Winter Fools

Many mornings like these over many years I would get up and start by checking the temperature. After that, experience had told me based on the amount of noise and creaking my house was making under the wind that the windchill would be at least -10 more degrees. I would suit up in a combination of technical gear and home-made wool, weighing options, relying on experience to tell me what would allow me to be comfortable vs. freeze my ass off, risk hypothermia or losing fingers to frostbite. And this was just to get to work.

People always asked, amazed why I did it. I’d ramble about saving money. Saving the planet. Setting an example. All of these were true answers, and admirable motivation, but really I did it for the adventure. I wasn’t climbing a mountain in Nepal but cycling to work at -25 along 15km of dark roads and snowmobile trails was arguably almost as dangerous. Many thought I was foolish. Hell, I thought I was foolish a lot of the time.

I enjoyed challenging myself. The sense of accomplishment. I’ll admit I also enjoyed the small-time notoriety of being ‘that crazy bike guy’ amongst my friends and acquaintances, so many of whom echoed the same sentiment – “I could never do that.” Well, at one point, neither could I. Many of these people still sought out adventure in other ways on vacations, skiing, climbing etc. Why was this so different? Adventure is where you find it. I couldn’t afford the trip or time investment to travel to Alaska for some crazy fat bike race, but why should I? I could risk frostbite and hypothermia in my own backyard – everyday! That’s some juice right there my friends!

Polar Explorer Eric Larsen said once “People say they hate the cold. I think what they mean is they hate being cold. I agree, being cold sucks. It’s painful. I like being warm in very cold environments; you can do it, too.” And you can. If you’re not stupid, pay attention, experiment and apply what you learn every time you go out, you can absolutely have a good time when you go out in the cold. Better yet, you can thrive on it. I, too, like being warm in very cold environments. Little known fact, the mojo is bountiful and has a great shelf-life in the cold.

I’ve been sick with something for almost two weeks which has pretty much left me landlocked indoors. No running, no riding. Pretty much short walks is it. The more frustrating reality is that I haven’t commuted to work by bike in over a year. Parental and scheduling demands are such that it just doesn’t work right now. I run into parents and acquaintances that I don’t see often and one of the first things they always ask – especially on days like today – their face lighting up with anticipation, “Did you ride in today?” Every time, a small part of me dies inside when I have to explain that, no, I haven’t been able to much of late. Many of them actually look crestfallen. I’d become THAT guy, the one who did that crazy shit they couldn’t do and they would look to me (like I look to guys like Eric Larsen and so many others) with amazement and a sense of ‘if-only’ and ‘maybe’.

When we go outside, I mean really EXPERIENCE outside, we are the highest version of ourselves. There’s no downside. There’s no drawbacks, no negative, no catch, no small print, no caveat. It’s ALL good. It’s ALL mojo. Even when you almost freeze your fingers off (see also, Type 2 Fun). I don’t want you to run out in sub-arctic temperatures in your windbreaker and try camping overnight with nothing but flint, steel and a fish hook your first time. THAT would be stupid. What I want you to do is stop thinking that you can’t do it. That you shouldn’t do it. That people will think you’re foolish if you do. Start at the start. Start at the beginning. To paraphrase esteemed psychotherapist Dr. Leo Marvin, “Baby Steps to the cold outside.”

William Blake once said that “if the fool would persist in his foolery he would become wise”. I have been a fool and been foolish, but I am wiser for it. I also know that there’s still plenty of wisdom out there and I’d be a fool not to go look for it.

Shout outs to all the peeps in my local #Fredericton hood and others worldwide riding their bikes in various levels of cold this morning. You are hardcore motherfucking fools.

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