My fingers are still all kinda cold-and-numby at the tips on the keys as I type and the Shad bumps in the speakers.
Here’s me rolling dark, deserted country roads in full effect with the dyno-hub light on the Troll. Dog above, what an amazing thing.
I rolled in the -9ºC, crisp darkness with stars in full burn, in my winter boots, jeans, lined work gloves, orange parka and home-made knit hat and found an unexpected flush of glee that had me thinking to myself what a weirdo I am.
After a stop at the ‘corner store’ for some Twizzlers to bring back for dessert, 12-year old me was definitely feeling it though and took the long way home. My fingers are feeling it a bit too.
The Missus finished a batch of masks for a coworker so at lunch today I decided to hop on the Cross Check to deliver them to the office. I looked out the window and saw the sun, but it was deceptive – it was really cold out with the wind. Got to the office and was happy get my hands under some hot water in the sink to warm them up a bit. Whew but it stung though. Remember to check the wind chill, kids.
I took this photo and then on the way home was wondering if I’d ever had this bike out in January before. Dug back through the ride logs and photos and only found one other time back on January 26, 2019. I’d say it was global warming, but it was still damn cold today, even though we haven’t had much snow this year.
Was nice to spin the skinny tires on the ‘fast’ bike for the first time in a long time. Here’s the snaps from the ride in 2019.
The Cross Check remains the most versatile bike in the stable.
I’ve been listening to these sessions on stoicism on the Waking Up app by William Irvine. One of the main points so far has been that the Stoics stipulated that to live a happy life one needed to shift from wanting things we don’t have to wanting the things we already do.
Today what we already had was a whole bunch of rain dumped on top of some existing slush and a temperature hovering around freezing. The Missus needed more hair elastics from the dollar store to make more masks, so I decided to ride the bike to go get them. It was a pretty miserable day to ride bikes, so conversely, awesome.
I would have ridden the new-to-me Troll, but the roads still had pretty good sections of ice on ’em and I think it would have been pretty dicey. I figured the snowmobile trails were probably out as well – the rain would have rendered them 6″ of mashed-potato slush. So I decided to just ride the Pugsley – with it’s studded tires – on the road, a slog for sure, but I wasn’t really in a hurry, and hey – a workout is where you find it, right?
I did something I’ve never done before and clipped the WONDERBOOM bluetooth speaker to the bars and shuffled my favorites playlist for the ride – which was interesting. I had to have it pretty much cranked to be able to hear it over the buzz of the fat, studded tires on pavement, which made for some interesting encounters with walkers, runners and other miscellany folk I encountered along the way.
I would have to think the high point would have been rolling into the parking lot of the Dollarama (freshly-sanitized) with Simple Mind’s ‘Alive and Kicking’ at full volume. Not sure the slew of good ol’ boys in jacked up pickup trucks and earflap hats smoking joints while waiting for their pajama-pant clad wives in the store had to think about silly old me riding a bicycle in the slush. They may have been somewhat conflicted because though silly, my bike does have cool big black tiars.
So a little less than a year ago, my internet homey Matt emailed me out of the blue to let me know he was liquidating his Surly stock. He had a Troll and a Pugsley up for sale and wanted to know if I wanted any parts or whole.
As a matter of backstory, I bought my Disc Trucker frame and fork from Matt some years ago and after going back and forth with various builds on it then almost selling it back to him or someone else, I finally got it perfectly appointed for me and it’s become a steady favorite in the stable.
Matt knew I was a fan of all things Surly and was excited to maybe have the bikes go to a dedicated Surly fan. As much as I like the Pugsleys, I already have one and since I wasn’t really bike shopping at all, couldn’t really justify adding another to the stable. The Troll was another matter. Being Surly’s 26+ platform touring rig, the way Matt had it set up really appealed to me as – among other things – a ‘shoulder season’ bike for all the nasty that was too nasty for the Disc Trucker, but not nasty enough to merit the Pugsley. Matt was open to a long-term creative financing arrangement and a plan was hatched.
After many months, a large box was finally deposited on my doorstep last week, just in time for Festivus. I spent a few days building it back up and familiarizing myself with various components and thanks to the Christmas gods and global warming, the weatherman was calling for an unseasonably warm (16ºC!) day today so I made sure to have the Troll ready for it’s maiden voyage. It didn’t disappoint.
Matt’s build spec is spot on and there’s not a thing I ‘d change -I did put my own Selle Anatomica saddle on it – but that’s it. The thing is really fun to ride, fits great and all the components are great at what they do. This is my first bike with an internally-geared hub and the Alfine shifts smooth as butter and rolls smooth too. The Surly Extra Terrestrial tires are great – though I have to remind myself when it comes to wet roots they are traditional slicks – heh, don’t ask me how I know. The whole bike feels stiff and stable like it could carry 200lbs of cargo without flinching.
