Well, the freezing fog was little early this year, and quite a shock, but with the proper cold weather clothing it’s not impossible to have a good time when it gets a little gnarly outside… and gnarly it was.
We decided on gravel and mountain bikes (gravel for us, and a mountain bike tandem) on dirt roads, rather than paved because of the visibility factor. We also had rain rolling in at some point in the afternoon, so waiting till the fog lifted was an option, but it could have gone either way. I readied the dirt bikes and layered up.
Now, getting the layers right has always been a difficult puzzle for me. Either I’m too warm and overheat as if I’m in a sauna, or I’m just a little light and I face a double-edged sword: I’ve gotta pedal harder to stay warm but, because I’m pedaling harder, I’m going faster which makes the ride colder with more wind. Well, yesterday I got it almost perfect… A warm-weather wicking jersey with arm warmers as a base, a long-sleeved jersey, and a thermal long-sleeved jersey/jacket up top and bib/leg warmers and tights for a second layer… wool socks, full foot covers and a hat that covered my ears. I thought that ought to do it.
My warm-up lap proved me a little wrong. I needed a neck gaiter to cover my neck and chin.
By the way, the neck gaiter is the best way I know to regulate temperature in cold weather. In this case, my jacket has a high collar so I thought I might be okay. The warm-up lap was to figure out if I needed the neck gaiter or not. If my neck and chin aren’t covered, I cool down (or stay cool). If they are covered, I’m much more comfortable. So, going by the old axiom, you can take it off, but you can’t put it on if you don’t have it with you, I start with losing the neck gaiter if I’m a little overdressed because the cold air on my neck and chin will cool me down immediately. Yesterday, I went into the house and put one on and was much happier.
We rolled out for the dirt at precisely 9am.
Visibility was about a quarter-mile but there was no traffic on the dirt. We all had our Garmin flashy radar taillights going and I was quite confident we were in good shape as far as being seen went. Now, unlike the gravel ride the day before, this one was slow… and with four times less elevation gain, it was just a super-easy, enjoyable morning on the bikes. While I love a little bit of work on a ride, every now and again those easy rides are just what I need to put a smile on my face.
We talked and laughed for much of the ride, until Jeff and Diane started getting rambunctious on the tandem. They’d drive the pace up to 21-mph and, though I had no problem holding their wheel, I knew my wife was a few bikes back cursing between gasps for air. They’d wind it up and I’d give them a bit to stretch their legs before asking them to dial it back. We rolled into Byron as I needed to stop to use the gas station’s facilities, and had a quick snack before heading out again to check out one of our favorite dirt roads. It’s out in the middle of nowhere and you’re almost guaranteed to see deer out foraging. We saw eleven in the space of a few miles. Seven in one group, four in another later on.
And it warmed up so riding was more on the enjoyable side.
We headed for home and pulled into the driveway with a cool 33 miles. Unfortunately, my wife’s bike needed some attention, though. Shifting from the little to big ring up front had become difficult. Typically, with a gravel bike, this only requires cleaning the points of entry for the cables into the housings and the cable guide under the bottom bracket, but after messing around with it, I figured why not just go all the way and install a new cable? In addition to the new cable, I also took the barrel adjuster off of the frame and clean, lubed and replaced it. Once everything was back together, it shifted like new again and I took to cleaning my bike of the morning’s dirt.
I think we were passed by three cars in that 33 miles. I’d never forsake the speed (and cleanliness) of riding on paved roads for dirt, but it sure is nice to not have to worry about traffic.
I turned on a football game after eating some lunch and dozed off. It was a spectacular nap.