Sunday, January 10, 2010

What's in a Windchill?

Windchill is a very popular word these days. 20F, 30F, and 40F below windchill temperatures are all over the airwaves. But are these windchill temps really accurate and more importantly, useful?

Daniel Engber says no in He says windchill's popularity has more to do with big headlines and bravado, than useful science. I would tend to agree with him. Windchill is an estimate of how cold it may feel to you. Kinda subjective. -30F and -30 windchill aren't the same thing. Having been outside once a long time ago when it was -26F, I can say that -26 windchill doesn't feel nearly as cold. Windchill varies greatly because the wind doesn't blow consistently.

What I look at when I check the temp before hopping on my bike, is temp and windspeed. That tells me what to expect. I know what 5F and 10 miles an hour winds feels like, so make sure I have a little more protection from the wind. Two numbers and experiential learning.

Fact: The coldest temperature recorded Minnesota was -60F, in Tower back in 1996. The coldest estimated windchill temp was an estimated -71F in 1982 in northern Minnesota.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

-14F in the Shade

When I awoke this morning a saw that the temp was a negative 14F, I was exited. "Woo hoo! I've never rode a bike when it's that cold". I put on all my gear, which takes awhile and threw some extra's in my pack in case I was underdressing. The air was crisp. My nose burned when I inhaled. When I pulled Frankie out of the unheated garage and pushed off, the front brakes started squealing. They didn't stop until it got up to -5 in the early afternoon. My ride over to meet with some friends was nice, except for the squealing, I suppose. I was sweating mildly by the time I got there. I was a little disappointed that nobody said "what are doing? are you crazy?". But they know me well enough to not be surprised about what conditions I ride in.

Later, I got a chai and ran some errands. Before arriving home, I stopped at a grocery in my neighborhood to buy some ice cream. When I got back on the bike, I decided not to put my Pearl izumi ski mask(pictures coming in future post) back on because I was only 5 blocks from home. On that short ride I realized how valuable that mask is to my comfort, because my face was really cold when I got home. I went inside and wasn't feel too cold except for my face and the back of my feet. But I figured a hot shower would be smart because sometimes the chill won't go away and I don't like getting sick. That was a good move. My feet and chest were tingly with mild frostbite. After a long hot shower, some lotion and some warm clothing they are back to normal.

Besides the squealing drum brakes and cold feet, I really enjoyed being out there in the elements. Next time I will take steps to make sure my feet and chest are better protected. I only saw two other cyclists on my travels, but figure there will be more when they get tired of being inside all the time. They don't know what they are missing out on.