Last winter, we had about ten days when the temperature dropped to -12° at night. For Pembrokeshire, stuck out in the Gulf Stream, that's unheard-of levels of winter coldness. In my current job, I am commuting either to or from work at around 5.30 and 6.00, both morning and evening, so I was out at the worst times. And with snow for the first time in many years, and widespread black ice, I admit to leaving the bike on the driveway and taking the car for those bitter days. Yeah, I'm a wimp.
This winter has been much milder, and so far I haven't really been cold on the bike at all. But last night the winter bit with a vengeance and I got caught out. It was a very cold night here (I am on nights this week) and by the time for home came round, it was -3°. Regular readers may remember that I bought new riding kit for this winter - a jacket with some hi-viz panels and some trousers that didn't let water in. The problem with the new kit is that it is much closer-fitting and has less insulation. Better on the fashion runway, but not as good at 5.30 am when the bike is a uniform crystalline white when I go to start it up for the ride home. And, lulled as I was by the last few weeks' mildness, I didn't have inner gloves and had left the thermal liners out of the pants.
I kept to sensible speeds for the journey home, never going above about 50 mph. Consciously, this was because of the risk of ice patches, but unconsciously I think I was also aware that going faster would mean much quicker heat loss. By the time I got home, I was as cold as I have ever been. I turned the central heating on, got a bowl of cereal, and leaned on a radiator. It was an hour before I was warm enough to go to bed.
There's a phrase I sometimes use with non-biking friends: You've never been cold until you have been cold on a motorbike. Pain in the extremities, illusions of heat in the coldest parts, and whole-body shivering are not unknown if you don't dress for the ride. I had all of those last night. Out of curiosity, I did a little research into wind chill. It would appear (for example from this site), that a temperature of -3°C and a wind (i.e. a forward speed on a bike) of 50 mph combine to give an equivalent still-air temperature of -17°C. No wonder I was cold.
It hardly seems worth it for my 20-minute commute, but if I were planning a long journey in these conditions I would definitely be considering electrically-heated clothing.
There is a weather station on a roof about 50m from here and I have a link to the readings. At the moment (it's 3 am) it is -3°C again.
And where the bike is usually parked is a car. Mine. With a heater, and Cream's Wheels Of Fire album in the CD player. If I take it easy, I will be able to listen to the whole of Ginger Baker's magnificent drum solo in 'Toad' before I get home.
Sometimes, being a backslider is quite pleasant.