It’s spring! It’s spring! It’s spring! Tra-la-la-la-la!
Yes, spring temperatures have finally arrived in Edmonton after almost two weeks of January type weather stretching through the end of February and the beginning of March. I’m talking about lows of -29°C with a dollop of windchill on top, as Old Man Winter’s way of saying he’s not about to shuffle off quietly.
I have to admit to feeling somewhat trapped and claustrophobic going into the last week of February with the weather forecast showing an unremitting deep freeze. Getting through the final freeze of the season is like slowly pedaling up a steep hill, while pulling a trailer filled with bricks, on a bike with under-inflated tires and with the brake pads rubbing on the rim. It takes me three times longer to layer up and get out the door. Furthermore, the commute is a slower one with added effort of moving my heaviest boots in circles, as well as the drag caused by the grease freezing in bike components.
However, with a few years of Edmonton winter bike commuting under my belt, cycling through the deep cold has become just another routine. Properly prepared the riding can be comfortable and rewarding.
In very cold weather, all the city buildings are sending out great plumes of condensing water vapour, as the moisture laden exhaust air from the hard-working heating systems mingles with the icy, bone dry air outside. The city looks like it’s on fire.
It doesn’t often snow when it’s very cold. There was a lot of brilliantly blue sky to be enjoyed. When it did snow, it was flurries of beautiful dry powder.
A real visual treat that you can sometimes spot during the deep cold are halos around the sun. These are caused as sunlight is reflected and refracted in tiny hexagonal ice crystals suspended in the air. On one of my morning rides there was a faint haze of diamond dust crystals like a low-lying fog over the city. With the sun just over the horizon, a partial halo appeared in the form of two red and blue pillars flanking the sun. As I rode through Mill Creek ravine, an arc of halo seemed to spring directly up from the trees on the other side of the creek. It was like seeing the end of the rainbow. When I climbed back up to street level, depending on the conditions of light and shadow, the halo fragments sometimes seemed to be just a few feet away, but at other times to be as distant as the sun. Simply magical. Inevitably, my camera does not do it justice.
The coldest weather is hopefully now behind us, I’m looking forward to melting snow, bare asphalt and eventually speedy road bikes. With luck, I’ve donned my winter space suit for the last time this winter.