Wind, Weather, and Widgets

“Technology is a way of organizing the universe so that man doesn’t have to experience it.” — Max Frisch

How true this statement.

On a typical bicycle commute morning, the very first thing I do upon waking up is to check the upcoming day’s weather forecast on my iPhone’s weather app. Hour-by-hour temperature and rain forecasts are the focus of my attention, giving me a pretty good sense of how to dress for the morning and afternoon ride. I generally don’t pay much attention to other esoteric weather stats. You know what I’m talking about: UV Index, Visibility, Dew Point, and the like (who really tracks that stuff). Unfortunately, I also don’t normally focus on wind direction or wind speed either, knowing that there’s really nothing I can do about it even if I’m aware of it. As a former runner, all I know is that I’ve always hated the wind. But I expect that lack of focus will change after last Monday’s commute. This from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for Monday, February 25, 2013:

“A strong low pressure center and cold front moved through South Central Texas on
Monday, February 25, 2013. Very strong north winds behind the cold front spread across
the region during the late morning through early evening hours. Wind gusts from near 50
to near 60 MPH were reported across much of south central Texas. There were reports of
widespread damage along the Interstate 35 corridor along with several wildfires.”

The morning commute was uneventful. Breezy and chilly, but certainly nothing out of the ordinary for Austin in February. By mid-afternoon, I noticed the wind whipping the trees outside my office, and by close-of-business, I could hear the wind howling through seams in my closed office window. The normal 1 hour and 20 minute afternoon commute ended up taking 2 and a half hours, and it probably ranks as one of the worst bike commutes I’ve ever experienced. I literally pushed my bike over two bridges because of some ridiculous wind gusts, large buildings downtown created a wind tunnel effect that created extraordinary cross-winds, and I spent most of the ride dodging limbs and debris in the roadway. The panniers and racks on my normally stable tank-of-a-bike seemed to serve as sails, causing what ultimately was to be an overall miserable experience. All in all, and after reflection, I tried to think of a one word description to summarize the ride home: It sucked and it was a little dangerous. Eight words, I know, but you get the point.

I am a technologist by profession, so I am immersed in technology most of my waking moments. So to be honest, one of the main attractions of cycling for me is the simplicity of the machine itself; the ability to power myself from Point A to Point B, devoid of all technology if I choose. I love the freedom of disengaging from the technology to simply pedal. But I am also cognizant (now more so) of the necessity of technology for even the most “un-technical” of things (i.e. riding a bike in the wind). So if you see me on a weekday morning around 6am in my driveway, geeking out with the latest weather gadget on my smart-phone, you’ll know why. And if you want to help ensure your own safety, at least as it relates to surviving inclement weather on your bike, you might want to consider doing the same thing.

2 thoughts on “Wind, Weather, and Widgets”

  1. Hey Brian

    Again, congrats on conquering the dam loop this past weekend. Great training for your tour.

    Regarding choosing to ride today, I’ll give you a low-tech formula to use in the future…
    red flag warning = leave the bike in the garage ; )

    Your struggle reminds me of our 100 degree plus urban assault last year where we had to take refuge in a schlotski’s in order to make the final 5 miles home. Sounds like this more than matched that challenge.

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