Maps; Cold, Windy, and Wet

March 1st, 2012

A few days ago while driving with my fiancee on Putnam Ave in Cambridge, she remarked on the epiphanies one has when first discovering a new place. “This Putnam Ave (at the intersection of Mass Ave and Mount Auburn) is the same as that Putnam Ave (in Cambridgeport).” Having those Aha! moments is so much fun; I imagine what fun it would be to sit down and draw your “world map” every week after moving to a new place. I recall in my first months living in Harvard Square running to Inman Square (exotic!) or biking over the Somerville line on Beacon Street and feeling as though was on the verge of falling off the end of the world. (My bike broke right in front of Johnny’s Foodmaster and I had to walk home.) Now, of course, I have to bike 30 minutes in some direction to find a map connection not yet made.

The other map discovery is by route following. I’m old fashioned and own a couple of atlases of Massachusetts that I have used to plan (but rarely ride) bike tours in Central Massachusetts. It is very challenging to put together a coherent route between two points which is suitable for biking and also direct enough, especially because one never knows the road conditions in a foreign place. The challenge is similar for using a mapping tool such as Google’s: while they suggest bike routes, I generally find them painfully indirect (go over the Longfellow Bridge to get to Back Bay Station?) or overly emphasizing “bike routes” which are usually just, um, streets. Over time, of course, you gather others’ route suggestions and combine them with your preferences to develop unique directional habits. As much as I’d love to collate that information, somehow I think it’s too idiosyncratic to bother.


Last night was an unremarkable ride in the rain/snow mix: the snow didn’t stick, and falling snow is as pleasant or more so than freezing rain… which brings me to this morning’s ride. I would say it was one of the most extreme bike commutes I’ve had. Freezing rain and temperatures, driving rain, and heavy wind. I took it slow and covered myself head-to-toe and it was mostly just a little inconvenient. On the other hand, I do like riding in the rain for the solitude and smugness; I hope the look on my face communicates that to the drivers sitting in traffic.

Temperature: 35 degrees

Road conditions: Wet, clean; they didn’t put down much or any sand for the storm yesterday

Clothing: Rain shell, sweater, rain pants, timberland shoes.

Comfort: Warm! I had the odd experience about five minutes from my house when my thighs felt noticeably cold – I think it was the cold rain sitting on the rain pants before I had worked up any heat from riding. I wore the hood up under my helmet and pulled it as far over my eyes as possible to avoid getting too much water on my glasses. The rain wasn’t falling too heavily, so it wasn’t as much of a factor as the wind.

Cool and Clear; Eyewear

February 2nd, 2012

This morning was a carbon copy of yesterday morning – 38 degrees, clear and dry. Yesterday evening, however, was downright spring-like. It was almost 60 degrees when I rode home, and I have the sweatiness to prove it. Once the temperature gets that high, you have to really start thinking about cooling: if I had thought harder about it, I would have rolled up my sleeves and untucked my shirt, and slowed down.The last part is clutch: if you want to get someplace presentable, add a couple minutes and ride slower. I would have also liked lighter shoes, but that was unreasonable to ask for.

Clothing: Heavy winter coat, messenger bag, waterproof shoes over my normal dress shirt & undershirt; cotton dress pants.

Yesterday’s post spontaneously generated a (small) discussion on eye wear. I know this usually gets short shrift on “what to wear” guides, but the consensus from our three data points were:

1. Eyeglasses are good in the winter: they keep your eyes warmer (especially in the bitter cold and wind) and they keep them protected from debris.

2. Fogging is inevitable. In my experience with ski goggles and eyeglasses, the important thing is to keep your face away from the glasses (good luck!) – facewear that directs warm air from your nose and mouth upward will cause immediate fogging. One other person contributed that he keeps the glasses down at the tip of his nose to get the same effect. Once fogged, I take the glasses off and wave them around: the moisture evaporates in a few seconds.

Many kinds of wipes that prevent fogging exists, and wikipedia tells me some home solutions exist for this purpose:

Home recipes

One method to prevent fogging is to apply a thin film of detergent, but this method is criticized because detergents are designed to be water soluble and they cause smearing.[5] Divers often use saliva,[6] which is a commonly known and effective anti-fogging agent.[7] Other home recipes exist, including the application of white vinegar with hot water,[8] or a mixture containing sudsy ammonia, alcohol and liquid dishwasher detergent .[9]

Some other tips I found on the web, which suggest saliva or shaving cream, vinegar, and shampoo. I’ll try to go out and try one of these (probably the shaving cream), and report back at a later date. (Perhaps when it’s actually cold enough to cause fogging!).