On Tuesday morning I went on the coldest ride I have ever done, at the point where I finally gave up and headed home I was actually feeling a bit scared. So how did I get into this mess?
Not So Good Preparation
Continuing with my efforts to make myself weather-proof I went to the motorbike store to buy a set of waterproof jacket plus pants. Not really suitable for warm weather as they hold the heat in too much I figured they would do well while the weather is cold and wet. If I need something different when it gets warmer, I’ll deal with that when it comes.
Now, with my waterproof gear in hand I feel like the king of the world, ready to tackle any kind of weather head on. Nothing can stop me.
So in the early morning I put on my short-sleeved cycling shirt, arm warmers, short cycling pants, the waterproof stuff and my shoes and socks.
Fenders Help, to a degree
I figured that my new fenders would keep so much water off my shoes that they would not get wet.
Of course if there is no more spray from the road, everything will remain dry.
Well, not quite.
The fenders help to keep the grit and grime from the road off yourself and the bike. And they do this amazingly well. Even at the end of the ride when I washed the bike off there was almost no grit on anything. The best part was that although the chain was wet, it was not dirty, which is a definite plus for longevity.
Anyhow, my shoes were not waterproof and with just the rain on them, they were soaked within an hour. But I’m used to that so no big deal.
Danshui then Bailaka Rd.
So off to Danshui. The ride was pleasant enough, just the usual slog through the city.
Follow the No. 2 then after a bit of an uphill, right onto the 101. Even at this time of the night there were a few cars around on this road that seems like it should be quiet. It’s probably worth noting that this is likely because many people live around the Danshui area, where property is cheaper and there is access to the end of the subway system.
Some gentle climbing and finally the right turn onto the 101A.
I had estimated that this section of road would be pretty well maintained and in good shape for taking a ride all the way to the top.
And it turned out that I was almost right. With no cars and a well maintained road surface the climb was proceeding at a decent pace, although I couldn’t tell how fast I was going, just a decent pace for a long and easy-paced ride.
Slowly but surely the lights starting becoming further and further apart. The faint glow of the next one around the corner being the only sign of anything ahead. Until there were no more. Absolutely none. Except for the odd one lighting the entrance to a house where the occupants had long ago gone to sleep with a fluffy, cozy pillow and duvet to keep them snug.
Always Check the Batteries
So as I’m slogging up the climb and the lights have gone out I’m following the faint glow of my light, which I only then realize I forgot to change the batteries.
But remember, I was prepared, and feeling like superman, so I pressed on.
Until my light was almost gone. Nothing, nada, the moon through the clouds giving more light than the tiny glow of the three LEDs.
But the dim light by itself might not have dissuaded me from continuing, except that the temperature had dropped. A lot.
My toes were going numb, although they could still move, they were very cold.
My fingers were freezing.
Even my body inside the waterproof jacket was getting cold.
After passing under the archway on the way up I was hit by a strong wind that just shattered all my hope of getting over the top and gave me a deep sense of worry for my own safety.
So I turned around.
On the way down it was so cold and my light was so dim I couldn’t maintain more than 10km/h at the absolute max, probably less than 5km/h actually.
I had to seek refuge. Too cold and too slow to continue I decided I needed somewhere to wait for sunrise and make a quick decent down the mountain.
So when I next caught a glimpse of a light on the way down I took my chance, with everything on my body losing heat I decided that this would be my refuge.
I climbed the three short sets of white steps to the entrance, parked my bike under the cover then proceeded to keep myself warm.
I removed my shoes and socks because they were colder in there than when they weren’t. Later on I found some gumboots around the back that I borrowed to try keep my feet warm.
I pulled my arms into the jacket and slipped my hands under my armpits. I pulled the jacket as far up my head as it would go, sat down on the ground with my back against the wall. And waited.
For three hours.
I napped four times during those three hours. Trying to keep as warm as possible, but shivering most of the time.
Just me and the continuous groan of the recording of monks chanting the “amitofo” song. And the view of the area of lit road by the bottom of the stairs. And the buddha looking staring at me from the back.
Finally, the light through the mist signaled my departure and I put on my cold socks and shoes and headed down the mountain as quick as I could.
I took two breaks to breath warm air onto my fingers which were getting frozen enough to hurt. But once back to the 101 it was just quite cold and wet.
Lesson Learned… Hopefully
At the end of it all I thought I was well prepared, but I wasn’t.
I didn’t have enough warm clothes. I didn’t have enough waterproof stuff, namely good gloves and waterproof shoe covers.
And I don’t have a good enough light. Which is where my focus is going to fall next.