Biking begins

The first full week of March has me moving out of winter mode and getting more active. I had my last two session of physical therapy for the slipped disk I suffered right after Christmas1 and started riding my bike to work again.

March typically isn’t a great month for riding, and I don’t expect this one to break the mold. Although temperatures this week got up into the 40s, we still have snow on the ground, especially near intersections where the plows piled it up. My usual route to work through the Springbrook Prairie Preserve probably won’t be ready to ride on for a few weeks. Even after the snow melts, its crushed limestone bike path will be impossibly mushy on warm days until we get further into spring. Last year I tried to ride it too early and the glop oozed up over my rims and stopped me cold.

So I’m taking an alternate route to work, one that has me mostly on sidewalks along busy streets. The way is mostly clear, and getting better every day, but there is one low spot of snow that forces me off the bike

and another place under a bridge where, in the morning, the refrozen meltwater is so smooth and slick that I can barely walk across it.

If you’re an urban cyclist and thinking about chastising my for riding on sidewalks, don’t. Suburban riding is not what you’re used to; I can go weeks without passing a pedestrian. Also “sharing the road” is not a concept familiar to drivers out here.

I didn’t plan to start riding quite this soon, so my bike isn’t in the best shape. The frame is still dirty from the wet, messy rides of late November (it was too cold to give it a good washing then), the tires are nearly bald, and the brake pads need replacing. I’ll start fixing it up this weekend.

My replacement tires, by the way, will be the same as what I have on the bike now: Continental Contacts. I’ve ridden about 4000 miles on the current set, over twice what I got out of the tires I had before that.

The commute to work is pretty chilly—this morning’s windchill was in the teens—but the sunny ride home in the late afternoon makes it worthwhile.

  1. I don’t want to complain, but the past 12 months have been a musculoskeletal nightmare. In April, I was knocked off my bike by a pickup truck, which messed up my left hip an wrist for over a month. Then in July, my tires slid out from under me on a patch of wet grass and my right shoulder slammed into the ground for another six weeks or so of pain and discomfort. Finally, the slipped disk after ice skating on the day after Christmas. I didn’t fall, but I think jerking my upper body around to keep from falling put my spine out of whack, my worst back injury in almost ten years. Much worse than my celebrated Guitar Hero injury