recently we’ve been having some pretty cold weather in colorado.  it’s not even winter yet!  as some of you probably already know, and perhaps some people are just now finding out….i ride in very cold weather.   perhaps i shouldn’t, since i already have some permanent skin wounds from a couple years ago. most people that know me in real life, think i’m crazy for riding in below freezing temperatures.  i don’t mind, i kind of like the label “crazy”, better than “cold weather bike rider” or “gutter bunny.”  the reason i do it, is not for the label that goes along with such a feat, i do it because i don’t like being afraid of things, especially weather.  i guess it would be a different story if i didn’t want to do it in the first place.

yesterday i packed all my stuff and drove down to my park-n-ride spot.  even the car drive was cold.  i think the outside temperature was 4F or -16C, but my car heater takes a long time to warm up, so i wasn’t feeling any heat.  i brought plenty of clothes, but most of them were laying on the passenger’s seat next to me.  i parked the car, and gradually put on each layer of clothing as i prepared to go outside. it’s always interesting getting those final layers of clothing on when it’s cold.

i packed my iphone in my jersey pocket making sure the chord wasn’t tangled with zippers or what not.  ran the ear buds up and put them in my ears.  i didn’t turn them on yet, but just having them in my ears started taking the edge off the ambient traffic noise.  i put the balaclava over my head and more noises disappeared.  i began to feel more and more detached from the things around me.  finally the helmet went on and the straps tightened …and for that moment i was totally, but acutely introverted.  i guess you can compare the isolation feeling you get when you submerge yourself in a swimming pool.  i felt like an astronaut at that point.  i couldn’t feel very much through all my layers, thick socks, ski gloves, blocked hearing. i could see perfectly however, with my ski goggles.  as i got on the bike and started moving, i could feel little cold breezes that had found their way through the seams of my clothing.  it felt a little uncomfortable, but i let it go.

as i rode through the snow covered bike path i was the only one.  it felt so smooth and quiet riding along the path with some psychedelic music from the warhols playing through my earbuds.  since it was the bike path i had no cars to worry about, and since it was so cold i had no other bikes to worry about.  my studded tires were gripping the icy patches pretty well, and for the moment, the path was very straight.  the cool breezes were now starting to feel pretty good on my slightly overheated body.   in between songs i could hear myself breathing…and on occasion i could even hear myself talking.  i still felt pretty isolated from my surroundings.  which was kind of weird, because cycling usually brings me closer to the environment around me.  not sure if i enjoy it as much this way, but very interesting none the less.

the only thing that really bothered me were my toes.  i could feel them getting colder and colder with each turn of the pedals.  every now and then i would have to pedal standing up just to try and bring some much needed blood back down to my toes.  this seemed to do the job for now, but i was still less than half of the way to my destination.

as i got further along, i started to feel really good. i was overheating a bit and i hadden’t been drinking any water because my water bottle was frozen solid.  i was sweating like crazy, i could feel my balaclava drenched, and pieces of my face were now feeling really cold.  i started to worry about getting frost bite and damaging more of my already damaged skin.  still, i pressed on since i only had about 4 more miles to go.

i finally got to work drenched in sweat, freezing, and late for a meeting.  i quickly got into the shower and as i removed my shoes, and sock, i could feel the toes starting to burn.  quickly i reached down and squeezed the toes as hard as i could hoping to stop the blood from gushing through… or keep it from doing whatever it was that was causing so much pain.   i am no stranger to this feeling,  i’ve had times when i had to scream in public before just because he pain was so bad.  there was no screaming today, i think the squeezing did the trick.  the shower was much shorter than i wanted, because i was pressured by the fact that i was already late for my meeting.

i was starving most of the day.  riding in the cold causes my metabolism to switch into extra high gear, and there is no hope.  i tried to snack as much as i could and had in a big lunch.  by the time the quitting-hour was bestowed upon me, i was finally content .

the hardest part of any day that i ride to work, is the riding back part.  on cold snowy days the ride home is especially tough.  most of my clothes are still a little damp….including the gloves.  nothing worse than heading out into the cold with wet clothes.  fortunately the clothes that were closest to my body were the driest.

the ride back to my car was similar to the ride in, with the exception of light.  it was completely dark, and all i had was my little led head light to guide me.  talk about total sensory deprivation.  i couldn’t feel the weather, i couldn’t hear anything but my music, and now, i couldn’t even see very much.  kind of a helen keller ride… all i could do is feel the inertia and gravity pulling me along.  my memory tried to fill in the dark parts from my partial vision.

i didn’t plan on it, but it was very much an adrenalin rush. .. for 17.4 miles or 28km i rode through a barely lit, partially plowed, snow covered bike path.  not a person around, next to the river that runs through an ugly industrial part of denver.  there were occasions when i would hit an icy patch on a turn and the bike would slightly drift for a few cm, causing my heart to spike.  i never fell, never really came close, but the thought of falling really kept me gripped the entire time.

so that’s kind of what it’s like for me to ride in the bitter cold.  i have many days ahead to perfect my gear and every year it’s the same.  some days i feel it, and some days i don’t want anything to do with cold weather.