Here is a view of my city this morning, taken from the 66th floor of the Sears Tower. It looks rather harmless, no? Well, let me tell you: it has been nothing like harmless lately.
See, yesterday and today (and tomorrow, they say) it's been 95 degrees with loads of humidity. And that is Very Very Hot. Now add to that the winds we've been having, which are clocking in at 25 mph. I rode to work yesterday and the morning was hot, but totally doable despite the hell-wind. But then the ride home - oh, the ride home. It was hotter, naturally. And the wind was not some nice steady strong gust from the south to push me home, as I'd thought it would be. Instead, it gusted from all directions and I had to battle against it the entire way. It was exhausting, and god only knows what my body's core temp was by the end of it all. I swear I could feel organs boiling.
What I learned from this episode is that perhaps I can handle 90+ weather, and perhaps I can handle 25mph winds - but I definitely can't handle both at the same time for 8+ miles. When I got home, I really worried for a second that I would pass out. (I'm telling you, my body cannot handle heat. I am genetically geared for temps in the 60s, okay?) I hydrated like mad, but nothing could stop how nauseous I was, or the headache that had settled in. I could tell my body wanted some kind of nutrition (I left work hungry, stupid me) but the whole concept of food was just way beyond me at that point. Honestly, I felt far far worse than I did after riding 55 mountainous miles.
So that's my decision: no more bike commute if it's 90 degrees or above. If my commute were only a few miles, that would be a silly restriction. But it's not that short and it typically takes me at least 45 minutes, which is just too long for a bod as heat-averse as my own to be pedaling away.
This is ESPECIALLY SUCKY because on Sunday I went and bought my longed-for Pashley Princess Sovereign and I just want to ride her, dammit! I brought her home from the far-flung neighborhood on my car, because I had a friend with me and no helmet. The poor dear suffered the indignity with grace.
I named her Olivia. Which is an awesome bike name, you must admit.
I actually hesitated buying after a good long test ride, because she just felt so slow. But I figured - hey, commute with it once and see what you think. So I did, and it still felt so so slow. But I looked at my watch and realized that it was the same amount of time it would've taken me to do the trip on Pepe. So it feels slower, but it's going the same speed. I think this perception of slowness has to do with how incredibly comfortable and smooth the ride is. It's like when you're used to driving a little old-ish crappy car (note the picture: I know whereof I speak) and then one day you borrow/rent some high-end car that still smells new. There's less noise, and you're more relaxed as you sink into the plush seat, and your hands don't grip the steering wheel, and all that kind of thing - and before you know it, you're like "Oops, hey whoa, I'm going 95 mph, how'd that happen?!"
Not that Olivia is going to surprise me by going super fast anytime soon, I just mean that how it feels can be deceptive. With Pepe, I always feel like I'm working very hard, leaned forward and going as fast as is possible for me to go. But the Pashley makes me sit up in quite a decorous way as I glide along, like some kind of stately oceanliner. And somehow I wind up with the same speed with far less than half the effort.
I will say that so far - with nothing but one (rather awful, thanks to the weather) commute and a quick trip to the store to go on - I can already say definitively that she's more bother than a lesser bike would be. Heavy to carry up the stairs, harder to maneuver in and out of the tight spaces in my basement, and I fuss over how safe she is at any given time. But by god is she ever beautiful enough to make up for it, both in looks and in how luxurious it feels to ride.
Even a trip to Target for paper towels is a thrilling little event. She really knows how to class up a joint.
According to the forecast, I will hopefully be able to take her for a spin again before the week ends, Fingers crossed!
(And PS: my bike building class starts this weekend. Fun!)