This past weekend, our friend Jeff hosted his annual winter party. I had planned to ride my bike there, as it’s a really nice ride that usually takes about an hour or so. Perfect.
Then early last week I looked at the weather forecast. The high on Saturday was supposed to be 10 degrees. By evening, when I’d be riding, temps were supposed to be well into the single digits.
I’m not riding, I said.
I’m not sure what I was so worried about. I’ve ridden for longer in colder conditions. I have plenty of warm gear. And the ride was mostly uphill so there was no way I’d be cold for all of it. But the thought of freezing my face off just didn’t seem appealing at the moment.
Evan convinced me otherwise. He was on the “you should ride” team, along with half my brain.
The other half was still saying no.
It went back and forth like this all week. I obsessively checked the weather multiple times a day. Not that the forecast is ever all that spot-on, but I needed some sort of help making a decision.
I knew that if I didn’t ride, I’d feel bad about not trying. So ultimately, on Friday, I made a final decision. I was going to pedal. Then I jokingly asked Jake if he wanted to ride with me. I was a little surprised when he said yes. I’m not sure why, as Jake is usually down for just about anything, no matter how crazy. Now I was committed, and having a buddy made me more excited.
I went for a run with my friend Erica in the late morning, and was completely comfortable. I felt even more confident and excited about my decision.
We met at the shop a little after 6. I was really undecided about clothing. I obviously didn’t want to be cold, but I didn’t want to get too hot and sweat too much either. I was most worried about my hands and face. I had planned to borrow Evan’s pogies, but as I was trying to put them on my bike at the last minute, I discovered that the bar end plugs that he was using wouldn’t fit in my handlebars. I briefly looked around the shop for different ones, then decided that I’d be okay without the pogies. They seemed really cumbersome and unwieldy anyway. I had ski gloves, and my hands don’t usually get as cold as my feet. And the ride was mostly climbing. I needed to keep this in mind.
I finally settled on an outfit. Knee-high wool socks (I found that keeping your calves warmer helps keep your feet warmer), fleece-lined tights, and then a baggier shell pant that I could tuck my 45NRTH Wolvhammers into. Keeping the top of the boots inside the pants also helps keep the feet warmer. Up top, I went with a Merino wool/poly blend long-sleeved base layer, wool jersey, and then a light shell. I wrapped a buff around my face so that only my eyes were exposed, and wore a wool hat under my helmet. I was ready.
I had decided to ride the fat bike, thinking that it would be slower and pedaling it would keep me warmer. And the pogies wouldn’t go on the drop bars of my “road” bike. And I have to give the Watchman back soon, so I wanted to get as many rides on it as possible.
Jake, on the other hand, was riding his singlespeed coaster brake commuter.
We set off, through a little bit of Huntingdon and then onto the back roads. The ride to Jeff’s is so great in that it is 90% on gravel or very little-traveled paved roads. I think we might have been passed by 2 cars during the entire ride.
The road to Jeff’s splits into two for a ways as it climbs the mountain. The low road is usually the one of choice for bikes—it was closed a few years ago because it had begun to erode and become really dangerous for cars. I remember driving on it 7 or 8 years ago, and it was super sketchy. It drops off all the way down to the river on one side, and it’s a long way down. But it’s perfect for bikes, and it’s not as steep. The new road climbs steeply and then drops back down before beginning to climb again.
It was covered in pretty deep layer of snow though, and Jake was doubtful about the ability of his skinny tires to make it through, so we took the high road. Even with the fat bike, it would have been quite a slog.
I barely cranked up the steep part in my granny gear, while Jake walked. At the top of that little section, we stripped off our shells. We still had a long climb ahead. I was really warm at this point.
We climbed and climbed. It was really pleasant. Corbin Road is a nice dirt road climb. Aside from the one section at the beginning, it’s not steep. It’s long, but I find it easy to get into a good rhythm. Jake and I talked for a while, then fell into silence as we each found our own groove. At the top, we put the jackets back on.
The only time I was cold on the ride was descending down the other side of the mountain. It was mostly my head that was cold. Brain freeze from the inside out, Jake said.
We had another small climb up to Jeff’s house to warm up though. The snow on his lane squeaked under our tires. Jake compared it to “that squeaky cheese” (halloumi). That’s how you know it’s cold.
We arrived to some awestruck looks. You rode here? You must have been freezing!
No, actually, I was quite warm.