Thursday, January 15, 2009

I Like To Ride My Bicycle

There are certain precautions a person learns to make if he or she becomes an adherent of cold-weather biking. You need to get a sense of how to function on both ice and snow. You need to figure out a way to dress so that you're warm enough, but not so insulated that you boil like a roasted hen. To save time mopping and discussing water damage with your landlord, you need to brush off the snow before taking the bike indoors.
And--here's a new one I had the joy of discovering recently-- you need to go to extremes to avoid any amount of snow in your bike lock. Because it will get into the lock. And it will melt. And then it will freeze again. And then your bike lock will be frozen.

For the past three days, my bike was stuck in place on the U of Blank campus. I would walk by it every day, futilely try the lock a few times, then sigh mightily. To be honest, I kind of put off doing anything about it for a while because I was hoping it would thaw on its own, which, given the usual average temperature for Blank (-2), didn't seem so farfetched. Unfortunately, we've been in an unaverage cold snap of late, with the unaverage temperature of -20, or lower. So after consulting the Internet and my parents (the two parties that played the most significant roles in raising me), I came up with a plan of action. For the edification of my readers, I will go into some detail.

The basic goal is to melt the ice inside the lock. There are few different ways of doing so: a hair dryer would work, but finding an appropriate extension cord on campus would difficult, to say the least. A deicer does the trick, but you need one that won't jam up the lock further. The most obvious method is to pour hot water on it, which works but with one caveat: you need to get the lock thoroughly dry before you use it again, or the water you added will freeze too, and you'll be worse off than when you started.
I was going to risk the water method--the bike would be inside over the weekend anyway, providing ample drying time--but my ma convinced me to try a heating pack instead. So I got one of those (9.99--cheapest the drug stor had) and heated it up. (Finding a microwave proved to be only slightly less difficult than finding that extension cord would have been.) A few tense filled minutes later, the lock was good and mellow.
And the townspeople rejoiced.
How do we keep this from happening again? Two things: some plastic held in place by rubber bands should protect the lock from precipitation, and WD-40 should make it overall less likely to freeze in inconvenient situations. Of course, a third option is to NOT bike in water-freezing temperature, but where's the fun in that?

Later Days.

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