The truth is important. I believe that. Truth is the basis of trust, and trust is the foundation of a sense of safety and security. Also, the truth has taken a real beating in recent years, and I’m always here for the underdog. So here’s the truth: It gets harder to ride a bike when it’s cold, snowy and icy.
It feels like I spend a fair amount of time not saying that, cultivating this idea that I love the cold (I sorta do), and riding through the winter is just so easy (it’s not) if you do the right things, push yourself out the door, and adjust your attitude appropriately. It’s not that those things aren’t true, it’s just that they are not the full and honest truth. There is some lie of omission there.
We had our first snow the other night, just two inches worth, hardly worth pushing off with the shovel. The midday sun melted most of it off the next day. But that snow ushered in some arctic cold, and the moisture left to us is now in the freeze-thaw cycle, that charming fluctuation that leaves sheets of fresh ice everywhere and makes trails into ice-rutted death traps.
Things just got harder.
This morning, with the temperature hovering in the low 20s(F), an angry wind punished all those would dare ride a bike. I warmed up in the woods, where there was some shelter, but then when I reemerged, that wind blew straight through what felt like a hole in my forehead. It was a particularly cruel headwind, if you’ll excuse the crappy pun.
What snow was left on the trails was granular and tacky, not the worst for traction, but this time of year you have to be thinking, always, about what the surface conditions might be. Even on a sunny day with very little moisture left on the ground, you will encounter patches of treachery, like the hidden traps in a real-life video game.
Truthfully now, there is a point in the winter, once I’m acclimated, once I’m in the flow of it all, that I really enjoy it. Once I reach that point, the winter gives me these moments of transcendent beauty, and I have the feeling I have access to a hidden, magical realm that no one else can get to, or won’t. As I beat the drum of cold-season riding, I’m not trying to deceive you. Things get harder before they get easier. But I’m trying to get you to that good place, to share that experience with more of you. It’s there. I promise.