Here it’s been six days since I posted. And until yesterday, it had been ten days since I had ridden outside. Just too inclement and/or cold. We keep having these little snowfalls, from a dusting to a couple of inches. And unlike most Virginia winters, when even a few inches of soft, slushy snow melts by the following noon under the benign beams of the southern sun, this winter it’s been either cruelly cold or sullenly cloudy, or both. Thus the thin covering of ice and snow lingers for days on the trail, and even for a couple of days on the street. And often the low-30s temperatures are abetted by brisk, cutting winds. Last year by January 18 I had done only three rides, at average temperatures of 35, 50, and 50. This year I’ve done four, at temperatures of 35, 37, 40, and 35. We have not had a high of 50° since early December.
But I have been out there the last couple of days. Today was another W&OD Trail ride that demanded navigation through patches of uneven melted-and-frozen ice fields, and a few snow patches. I now have these pretty well located in four places (going outbound from Vienna to Herndon):
–uphill on the rise between Cedar lane and Vienna Community Center
–downhill on the same rise (the worst snow patches are here)
–just after crossing Hunter Mill Road, in three separate but closely spaced patches
–between the Wiehle Avenue crossing and the Reston Parkway overpass, in two patches of dense shade.
The worst spots are generally on the inbound side, because the outbound side gets marginally more sun.
I actually did pass somebody going outbound today, right after Hunter Mill Road. And I passed maybe six riders going the other way, most of them on slick road bikes. I had my hybrid Jamis Coda Comp, because I trust the 28 mm tires a bit more in these conditions. But this proves once again that in extreme conditions (35“F) it’s the serious cyclists who are out.
I must say that today’s ride was lots of fun. What matters a whole lot at these air temperatures is whether the sun is out. The radiant heat is a lifesaver. And today I rode home with a tailwind, though that followed 12 miles of ploughing into a 5 mph breeze at 35°. I suppose that means the perceived windchill, corrected for my velocity, was about 20“. But I felt better after 24.2 miles today than I did after 21 miles yesterday. No twingy left knee, for one thing. Just shows that my body was ‘way out of shape after 10 days off the bike, and it just got into its active mode groove after today. Unfortunately, we’re supposed to be in for a very cold day tomorrow and then 36 hours of “mixed precipitation,” that deadly DC area mix of sleet, freezing rain, and rain. But today, I loved the cold air in my lungs, I loved hammering homeward with the wind at my back, I even loved traversing the bumpy ice patches. One more day in a string of several hundred when I came home from a ride thoroughly glad I had made the effort to do it.
Cycling means never coming home disappointed.
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2011.