crash as a reminder?
WSCG... yes
WSCG... But the coffee lid stayed on and it wasn't clipped.
Wes J...Next time wear a coffee lid on your head then

Well put, Wes J. I both needed and deserved that.

As a safety reminder, I have zip-tied a coffee lid to my helmet. I won't be making that foolish mistake again.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Next Level of Insanity: Running in Snowshoes

Recently, I picked up a pair of Red Feather "Race" snow shoes. I've used them three times now, and although that alone hardly qualifying me as an expert, the season's timing makes this review apropos. So if you've ever wondered what it'd be like to strap a pair of tennis rackets to your feet and go for a run in snow, here's your chance to live it vicariously.

As its name implies, the Red Feather Race is designed as a running snowshoe. It is also suitable as a light trekking. As such, don't expect to load up an external pack with your camping gear for a back country expedition with these fellas.

But if you're a runner, this is a good option to getting you off the treadmill and running outside when snow would otherwise prevent you.
Running in these snowshoes is surprisingly easy. The Race is recommended to be worn beneath running shoes, but the straps are long enough to accommodate boots. (I wear running shoes.) The snowshoe's narrow profile, tapered tail and spring loaded hinge is designed to not impeded the running gait. Indeed, they feel natural within minutes.

But Make no doubt about it, you will run slower. Snowshoeing is incredibly taxing. Although made of lightweight 6000 series aluminum and titanium, the snowshoes add 2.9 pounds to your stride. That and all of the other gear on your body will slow you down considerably. Snow also creates a lot of resistance. Even in the best conditions, your foot remains in contact a lot longer than running on dry pavement in ordinary running shoes.
Still, despite the slower speed, your heart and legs will never know it. It takes tremendous energy to cut a new trail with any snowshoe, let alone a running snowshoe. While doing so, the hip flexors and quads are doing heavy lifting with each step. It's a little like running in sand -- or doing the stair stepper -- with weights strapped to your ankles. The result are certainly felt in legs and cardio.

The Race snowshoe frame is constructed of 6000 series aluminum. It has titanium crampons, giving durability to its teeth. The decking and binding is a high performance elastomer called Hypalon. So far, I've been impressed with the quality of its make and materials.

Choosing what to wear it a little tricky. For one, you'd be surprised how much heat is generated while doing a snowshoe run. It's quite easy to overdress. Dress in layers: a wicking shirt & fleece beneath a light windbreaker is more than enough when the temperature is above 10 F. Perspiration and snow kick will make staying dry difficult. Leg gaiters and wool socks can help keep your feet dryer and warmer. Don't forget the sunglasses and sunscreen when the sun's out.

With that, I can say I highly recommend these snowshoes for runners and light trekking. I purchased my pair online from the Sierra Trading Post. In Omaha, the Trek Store announced that it will be carrying Atlas snowshoes. They say they can order the Atlas running snowshoe as well. Otherwise, if you're looking to find a pair of back country snowshoes, try Canfields, Scheels, Cabellas' and Dick's. Finally, as mentioned on a previous post, the UNO Venture center rents the MSR EVO showshoe for a reasonable rate.

Chris, Shim, Jim, Kevin and Brady

Kevin's brother, Shim, and Jim blazing a trail

Foot prints of Jewell Park's Abominable Snowman?

Could be. It's either Sasquatch or Limpach got hungry

Snowshoeing in Colorado with brother Brendan & his best friend Jack

Dogs love getting out too. This is Jack's territory

Brendan takes a pose with Mr WSCG himself

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Omaha Yay-hoos on Ice

Nine of us conquered nearly 50 miles on snow and ice-packed gravel roads today. Present were: Greg Shimonek, Mark Savery, Kevin Limpach, Mike Miles, Ryan Feagan, Rafal Doloto, Jeremy Grant and a new guy named Joshua, who's here from N. Carolina. Joshua did great by the way. In fact, if the tarheel-transplant could hack it, so you can you. Join us next time!

Good times by all. Steady pace with a few throw downs mixed in to get the blood moving. If that wasn't enough, Mod was dispensing hot ginseng tea from his custom stainless steel thermos-bottle cage. Awesome.

Conditions: It was 19°F at start time. The sun's warmed it up to about 25°F by the ride's end. I wore less clothing than last week, but still layered a lot. I had a Pearl Isumi (PI) Balaclava, PI lobster claw gloves (no liners), PI barrier jacket, woolie and long sleeve wicking shirt; legs had cycling shorts beneath PI amfib bib tights. Feet had wool socks beneath mtn bike shoes and amfib booties. Interestingly, my feet had identical protection this week, yet despite warmer conditions, they felt colder. Other than that, I was completely comfortable.

The route had us going southwest from Papillion, crossing I-80 on an overpass near Gretna, continuing south along the highway, then crossing back over I-80 before the Glass chapel & heading northeast back home..

I rode my Scattante 'cross bike, the incorrigible yellow fervor with not one, but two cross tires. Lemme tell you: that crap about a slick tire on the front is for the birds. Indeed, the bike handled way better with a cross tire mounted on the front.

Here are a few pics

The nine roll out

Industrial grade Caterpillar snow removal equipment

Typical road conditions. Cross or studded tires preferred

More pictures from MOD here

Monday, January 4, 2010

Do Your Worst

Here are a couple shots from yesterday's 40 miles of packed snow, ice and gravel. Ride time temperatures ranged from 4 to 12 F. Perhaps due to the cold, Kevin's bike wouldn't shift and I flatted.

Yet, despite these trials and tribulations, we still managed to have a good ride.

Do your worst, Old Man Winter. I'm ready for you.

Shim and Limpach in the distance. Look at those snow banks!

Even in the grips of winter, a throw down ensues

What say you, Old Man Winter? Is that all you've got?!?