Three seasons out of the year, I love to get on my bike. But winter — by which I mean "the cold part of fall, all of winter, and the cold part of spring" — just sucks.
I’m sorry. I’m trying to have a positive attitude. Really. And I’m not saying I’m going to quit riding during the winter. I’m not. I plan to bundle up, layer upon layer, twice a day and bike into work on the icy roads, in the dark, in the blowing snow and /or freezing rain, with the bulk of clothing restricting me to the extent that I can barely turn my head, much less the cranks.
Sorry. I guess my attitude slipped again. It’s just that winter somehow takes one of the things I like best in the whole world — a light, fast, spontaneous, free adventure I can have every day — and turns it into a heavy, preparation-laden, sluggish, uncomfortable slog.
Before I continue, I should point out that anyone who leaves a bracing pep talk in the comment section today will be met with a snort of ridicule and a rolling of the eyes. Do we understand each other? Fine. Let’s move on.
Through most of the year, dressing for a ride is the simplest thing in the world. Shorts, jersey, socks, shoes, helmet, glasses, gloves. In that order (for me, at least). Let’s roll.
In the winter, though, it’s more like:
- Look outside. Is it snowing? Raining? Is there ice on the road?
- Go outside, try to get a sense of the temperature and whether it’s going to get warmer. Look at the clouds, trying to decide — if it’s not raining now — whether it will be soon.
- Go back inside. Based on how cold and dark it is, ponder whether you really are all that committed to this idea of biking anyway. I mean, seriously. Wouldn’t it be nice to drive in today? You could listen to NPR — haven’t had much time for the news lately, it’d be good to catch up — and be all nice and warm when you get to work.
- Banish demons. You’re going to ride.
- Put on base layer.
- Put on wool socks.
- Put on more wool socks.
- Put on tights.
- Put on heavy jersey.
- Put on shoes.
- Put on shoe covers.
- Put on jacket.
- Put on gloves.
- Put on more gloves.
- Put on helmet.
- Put on glasses.
- Put on headband ear warmer jobby that muffles all sound and screws with your peripheral vision and in general makes you feel like you’re now in much greater danger of a collision.
- Ask yourself, "Is there any possible way that any possible ride could be worth all the effort I just went through?"
When you ride in the cold, every breath hurts. And then your eyes start to water. And then the water running down your eyes starts to freeze.
Your face stops reacting properly. Your ears hurt. Your toes hurt…and then they stop hurting, because they’ve gone numb.
It doesn’t stay this bad, though. After a while, you warm up a little. You stop scrunching your face up to see whether it works, because you’ve come to accept that it doesn’t. Your legs warm up almost no matter how cold it is, because they’re working so hard. Apart from your nose, ears, toes, and fingers, biking’s fun again.
And that’s when you come to a stoplight.
As soon as you stop, your glasses fog. And then the nice little sweat you’ve worked up —evidence that you were finally starting to warm up — becomes instantly clammy. Time slows down. You start to shiver.
Ordinarily, I love looking into cars from my bike while I’m stopped at a light. I put on this smug little smile that says, "I’m going somewhere, just like you, but I’m exercising and having fun while I’m doing it. I am clearly smarter than you." When it’s cold, I look into those cars and can’t muster a smile. Car occupants, on the other hand, seem to have a smile for this occasion. It’s the smile that says, "I’m warm in my car and you’re cold on a bike, so you’re clearly as dumb as a bar of soap."
When it’s warm, I often finish a ride wishing for more. I do not believe I have ever had such a wish when finishing a ride in the cold. Instead, I come inside and stand in the shower until the hot water runs out or the feeling comes back into my toes: whichever occurs first.
Oh, I’ve Got Cold Credibility
I’m almost sure some of you are thinking, "Fatty is such a nancy-boy. What does he know about cold?" Well, I lived for Finland for two years, and rode a bike as my main mode of transportation during the winter for each of those two years. Also, I grew up at above 8,000 feet in a little town in Colorado. It frequently had the lowest temperatures in the nation, including Alaska. So, yes: I know a thing or two about living and riding in the cold.
And I’d rather ride when it’s warm.
PS: It’s snowing right now. You think I should ride my bike home today, or bail out and get a ride? Your opinion carries more weight if you either are facing the same question right now. If you are in Australia, your opinion carries no weight whatsoever.
PPS: The winner of yesterday’s contest is Tayfur Yagci of Turkey. The fact that he’s racing with what he’s got impresses me no end. Here’s what Tayfur had to say:
I have one simple recommendation for all that stuff: Give some to me! I especially need: A long sleeve jersey, some good socks, a windstopper jacket.
So you want me to impress you? I don’t know if I can but here goes: I only have two items of bicycle clothing: A no-name tights and a t-shirt with the name of a local MTB team on it. (Pitbull MTB Racing) Thats all I have. Ok, I have other stuff I can wear but they aren’t bicycle clothes. A pair of old jeans or a worn out wool sweater don’t exactly count as cycling apparel. So that’s all I have.
I’ll tell you what, Tayfur. If you’re serious about wanting some used bike clothes, email me; let’s figure something out.