I’m especially excited about the front Shimano dynamo hub which continuously powers the front Busch and Müller headlight and tail light. I can’t wait to try it out in the dark. I’ve never had a bike with a dynamo hub before – it’s always something I’ve wanted to experiment with. Other notable standouts for me are the SKS Blumen fenders which are super-solid, easy to mount and silent/rattle free and the Harrier pedals with big chonking pegs to grab boots/shoes in nasty conditions. I didn’t think I was going to, but I even really like the weird Ergon cork grips.
I got the Troll out on my usual loop today and threw a little of everything at it and it didn’t flinch. It’s a keeper. Getting out for a nice long ride today means much less guilt eating all the things this holiday season. Merry Christmas to me.
Hope everyone else out there had as much fun today as I did. Ride bikes in 2021.
When I was a younger, dumber person – more inclined to evenings of considerable debauchery – my friends and I would consider any mountain bike ride that started before 1oam as ‘Dawn Patrol’.
Then at some point you have to start getting up at like 6 for work. And to get kids to school. Or to hurriedly rush a vomiting dog out the back door.
Then maybe you decide that in order to get a jump on things and/or keep your sanity as well as a moderate amount of joint flexibility into your twilight years you should get up early to meditate and do yoga, so you decide 4:30am is a good number because Jocko Willink says so.
At some point on weekends you’re already awake and there’s no work and the kids are still asleep so you decide to skip the meditation and yoga, because it makes you feel somewhat rebellious – in as much as a middle-aged dad who’s a slave to the Man can rebel – kind of way, and ride bikes. Invariably as the seasons change you end up riding in the dark, pre-dawn. The true Dawn Patrol.
You end up seeing a lot of things you’ve never seen before and come away changed. As a bonus you get back just in time for breakfast – sometimes you’re even back before anyone else gets up.
Heading out before dawn in the dark also means you get to ask yourself interesting questions like “how is it possible I’m this fucking cold and still enjoying this,” “is it possible for quiet to get even quieter,” or the more thought-provoking “where do I want to watch the sun come up today?”
Sometimes it’s a walking bridge. Sometimes it’s a field on a river flat. Sometimes it’s a town square. Sometimes it’s an empty intersection. The possibilities are endless, really.
Our Man, the champion of achieving transcendence via the mundane, Karl Ove Knausgaard, has a chapter in his book Autumn called ‘Dawn’.
“It isn’t the light in itself that feels good, for once it’s here, say at around 2:30 in the afternoon, we take it for granted. What matters is the actual transition. Not the light from the immobile sun, which shoots across the horizon as the earth’s sphere turns towards it, but the faint glow cast by this light in the minutes before, visible as a pale streak in the darkness of night, so faint it almost doesn’t seem to be light at all, merely a kind of enfeebling of the darkness.”
“Dawn is always the beginning of something, as its opposite, dusk is always the end of something, and when we consider that in practically every culture darkness represents death and evil, while light represents life and goodness, these two transitional zones between night and day become manifestations of the great existential drama we are caught up in, which is something I rarely think about as I stand in the garden gazing towards the growing light in the east, but which must still resonate in me somehow, since watching it feels so good. For darkness is the rule and light its exception, as death is the rule and life its exception. Light and life are anomalies, the dawn is their continual affirmation. “
Over a month now, I’ve been getting out before dawn at least once, if not twice on the weekends. At first it was about finding the best Hallmark Calendar spot to watch the sunrise from. A hill. Over a river. But there’s been other spots too. Sunrise over a strip mall is still the same sunrise as the one you watched 3 km away from the riverbank – well, that’s not really true – no two are the same. It’s the same sun rising, over the same planet – but even then, very little is the same – but you have to see both of them to figure that out. Or perhaps to figure out that you’ve really got nothing at all figured out.
The more I’m out pre-dawn, the less I tend to think of the darkness as ‘evil’ or ‘death’ and the more I think of it as merely the opposite of light. This is no news to anyone who’s familiar with eastern notions of non-duality – the idea of “not two” or “one undivided without a second.” Obviously there’s a mathematical/astronomical formula that tells me exactly when the sun rises and ‘day begins’. Actually, it’s the app on my phone that tells me personally, but is that really when it happens? Really, it’s just one continuous moment endlessly spooling out. There is no distinction between the two.
One of the main revelations I’ve had with these rides is how much there is to see before dawn. It’s exciting to rediscover what the human eye can see – even in almost pitch black – if you let your eyes adjust. On a clear night, even if there’s only a sliver of moon, it’s astounding the amount of light it casts and on the night of a full moon, you can conduct yourself quite easily without any artificial light at all – even more so if there’s snow on the ground to reflect it. It occurs to me that my ancestors knew all these things innately and somewhere they got lost for me to find again.
Every now and then, I’ll sleep in on a weekend. I invariably end up regretting it. There’s so much to see – even in the dark – I feel bad wasting it – and days take on a whole new perspective when you’re able to literally watch them begin.