I hate cycling in the cold. Notice I’m using the word hate. I don’t hate much on this fantastic planet, but riding a freaking bike in temps at, or just above, freezing is one of those things. I don’t care about all of the great, expensive clothing, the hyper-expensive jacket, the arm and leg warmers, compression shorts, gloves and neat little caps. Oh sure, I own (and use) all of it and it helps, but folks, cycling in the cold sucks…
Of course, there’s only one thing I hate more than freezing my keister off: The damned trainer.
Back to hating cycling in the cold… I showed up for the Tuesday night club ride yesterday shortly after 5:00. The temperature was hovering around 42 degrees. Not really bad, especially for the first fifteen miles or so. Our neat little twelve man crew had been whittled down to six or seven. All of the big dogs and me. I’m no miniature poodle but I don’t work hard enough to be a big Rottweiler either. Call me a black lab. All of the guys I normally ride with had dropped off the back citing “too early in the season”. Two miles later at something like 23 or 24 mph (though it felt like 28) and “too early in the season” was sounding pretty good.
I eased off the back rather than suck wheel and be a jerk.
I hammered on, alone for all but a minute or two… And then, joy of joys, I turned into the wind. Sweet Lord Almighty, I was in my 18 mph gear and I was struggling with it. The temp had dropped a bit and the cold reached right through my leg warmers and squeezed the life out of my legs.
Eight and one-half miles of… Well it sure wasn’t joy, but every time I got to thinking about how sucky it was, I changed the thinking. I know why they say that the summer gains are made before the snow melts. I get it and I could actually sense the last few pieces of the puzzle snapping into place last night.
Even though I wanted to just let up and spin back easy, I kept at it pushing with everything I had. Every pedal stroke, every minute, every mile I have in the saddle now will translate into a more enjoyable summer when I get to shed all of the cold weather gear. In short, I can suffer now or I can suffer later – I choose now for a reason.
There is a very important distinction that must be made about “suffer now or suffer later”: I’ve found when you get up to the decent speeds, 22+ mph average on relatively flat open roads (this translates to 24-26 mph between stop signs and traffic lights), I don’t suffer any less later in the year – that kind of speed isn’t easy to maintain over decent distances – I’m just used to it so it doesn’t suck as bad.
The one piece of decent advice to any noob who wants to ride fast, you’ve gotta embrace the work – because that’s what everyone else is doing and no amount of whining or complaining will change it.
23.5 miles in 1 hour and 10 minutes (give or take)… Not great, but this early in the season and in those conditions, I’ll take it.