People keep questioning me over the ‘logic’ of cycling in the winter. I get a sense from people that it would be more understandable and acceptable if I rode my bicycle as an actual mode of transportation. In other words, those who choose to commute via bicycle during the winter are invariably cut more slack than those of us who utilize two wheels only as a form of recreation.
Without it actually being said, I often get a sense that most people think I’m either remarkably courageous or incredibly stupid.
As it happens I’ll take stupidity over courage any day of the week. Stupidity carries with it a much lesser burden of expectation. I’m more comfortable surprising people with the occasional moment of brilliance than I am maintaining the illusion of something which by definition must be consistently present. You can’t be part-time courageous but you can be full-time stupid, although that’s purely anecdotal. I find this a good ethos by which to operate in today’s incredibly under-achieving society as it allows one to blend-in yet at the same time maintain a good degree of anonymity. Which is what I like to do.
I ride my bike in the winter not to stand-out and impress those around me, but to perpetuate my own internal suffering. Take Sunday, for example. We’ve had some cold and snow over the past couple weeks, but Sunday was forecast to be dry and a little warmer than average. So I set out on a road ride around noon on the GT 29er, hopeful to get in at least 40-50 miles before the light began to fade around 3.30pm.
The roads were pretty dry. The cycling lanes were pretty clear of snow. The temperature was around the 22-24F range. However the wind was brutal, it felt like 25-35 mph blowing from the north.
Only a mile into the ride I was pedaling hard down Hillside when I hit a patch of ice and lost it. I hit the ground hard on my left side, the bike on top of me, and skidded 10 or 15 feet before coming to a crumpled halt in the middle of the road. I lay there stunned for a few moments before starting to move my limbs to see if anything had become detached.
I got back on the bike and pedaled around for a few moments to do a full functional check. Nothing seemed to be broken. The bike shifted gears after remounting the chain. I could see behind me again after resetting the mirror, and no one was looking.
But more than any pain I was feeling an intense cold. I’d been aware of under-dressing a few moments after leaving the house and had already contemplated turning around before the incident. But now with my banged-up knee, elbow and thigh, coupled with a chilled torso, hands, head and feet, I could’ve easily qualified for a guilt-free early ride termination. But no. Drawing on my inner-strength and hitherto unknown reserves of stupidity, I pedaled back to the house, added a couple layers, retrieved my balaclava, let some air from my tires and headed back out.
The remainder of the ride was incredibly miserable. I don’t remember feeling this low since City put six past United at Old Trafford in 2013. It was fuckin’ Guantanamo out there. I was cold…. really cold. And I was sore.
After 20 or so miles of slow progress I pulled-in opposite the winery in Carlsville for coffee and a banana. My coffee was cold and the banana had gone brown so I tossed both over a fence in the parking lot. I fished around in the various compartments of my pannier bags hoping to find a granola bar or some other edible remnants of a past crusade. I found a blue tangerine.
Cold, sore, hungry, thirsty and thoroughly deflated I decided to curtail the joy by heading straight north on 41 towards home.
A strange thing happened on the way back, I don’t really know how to give a good account of it. I’d been buffeted by the wind a little on the way south, but heading home I was riding into a direct headwind. My gloves and boots were wet, my torso was wet, everything was wet. I was chilled to the bone. What little heat my fuel-less body was able to generate at that juncture was being swiftly wicked away by the wind. Though remaining on the highway was the fastest way to get home, as it’s pretty much ‘as the crow flies’, I decided to prolong the suffering by turning west and away from the wind.
This tacking maneuver meant the route home would now be considerably longer, I’d be following a zig-zag route through the back-lanes to arrive back on highway 41 about a half-mile south of my home. Clearly I would be spending just as much time riding into the headwind overall, but now I would have some intervals of relief as I tacked drearily across the county with my spirits at half-mast.
Adding to the length and duration of the return journey without gaining any real advantage vis a vis the wind, didn’t make any sense at any kind of logical level, but it made sense to me, in the moment..
Continuing to ride straight north then stopping periodically to take a break from the wind was the obvious solution, but it had completely eluded me. Logic had succumbed to the elements and the pain of self-flagellation and so I’d headed off to be water-boarded as well.
It’s strange how suffering affects one’s ability to think straight. You’re probably feeling that right now.