A few of us showed up at the Bakehouse for the first real-winter ride of the year. The temperature hovered in the 20s even as the clock struck noon. The wind was slight and out of the south. At 20 mph the wind chill at 20 correlates to 11 degrees. But the sun was out, and I was dressed in several layers, “two winter jackets,” as one of my teammates pointed out. The posted course was dubbed ‘Winter Trifecta’ and has three loops that all point back to town, with its furthest reaches never more than 10 miles from downtown. I decided to ride to the start, rather than drive, even though today’s published course would take us west then south, further away from home. The three of us were masters riders, so this wasn’t our first cold weather ride. But the scene was still Shakletonesque as we departed from the Bakehouse and headed from the safety of base camp. I say this because being ready for an ultra-cold weather ride takes some skill and understanding of limitations and contingency plans. A flat or a slip on the ice or a mechanical failure, all nuisances in the summer, are critical events on a day like this. It’s easy to get into trouble on a ride in these conditions. Fingers go numb, bulky gloves prohibit fine motor skills, the flat and low light of the season limits acuity. I went through a checklist as we had to dismount our bikes and carry over stone cairns on Vernal Pike. Toolkit, 2 tubes, CO2, pump, tire levers, phone. Before the ride, at home, I checked my tires for cuts and nicks, looking for bits of glass and stone with a small knife.
Fortunately, the ride turned out to be uneventful. We ended up doing 30 miles or so in a couple of hours before we got home and had a chance to catch up on each other’s lives in the distance that intervened. It was better than riding the rollers at home alone, nothing against that, it’s just that when an opportunity to ride with a group, no matter how small, presents itself, I am drawn to that. Not all rides are epic, but roller rides never are.
As I said, “goodbye” to my mates in town, I turned for home on familiar roads heading toward the forest just as the first few flakes of snow began to fall.
Tomorrow is another opportunity. The ride is to the flashers and back. You should join us.