Or: Why Cycling is not for fair weather lovers!
If you live in Central Europe, you will have experienced first hand the storm that swept across Germany and cost 3 people their lives. O. K., it wasn’t Hurricane Katrina. But with peak wind velocities of 192 km/h (ca 115 mph), it was pretty bad-ass for Europe. No, I didn’t ride my bicycle through that storm yesterday. I’m not suicidal. At least I don’t think I am. But this morning at 4:45, I got on my bicycle for my first ride to a day shift. I rode through the aftermath of the storm. The streets were littered with broken branches, and literal litter from trash bins that were blown over; there and then also the odd tree that I had to evade because it fell on the pavement. And the wind. The thermometer said 4°C, but with the wind, it felt like -4°C. For those who don’t do centigrade: that’s like the difference between 40°F and 25°F. My fingers were freezing even with my gloves on, the gloves I usually wear for skiing. But the way to work isn’t exactly what I want to write about.
The entire day at work, the weather changed, snow chasing rain and hail, with the occasional blue clearing in the clouds, and each period lasting ca 10-20 minutes. The driving force of these permanent and swift changes: wind. All the time: wind. Unrelentingly freezing wind. This pattern also determined my ride home. I live to the north-west of my work place, and that is exactly where the wind was blowing from. The entire time I was fighting an uphill battle, even though the way home slightly descends. The unrelenting, cold wind constantly blowing whatever it was carrying into my face. For the first three kilometers, the raindrops, close to freezing themselves, soaked my pants and my skin. I ride my bike bare-armed, in order to allow warmth to stream away from my body easily, but not uncontrolled. Within seconds, my forearms went numb from the cold, and my hands in the gloves were soon to follow. My face felt like it was on fire from the microscopic ice needles embedded in the freezing rain. While the rain receded after ten minutes or so, the wind was still blowing at me. I rode my bike so hard in order to stay warm that my clothes dried within seconds after the rain passed. I rode some 2000 meters, when suddenly, the air was filled with white flakes. At first, it was kind of soothing, but only minutes later, the flakes transformed into miniature ice bullets! I had to look at the ground while driving to protect my face from the icy bombardment, while my forearms were utterly exposed. I still had to raise my head slightly to perceive oncoming traffic, so my chin also got some of the frost barrage.
But the trip wasn’t without its reward. After the hail cleared, so did the clouds, and I was initially blinded by the sun and its reflection on the wet pavement. As soon as my eyes accommodated to the new light, I saw the most beautiful cityscape, domed by a clear blue sky and clouds rimmed with all hues of red and yellow. And a very deep feeling of satisfaction and achievement when I locked up my bicycle in the hallway of my home.
If my colleagues hadn’t thought that I am bat shit howling at the moon crazy, they sure do now!