Much like the setting of the Swedish film, it is utterly bleak and mostly silent outside. A degree above freezing and sunlight reduced to a diffused glow, it doesn’t look like there’s going to be any better time to ride. Last week the Mrs. returned from the States and I coincidentally acquired the flu, so I hadn’t been out on a bike until today. The cold nights of a few weeks ago have turned into cold days, and although I see people riding about in it, I was slightly reluctant to do so myself. Having grown up in the Northeast and spending four years in Alaska, I’ve been told countless times that “your blood will thicken”. Now, while I’m sure that there are varying degrees to which the viscosity of blood may vary, I don’t think it has anything to do with keeping you warm. So despite living in colder climates my whole life, I’m just as cold as anybody (except maybe the Mrs. who is frequently much colder), so I’ve stopped waiting for a transformation to occur and started trying to wear appropriate cold weather clothing.
Today, I went out for a test ride in anticipation of a much longer ride later on. I wore a Smartwool long-sleeve shirt that has half a dozen holes in it, but was too expensive to throw away, and tan polyester leggings the Air Force gave me as a base layer. On top of that was a Polypropylene half-zip and my reflective Crane cycling jacket from Aldi, and a pair of REI wind-resistant pants. On my feet were wool-blend Bicycle Times socks (they’re perpetually on clearance) and my Giro MTB shoes. On my hands were insulated gloves made out of some technical fabric, and most importantly an UnderArmour balaclava over my head to keep my ears from falling off.
I set out with Ardie my dog, who never wears any clothing yet seems to do just fine. The muddy parts of the road have coalesced becoming harder and more easily traversed than when it’s warmer outside, but there is still plenty of wet mud along the edges underneath the leaves. I know this because Ardie liked to run in them and came back a few shades darker than when we left.
Off of the road and into the woods, my core was sufficiently warmed up, but I was starting to feel the cold in my toes and fingers. The Giro MTB shoes offer little in the way of insulation, as I’m sure they were intended to instead keep your feet from sweating. Next time, thicker socks, I tell myself.
Further into the woods. Here, the coniferous trees are all lined up in rows, creating a very strange effect as you pass by. By now, my toes were very cold and my fingers were getting numb so I was 90% sure it was time to head back. The rest of my body was fine. I asked Ardie how he was holding up and he did not respond.
Part of the way back was able to be done on a paved road where I had hoped to dislodge some of the mud and debris with some targeted bouncing and higher RPMs. Using a hose, even if I had one, in this weather is out of the question, so a clean bicycle is something that will have to wait.
For my next ride, assuming the weather stays the same, I will fit more sock into my shoe, probably one of my thick wool ones, and find a pair of proper winter gloves that will keep my fingers warm at the expense of dexterity. There’s no gears on my MTB, so as long as I can depress the brake levers, I’ll be A-OK.
The winter brings a set of challenges to bicycling, but the key is to make it fun. And to wear the right clothes, because no matter what someone has told you, your blood isn’t getting any thicker.
- Bicyclist Abroad