Baby it’s cold outside

I’m not one of these cyclists who feel the need to prove my hard-man credentials.

I’ve had my fair share of grim two-wheeled struggles over the years, and my theory is that any vaguely committed cyclist, of whatever standard, will by the law of averages suffer any number of bad days on the bike for any number of reasons.

The fact is, these days sneak up on you anyway; no need to go looking.

Having said that, before one particular early morning ride recently the impending pain and suffering involved all but woke me up with a start, slapped me around the face with its icy fingers, then stroked my hair tenderly and whispered ‘stay in bed’ into my ears. Actually, thinking about it, that might have been the wife (but for dramatic purposes, I’m sticking to the icy fingered and mysterious ice-maiden-weather-metaphor).

Frosty (Image: Daniel Schwen Wikimedia CC)
Frosty
(Image: Daniel Schwen Wikimedia CC)

But some primal spirit deep inside me resisted and I jumped from between the warm sheets indignantly, repeating some long forgotten mantra about ‘when I say I’m going for a ride…I’m going for a ride!’, and plodded downstairs to fill up with porridge, maple syrup and bananas, and pop my gloves and socks on the radiator.

Then I checked the thermometer outside.

Minus 5 Celsius, it smirked back at me.

‘Is there any way I can crawl back into bed and still save face?’ I thought to myself. But the porridge is ready now; the international early morning signal of ‘no turning back’. Of course, in my new found and mature approach to the business of discomfort (which I outlined at the top of the page) I should have had no qualms about texting my mate, crying off, and crawling back into bed with the ice maiden.

For some reason, this morning, the old bullish pride had kicked in. As I said, I don’t go looking for hard man stories these days, but there’s no harm in clocking one up and banking it for later use I suppose.

So, well layered up, I met my cycling mate at the usual spot and we simply laughed to each other; no words needed about what was about to unfold. Nine o’clock am and minus 4.8 Celsius said my on-board computer.

Hmmm, warming up nicely, I thought.

An hour later I had reached a point of significant physical discomfort. I had little feeling in my frozen fingers, to the effect that braking and changing gear had become all but impossible. At that moment I would have given anything, ANYTHING, to have warm hands. Our faces were frozen, conversation reduced largely to a mumble, and our leg muscles seemed to be threatening mutiny.

I have to point out at this point that my mate appeared to have mastered the art of dressing for sub-zero cycling and was cold, yes, but with the warm hands I craved. I wondered if I’m starting to go soft, then remembered that I’m past proving how hard I am…but yes, I may well be going soft.

Winter Cycling
Winter Cycling

He regaled me with stories about past rides with cold hands – trying to make me feel better, I think – before realising this wasn’t helping my mental state and pushing on in silence.

The thought of puncturing didn’t bear thinking about. I could picture myself with frozen and claw-like hands desperately fumbling away at tyre and inner tube, tears streaming down my face, self-respect in tatters, hard-man credentials long forgotten and never to be regained.

After an hour and a half we hit the café and filled up on cappuccino and a solid brick of flap-jack, so dense that the sheer effort of chewing the thing was sufficient to get the blood flowing and warm the extremities.

The great thing about discomfort is that, once the moment has passed it’s a physical and mental impossibility to accurately remember just how much it hurt, and so within a matter of minutes the rose-tinted spectacles were well and truly on, and we began to relish a warm (minus 2 Celsius) hour’s ride back home.

Fact is, we felt pretty good about ourselves.

We’ll tell people we were out that Saturday morning and brush it off as a casual couple of hours. “Bit chilly”, we’ll say, “but nice, y’know”. No drama, nothing unusual here; after all we were only out for a couple of hours, how much can a man really suffer in two and a half short hours?

You know what, if I’d have punctured at that moment when my hands resembled useless lumps of dead wood…

…very much, is the answer.

Very much.

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29 comments

  1. one hot bath and cold fingers and toes are soon forgotten but the mind pictures of a frosty or snowy ride last much longer – but someone does need to invent electric gloves and socks which you can charge on a USB with your lights

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  2. You need lobster claw winter gloves.

    I’m taking advantage of -15 degrees C winter temp. right now. Our snow has melted, dry pavement….but it will come again soon. We have had 3 different waves of snow (requiring snowploughs) and melts.

    I cycle as far down to -24 degrees C. But there are hardier cycling souls who do it year round. Every winter we get a few days of -30 to -35 degrees C.

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    • Taking advantage of -15 eh! That sounds more than cold enough for me!

      I’ve heard of the lobster claw gloves and might invest in some – they sound just the job. Not sure i’d be out in -24 though.

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  3. Last thing i need is further incentive to clock up mileage in the cold…that way lies un-necessary competition and possible man-flu! Although it might help negate the effects of traditional christmas over-eating.

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  4. Out recently with my four-strong ‘squad’, the newest member stopped after three miles to buy a budget wooly pair of gloves. He was adamant on upgrading them by mile eight. Sadly, we found no such shop

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  5. Love it! Good write up.
    Hey -5c is nothing to scoff at. That’s cold man, the feet and fingers always bear the brunt, at least for me anyway. good job.

    I had did a ride a few Saturday’s ago it was -9! (16-17f) That was the coldest I have ever ridden in. Granted,the sun was out so that helped in a small way. But. more to the point, my 10 years of prior cycling, I was a “Fair Weather’ rider. Stopping in and around November-December. If it was below 40…I’d stay in.

    This year I just decided to take myself off the big pussy list! 😀 and I have not stopped riding…due to the cold winter weather. I have gotten out in 20 degree weather a few times and some 30’s (which seems down right balmy!) I can’t say why, but I just made the commitment. It’s not fun or pleasant but it’s necessary.

    Last year, I did not ride once from Dec-Mar and by April I was a pile of crap. Took me until August to feel good again. So now I just get out even if it’s 10 miles on the MTB. Or 15-20 on the road. As long as I am turning the pedals, I feel it will pay dividends. Now, I don’t know about riding single digits or sub-zero…but we’ll see!

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    • Thanks very much – sounds like you are grabbing the bull by the horns this winter and getting out in all weather: nice work! It can be pretty painful riding in the cold that’s for sure, but it’s rewarding in it’s own way too, and the fitness benefits come spring are well worth the effort!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Totally, you’re right. In additin to the fitnes beneftis, there is something in knowingf that not everyone can or wants to endure the cold and sometimes brutal conditions. it’s can bolster ones confidence and give a psychological edge. Whether you’re racing, training or just looking to conquer that first century…I call it the Viking Mentality! (the OLD Viking mentality…lol.) I think some (though certainly not all) of the modern-day Scandinavians or anyone for that matter, wouldn’t measure up to Ragnar, Ivar or Horik’s standards! 😀

        Not that I am measuring up myself! But I’m trying….

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