I am relatively new to cycling, which means (likely) that I am even newer to winter cycling (who in their right mind would start cycling IN THE WINTER and continue on to see another?). I remember my first winter riding experience. I was a triathlete, in college, and knew no cyclists. The first 30 (F) degree day in January, not knowing what a trainer or rollers were, I decided to get on with my training. I kitted up (I wore two pairs of running tights, tall cotton socks, a base layer, a fleece hoody from the Gap that I had owned for at least 10 years already, cotton gloves, and my helmet). I didn’t make it very far, but I did make it until the point when I was getting ice chips out of my water bottle before I turned around.
So, winter has set in. Daylight savings is over (or did it start? either way, it’s always dark as fuck). It’s cold. Unless you live in the south, in which case, we all hate you. What does a typical ride look like?
1. Wanna ride before work? Have fun in the dark. Wanna ride after work? Have fun in the dark. I recommend lights with a long lifetime.
2. So, like me, you are unemployed (or it’s the weekend and somehow you aren’t racing CX). You wake up and decide to let it warm up a bit. Have coffee, let the coffee take effect, look at all of the miserable people tweeting from their rollers or pre-dawn ice rides. Aw crap. It’s noon already- only 4 more hours of daylight. By the time you get dressed, that’s only THREE hours of daylight. (problem number 3.)
3. It’s time to ride. What do we wear? In my experience, everything. Sometimes I try to not wear my warmest clothes in the early winter so that when it gets colder I am prepared, but it turns out that never works.
Remember the order. Socks first, ALWAYS. The worst? You get your tights with the little foot strappies on, then your jerseys and have forgotten your damn socks. And don’t even BOTHER trying to kit up if you haven’t peed within the (half) hour. Ask me how I know.
The worst, One bra, baselayer, two layers of bibs, two jerseys a jacket and a vest later, FML I forgot my HRM strap.
4. Yay you’re riding! FINALLY. Turns out, you didn’t need that vest. Where do you put it when your pockets are already full of emergency layers!?
5. Chances are you’re wearing a hat, making it IMPOSSIBLE to have a conversation, as hearing now only works for picking up on emergency response vehicles. It’s actually okay, as your riding partners abandoned you 20 degrees ago.
6. Gloves make it impossible to use your phone as you ride. It doesn’t matter how many technology-tips they put on or how well Siri can understand your frost-bitten lips, phone usage is difficult. Let’s find that cozy little coffee spot we discovered a few months back! (pro tip: I suggest using your nose to unlock, and then voice to Siri.) After taking off the gloves and letting the draft up your sleeve to navigate to this place, you get there, and its CLOSED, because EVERYTHING in New England is closed in the winter.
7. You finally find a place that is open. You park the bike and waddle in, immediately ditching the top 3 layers and gloves. Once you have facial dexterity enough to order, you get funny looks from the person behind the counter. Yup. That’s snot dripping into your mouth. Is it more gross to lick it off, or to wipe it with your hand?
8. Time to pee. Hope you don’t mind half of your life savings, tied up in winter riding gear, touching the floor of the public restroom. Also, while in there, be sure to note the frozen snot smeared across your face.
9. You know in the summer when people see you out on your bike they yell “nice day for a ride!”? No shit, that’s why I’m out here. Well, in the winter this is replaced by “cold out there, isn’t it?” Even the people who knew it was nice out and knew that’s obviously why you were out enjoying it are intrigued by this lapse in logic. The comments never get annoying, however, because even if you pretend you hate it, you know it’s just reaffirming that you are a complete and total badass.
10. When you get back on the bike, be prepared to be colder than when you first started. Despite the temps having risen 5 degrees, the sweaty base layer is doing you NO favors.
11. You made it back home, just before sundown. Success! Your bike is now covered in salt, sand, road grime, slush. It needs to be washed more than EVER, yet it is now less likely than ever to get a wash.
12. Thought the ride was over? Doesn’t mean you can be useful. The pain of getting feeling back in your fingers and toes is crippling, and the potential for burns in the shower is too risky. You must wait it out, posting about your struggles all over social media.
tell me again why I thought cyclocross was a good idea?