I’m a bad friend sometimes. Bruce had suggested we get in one last mountain bike ride before the big snow storm, the one swirling outside my window as I type. I said I was in. That was in the morning.
I’m a bad friend because I’m a writer, and that means my schedule is mine. I don’t have a lot of mandatory meetings or demanding clients. And so if I want to ride at noon on Wednesday I can. That makes me the sort of guy who doesn’t want to wait for other people to “work” until 5, the kind of guy who forgets to charge his lights, and the kind who texts the crew at 4:45 that he’s out, not riding, not up to it.
In my defense, I have spent the best part of 2020 dealing with a broken collarbone and then a frozen shoulder. I am only just back to riding, and the prospect of going over the bars in the cold and dark makes me think twice, thrice, even four times before suiting up for fun. I’m not risk averse, but I’m also not anxious to get back into physical therapy.
And I can ride bikes at noon.
Soon we’ll put the studded tires on our bikes and be back to business. I missed what might have been the last dry ground ride for the next few months, but there is more to come. There is always more to come.
I have a trainer, and I have a basement, but I’m not a Zwifter or a Wahoo or a devotee of any of the other digital options. I prefer to ride outside, even when it hurts, and if I do opt for the trainer, I put inadvisedly loud music in the headphones and drape a towel over my head, so I can suffer the old fashioned way.
This weeks TCI Friday asks, how does your riding change when the “winter” comes? I put winter in quotes there, because not everyone gets the classic snow, ice and cold scenario. That doesn’t mean the season isn’t different though. So how does your riding change, and have you made that switchover yet?
Over two feet of snow yesterday left me no choice but to consider the changeover. At this time of year, I hop on the road bike outside if it’s above freezing and I can get out in the sunshine. I’ll use the mtn bike for bombing around the neighborhood in the daylight if there’s fresh snow. At night, I’ll check out the neighbor’s holiday light decorating. In ordinary times, I go to the Y and run stupid circles on the 14 laps/mile track and using the weights to restore some muscle that I’ve been ignoring all summer.
I have a trainer. It’s in the box. That’s not simply where it’s stored. I’ve just never taken it out. I don’t know that I want to change that but, i don’t have studded tires or a fat bike or the will to freeze my arse off.
But, hey! Covid has made me rethink so much that I might just embrace that godforsaken trainer… It’s right next to the beer.
Winter changeover means putting away the summer commuter, adding studded tires to my fat bike, and occasionally riding on the trainer while watching some sporting event. The fat tire lets me ride to work all year, even as the winters in Northern Michigan become increasingly icy as climate change clicks by, plus we have several good trail systems that can be enjoyed year-round.
I shift to riding InsideRide rollers in combination with The Sufferfest app/videos. For some unexplainable reason I get an immense amount of pleasure and satisfaction out of this combination. This combo is like magic for my brain but other rollers/trainers don’t do it for me and other apps don’t engage my attention. I’m in Minnesota and I bike commuted for about 15 years year round. I’m now one of those corporate workers “working from home” and I have a hard time motivating to go ride outside in <32 degree temps/snow/ice when I don't have anywhere in particular to go. The trails/roads around my house are no good in the winter and the gym seems like a good place to catch Covid. So, this year I'm riding 6-7 days a week in the basement reminding myself that this isn't forever.
I’ll define the New England winter months as Dec-Mar. Normally, the first half of Dec is CX. I’ll spend the second half of Dec outside on my gravel or fat bike depending on conditions. Then, I use Jan-Mar for a 13 week trainer program with two interval sessions a week (usually Tue and Thu morning). (During CX season, I’ll typically do Wed intervals either outside or on my trainer.) But I’ll be outside on weekends, some mornings, and occasional nights. Again, gravel or fat depending on conditions.
So, my “different” (trainer) months are Jan-Mar.
I ride as much as icy roads will allow. Here in northern VA the winter temps usually vary from 20s to 40s with occasional teens and 60s. My coldest commute was 1 degree F but single digits are rare. We need everyone to ride in winter, otherwise noncycling motorists are justified in thinking bikes are warm weather toys suitable only for bike paths and trails.
I should say “feel” justified….but aren’t.
Living outside Boston, I have to say that I like a break from riding during winter. If I lived sonewhere with year-roundish biking, I’m not sure how I’d handle it, and could possibly become slightly bored with it. I like my seasons and what each season brings. Winter is time for winter things, like skiing, XC skiing, hikes/walks in the snow, etc.
Sure, I’ll still get out during the winter occasionally. The bike gets fenders and rides become sub-hour jaunts preceded by a combo of hot chocolate and coffee. It feels great to get out, but I still prefer winter activities.
Spring always hurts, and hurts even more now since turning 60 years ago.
Into my mid-50s, I rode just about every day, weather be damned. I have a great photo of myself along the Chicago lakefront one morning when it was -2° F. I was riding to work, and I came across a woman in her running gear headed in the opposite direction. I stopped and said, “We’re the only two idiots out here. Ill take your picture with your phone if you’ll take my picture with my phone.” I cherish that photo. Ski helmet, ski goggles, three pairs of layered mittens, wool over wool over wool with a Gore Windstopper cover, three pairs of neoprene shoe covers including a final, huge, thick, fleece-lined pair. It always felt epic to be riding in the bitter cold and snow and sleet on 700×25 tires.
As I got older, I became less sanguine about falling down. Broken ribs, fractured elbow, damaged digits… I ride when it’s about 40 and dry now. Every now and then I go out in the real cold and I remember why I enjoyed it so much. It is epic. And when I arrive home from riding in below-zero weather, I always feel I’ve really done something.