Car Free OKC: Week 1 & 2 Recap

I was planning on writing a recap of my car free in Oklahoma City experiment every week, but last week was extremely busy so a two-week summary will have to do.  To be perfectly honest, this makes it easier because it has really been an uneventful transition to being car free.  I had planned on feeling some sort of anxiety or experiencing some real difficulties, but really it has been smooth sailing.  Some of this has been due to the heavy work load which has kept me mostly at home or at work.  But really, as much as you can come up with the need for a car, you can also just as easily allot a bit more travel time and make your way by bike.  I can certainly say the trip will be more enjoyable.

Now there have been a few challenges.  First and foremost of these has been the weather.  Many people have questioned my sanity in going car free during one of the hottest summers on record.  However, I’ve quickly discovered that with a bit of planning the heat is really not all that bad.  The great thing about cycling that we all know is that we can generate our own cooling breeze.  Even with a strong tailwind, if you just pedal a bit harder you can generate a nice evaporative wind.  The most important thing in this heat is to stay hydrated, especially when the humidity is particularly low as it was at the beginning of August.  During the height of the heat when it was 110°+ it was not uncommon for me to empty my 70 oz. Camelbak and need to refill it at Lake Hefner during my 23 mile commute.  When it is that dry, you can easily become deceived about how much you are sweating because it evaporates so quickly.  I use a simple rule to take a good-sized drink when ever I feel dry and every ten minutes whether I feel thirsty or not.  With that as a plan I have so far avoided any of the serious heat problems that I’ve seen others experiencing this month.

My other “heat” related problems has been with my tires.  In all my years of cycling, I have never had as many flats as I have had this season.  Three of these were caused by that vile goat weed (also known as *#@*$&# stickers) which grows so prominently along Oklahoma roadsides.  In the high heat and with no rain, the stickers from these little buggers have dried to the point that they are as sharp as nails and as sturdy as hardened steel.  However, I’ve also had three tube failures, one at the stem and two at a seam.  I’ve never had such problems before and I’ve come up with a theory that I’m currently testing.  For those of you who haven’t met me in person, I am not the daintiest of riders which necessitates me riding with higher air pressure levels than that many other riders. The manufacturers recommend that I air to the maximum air pressure level.  Well I’ve noticed that all of these failures have happened during the height of the daytime heat and towards the end of my rides. I’m starting to wonder if maybe the constant unending heat beating down on our streets hasn’t raised the concrete temperatures to levels not necessarily considered by road bike tire manufactures.   This all may be fantasy, but I’ve lowered my air pressure by a few pounds and so far so good.  We’ll see if I notice any difference.

Of course all of this changed this last week with the dramatic drop in the high temps and with some (though not enough) much-needed rain.  On Thursday my commute necessitated a ride through the rain, for which I over-prepared (more on that in a later post) which despite being damp was a wonderful experience in that I got to feel what it’s like to be a bit cool in Oklahoma.  I had almost forgotten about what that was like.  For some reason I’ve always hated riding in the rain, but when faced with no other choice, I actually found myself enjoying it.  Maybe I’ll start doing it more often, if it ever chooses to rain ever again. :)

This weekend was my first “cheat” from the experiment.  I signed myself up for my first century ride since I was a teenager at this year’s Spin Your Wheels ride.  I’m actually feeling a bit guilty about getting a car ride to and from the ride since the weather turned out to be absolutely perfect and I finished up with enough energy to have permitted me to ride to the start and back.  However, if hadn’t “cheated”, then I might not have had the absolutely wonderful cheering section from my girlfriend Grace and her daughter Gwen and friend Mercedez:

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Now that’s the way to finish a ride!

To make up for the cheating, I made an over-sized grocery store run today (which will also make for a post later on this week) and glad I was to get out in this beautiful weather which I hope will continue for a  little while longer.  Of course it is a little laughable to be excited about the relative comfort of 97-99° highs, but that’s what several weeks of 104°+ highs will do for you.

So all in all, while there have been a few challenges, the overall experience has been really wonderful so far.  I’m still hoping to get out for some different types of trips including a date night with my sweetie so stay tuned . . .

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