Of course I wouldn’t have HAD to go for bicycle ride last night, when my smarty-pants phone told me it was 9 degrees below zero. But sometime earlier in the day, when I was sitting at my desk and listening to various tales of woe the frigid day was spurring, I wondered what it would be like to go for a ride on the coldest day we’ve seen in two years.
The most interesting adventures in my life have started with the thought “I wonder what it would be like too ….” Once those words enter my mind, along with the accompanying visualizations, I’m usually on the path to either (relative) greatness or (relative) doom. Usually there is very little space for maneuvering between the making of an adventure or misadventure.
The mistake yesterday was to speak of this thought out loud in the office. “I’m considering going for a bike ride tonight.” The words nearly fell out of my mouth, and I immediately knew I had made a mistake.
There were the “why would you want to do that? You’re going to die” people. On the other side there were the “I dare you” kind of people. By announcing my intentions, I had closed the door on any choice I would have had, upping the stakes and putting on the line my entire reputation as someone who doesn’t let the weather rule his actions.
So I went for a ride, approximately six miles. It took about 40 minutes, about the same time it took to put on all the layers I wore.
On my feet I had sock liners, wool socks, cycling shoes and neoprene booties. On my legs, tights under running pants, both over wind-proof briefs (best purchase ever!). On my “core” I had a long sleeved running shirt, a snug wool jacket, a poofy Lands End vest and a windbreaker with reflective piping everywhere. I topped it all off with two balaclavas, a downhill ski helmet and ski goggles. Hands had gloves covered by leather mittens.
Because I am a cyclist, I also used chemical performance enhancements (winter version), those packets that are supposed to create warmth for seven hours when exposed to the air. I put one each in my mittens and shoes. I’m not sure they worked — they were body temperature when I finished the ride.
The ride itself was uneventful, and of moderate enjoyment. My toes got cold, but all other body parts were comfortable. It was pretty cool riding through the tundra, but I believe the cold had a detrimental effect on both the performance of my body and of the single-speed mountain bike I was riding. It felt as if I was cycling against the wind, until I turned into the wind. Then it felt I was riding against the wind and uphill. I kept checking to see if my tires had gone flat.
I have never ridden in colder conditions, and my curiosity about riding in sub-zero temps has been sated. I also believe I have found the limit of my cold tolerance. And that’s a good thing to know, right?