I woke up this morning to a different world than the one I fell to sleep in last night. I heard the rain falling and I knew it was cold. I was right. Forty degrees cold with a hard north wind to boot. Yeah…the trifecta. Cold. Wet. Blustery. Maybe not winter just yet, but close enough to let me know that I am merely a bit player in a much bigger drama.
I knew this was coming but until it arrived I fooled myself into thinking that maybe this year would be different and it wouldn’t happen. Just three days ago we were pushing eighty. That was reality. This morning reality was slightly skewed. It had to be a mistake. Yeah, right. This is the nation’s heartland. This is what I signed on for when I moved back here. This is no mistake. This is the new normal for the next little while.
And so I remind myself that it’s no big deal because it really isn’t. At least not to me. I’ll dress in layers and fabrics that wick moisture from the skin. I’ll shift to wider tires. I’ll ride on because that’s what I want to do. Not riding is not an appealing option. I haven’t missed a day this year. I don’t see any reason why I should miss today.
It wasn’t always this way for me. In fact, I didn’t start winter riding in earnest until last year. That’s odd, especially when you consider that my epiphany occurred way back in 1991.
Jan and I had just moved to the Twin Cities. It was our first Minnesota winter and it was colder than I ever could have imagined cold could be. It was so cold, in fact, that the pneumatic fluid in the clutch on our Mazda pickup truck had frozen to a gel-like consistency. I pressed the clutch down and it stayed down. I had to get down on the floor with my hands and pull it back out. Then I’d push it and pull it and push it and pull it and it eventually warmed to the point where I could drive in to work. When I arrived at our offices on University Avenue in St. Paul it was still dark. It was also snowing to beat the band. I would guess maybe five or six inches had fallen and it was still coming down. The plows couldn’t keep up and yet as I crossed the street from the parking lot to our building, a guy came slogging by on a bicycle. I’ve never forgotten.
I finally had one of these moments myself earlier this year. It was January 8th, a Sunday morning. We lived in Ogden Utah at the time. Eight inches of snow had fallen and as was the case in St. Paul so many years earlier, it was still coming down. I headed out on my Surly Instigator with the big old knobby 2.75″ wide tires and promptly went nowhere. I couldn’t get enough traction to ride through the snow. My plan was to ride every day in 2017 and here I was eight days in and stuck. Then a plow came by and I followed him down the hill. When I got to the bottom, I turned around and came back up. I was the only one. People in cars were sliding all over the place. They couldn’t get up the hill. I did. I spent an hour out there and managed to get in close to seven miles. It would turn out to be the shortest day of the year for me. A few days later I bought a fat bike. Problem solved.
Ever notice how America’s best bicycle cities are cold and wet places like Denver, Minneapolis and Portland? I now understand why this is. It’s possible to ride through the nasty if you want to badly enough. For whatever reason, people in these places want to. I want to. I can’t exactly explain why.
The bottom line? It’s gonna get a lot colder and wetter than it is today and sooner rather than later. I’m going to ride today. I plan to go 30 miles, more or less. Mother Nature does not decide when I get on the bike. I decide and I’ve decided. It’s a great day to go for a bike ride.