I have made no secret of my preference for using my velocipede for journeys where at all possible and, where the distance is too great, to let the train take the strain. I can and do drive, but I’d really rather not: I view it as pain rather than pleasure. I fear my car leads a life of disappointment – or it would if it were both capable of feeling and disliked a life of enforced idleness.
I cycle through most weather conditions, but there are three exceptions where a desire for self preservation drives me to give my car a treat (and I don’t mean a finger of fudge):
- I won’t cycle in lightning as the relatively thin rubber of my tyres would offer little disincentive for any bolt of lightning desirous of treating the Fish/bicycle combo as a short cut to earth. (I also worry that I may have offended Almighty Zeus, and I don’t want to present too tempting a target).
- Wind gusting much above 40mph is no friend to the cyclist. Heading into such wind is hard work (but I do not fear hard work, I merely choose to avoid it), but the main threat is the crosswind when any errant gust can significantly shift one’s course in a perilous manner.
- The last of the unholy trinity is sheet ice, where two narrow wheels do not suffice to keep one upright. Snow, on the other hand, is more friendly and offers decent traction.
When the mercury falls below 0ºC, even without ice, there is a major problem for the cyclist (or at least for this cyclist). I find it relatively easy to keep the main part of my body warm: like an egg farm, multiple layers is the best solution. A similar approach can keep the feet free from frostbite – a couple of layers of thick socks coupled with shoes and overshoes is sufficient for almost any conditions likely to be found in South Cambs. However, I find that it’s my hands – and especially my fingers – that are the problem. I have tried gloves alleged to protect me at very low temperatures, I have even tried these gloves worn inside another pair of very thick gloves (purchased for a trip to Iceland – and we’re not talking the frozen food store here) – but still my fingers freeze. This is not much fun, but the real pain really comes when they warm up again later.
The fingers suffer as they are exposed not only to the ambient temperature but also to 15-30mph of wind chill: the combined effect of any actual wind and my own forward velocity. In gloves, each finger is separated from its fellows, so they don’t even have the option of huddling together for warmth – and I don’t think mittens would provide sufficient control of my steed to be a viable option (nor would they be consistent with my trendy image). However, I feel there must be a solution out there somewhere – or am I doomed forever to echo the words of the diminutive heroine of La Bohème on frosty rides? (You may dispute that my hands are tiny, but they are certainly frozen.)
The folk of Scandinavia have always struck me as rugged, outdoorsy types (oh yes, I’m not afraid of broad generalisations based on nationality) and they have much lower winter temperatures than do we molly-coddled denizens of southern England – who, let’s face it, collapse in a blue funk at the first hint of a snowflake. Surely, they must have found an answer to sub-zero cycling without frozen fingers? Or is their solution just to drive or ski? Perhaps the problem is with me rather than the gloves? Do I just have poor circulation (a condition I share with so many newspapers), with my blood strangely reluctant to enter my fingers?
So many questions… presumably to be followed by Many Answers presented (no doubt) by a Dimbleby.