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The Winter Makes the Cyclist’s Heart Grow Fonder


If yesterday was in late November, there’s no chance I’d have had much fun. I was a little underdressed. I should have been a little smarter about it – worn the light tights over the leg warmers and bibs, different upper layers… the only things I really got right were my hat, my gloves and choosing toe covers rather than full overshoes. Oh, and my sunglasses. It was spectacularly sunny and a little breezy out of the south – don’t let the direction fool you, though; any wind this early in the season picks up cold from the snow still on the ground. It was a little better than 42° (5 C). But it was my second ride outdoors in our leadup to spring and I’d been cooped up way too long as temps outside bottomed out to -17° (-27 C) just a short while ago.

Heading north was fairly easy and not too chilly, but anything east, west, or south and the wind cut right through my layers. I quickened my pace on the way over to pick my riding bud up, heading east with a crosswind off my right. I was pleasantly surprised at how easily the crank was turning over. Much easier at 20-mph than 18 was on the trainer (I knew it). If I kept the pace up, I could stay comfortably numb, as the song goes. I had to stop twice to adjust the rear derailleur after switching from my trainer wheel to the normal outdoor wheel. I got it nailed on the second try – perfect, crisp shifts, every gear up and down the cassette. I pulled into Chuck’s driveway with a 16-mph average.

He was ready and we were off in a matter of minutes, starting slow but building. I had us up to 20-mph with the crosswind and kept it comfortable. We were up to an 18-1/2 average in no time and a sly smirk stretched across my face. It had been a productive winter. You know that first ride on the good bike where you’re wondering if you did enough on the trainer to hit the ground rolling in the spring? I was relieved. I’ll have a better time getting up to Tuesday night speed this year (once I work off some of the last month’s dinners – I was sitting in good shape a month ago, but I let some really good food get in the way).

I was chilly much of the ride, but just the right side of chilly. It wasn’t terrible, but I didn’t have to throw my outer layer in the wash, either. Not enough sweat to soak through. Even so, it was a wonderful evening on the bike. The Trek was perfectly tuned (more on that later – I learned a few things over the winter) and quiet. Not one out of place creak the whole ride. Better, I felt excellently comfortable the whole time. We ended up with a 17-mph average and I felt I could have ridden all day at that pace (though I am feeling it a little this morning).

I’ve got group rides planned for today and tomorrow and I’m feeling quite lucky to be able to ride this much so early in the year. Normally we’d be waiting, rather impatiently, for another week or so.

More later. In the meantime, my God is the fresh air and sunshine fantastic after a nice, long stretch indoors. I have a love/hate relationship with the winter. I pretty much hate the whole season. But I love these first few rides outside as I remember what I’d been missing now that we’re on the road bikes. Puts a smile on my face just thinking about it.


  1. Tony says:

    I was able to get out over the last week, too, Jim. Glad you didn’t have any problems with ice. I ride on a bike path that was salted and plowed early in the week. Unfortunately, as the week progressed, snow melt spilled onto the path which refroze overnight creating a diabolical scenario. I had to quit fearing a bone breaking fall. I agree – nice start for the season.

  2. Sue Slaght says:

    The winter really does make one appreciate the warming temperatures and the approach of spring so much more. I do find getting the layers right is never easy.

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