I think that some of the nicest cycling Christmas gifts are those that help me ride in the cold. And, though readers may think my whining has been incessant, this has been one cold December. My ride today is only the third of the month, and even if I ride the next (and last) two days of the year, my riding log for 2010 is going to be bookended by two months spent nearly totally off the bike.
In January the problem was snow, the remnants of a December 18, 2009 blizzard that dumped about two feet. This December it has been the cold, and the wind. For most of the month the air temperature or at least the wind chill has never risen above freezing. That despite the fact that our coldest month is January and our lowest average daily “high” temperature is 42°. For outdoor activity, frostbite is the ever-present danger. I understand that in truly cold places like northern Minnesota, kids are trained to watch their playmates for signs of frostbite when they’re cavorting in the snow and on the ice. That’s the ultimate danger. Since a cyclist generates an automatic “wind chill factor” just by moving through the air, strong winds on top of that are not only destabilizing but potentially dangerous. So even with the sun shining I have had to get used to the exercise bike.
But Christmas brought a couple of gifts to boost my ability to defy the cold. Andrew and I, in email conversations spurred by my earlier cold-weather riding blogging, isolated the problems with the extremities of toes and fingers. He and his wife got me truly desirable Christmas stockings, two pairs of high-tech, wool-based, black with white highlights, cycling socks, each especially designed for a different temperature ranges, 21° to 42°, and 43° to 54°. And with an Amazon birthday gift card from them I got a pair of truly warm cycling gloves, semi-mittens that separate between the middle and fourth fingers, in a “lobster claw” look. Inside each half, the fingers have individual slots. They’re waterproof, they’re breathable, they’re Descente and thus cool looking, with red-on-black motifs.
Armed with these new garments, I rode out today in weather almost too warm to give the armor a stern test. The temperature was nearing 40° as I departed, and when I returned it was 42°. The sun dutifully retreated to give the noonday a bleaker cast, but I was delighted to find the W&OD Trail open. Well, mostly. There were a few spots where a rider had to weave among ice lumps for 15o feet or so, an a couple of places where snow covered the entire trail in swatches of about the same length. I soon learned that aggression worked on the ice lumps, since the air temperature alone was melting them, and that it was better to keep cranking than just freewheeling across the snow. Not exactly Andy Hampsten on the Gavia, especially with 28mm tires on the Coda, but enough to feel that one had faced some challenges and beaten them.
Between my head cold and many recent days off the bike and even away from exercise, I took it easy (as I had yesterday indoors). But I came home invigorated and anxious to repeat the action tomorrow. No tingling fingers, no chilly, stiff toes. I’m ready; let December go out like a lion!
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2010.