Since the beginning of the year, for a myriad of reasons, most days I’ve been trudging out to my unheated garage and pounding through an hour on the bike trainer. It’s been a good experience, I’m learning a lot about myself and making progress. It ain’t riding outside though.
Yesterday after watching yet another internet video of people riding bikes in all manner of conditions, the realization struck. I used to do all that kind of crap too, in fact I was sorta known for it at some point. What happened? I vowed to get out that day.
Not afraid to say I got a little soft. I love winter and I love getting out in winter, but I’ve realized this year that the amount of love I have for it is directly proportional to how much I get out into it. It’s real easy to start making excuses, and it gets even easier when you can’t even remember the last time you got out. Guilty as charged. Cold, dark, motivation, time. All these things become reasons you can’t do something. But they are all things over which we have some control.
Often getting out the door is the hardest part. I admit to being a little bit of a gear junkie and obsessive planner. Even if I’m going for a 2 hour ride, I’ve gotta think about what I’m gonna wear, what I’m gonna bring with me, where I’m going to go, and why. While there’s something to be said for making sure you’re prepared – especially in less-than-hospitable conditions – it can also become a roadblock.
On the drive home yesterday, I started planning in my head. “The temperature and conditions are this, so I think I’ll wear this – no – maybe that, yeah that, but I’ll BRING this too, and that other thing. In case.”
Got home. Got dressed. Changed shoes. Get the bike and throw stuff in the bags. Remove the extra pair of gloves still in there from last ride. “Won’t need these – SUPER WARM out today!” Put the Garmin on the bike and it won’t start. Battery’s dead or something. The internal argument starts. “This shouldn’t matter. I should be able to ride a bike without keeping track of how far or fast I ride it. But then why did I spend a chunk of change on the Garmin? Maybe I should just get rid of it?” Meanwhile the clock is ticking and the ride window is closing.
I remember I have the GPS on my Garmin watch – ok, use that. Being a gear junkie sometimes has it’s benefits. Half way down the driveway and I can’t keep my feet on the pedals. The shoes are slipping off constantly. I wore my winter cycling shoes for warmth, but they’ve got cleats on the bottom and hard, Vibram soles that are getting no love from the platform pedals. Back to the garage. Change shoes. Running shoes with wool socks. These’ll be fine.
I still had no idea where I was going or what trails would be passable in the snow, so I just went.
It was fantastic to get out. The sun was shining, it was mild, not much wind – and the kicker – I’d dressed perfectly for the conditions. I commended myself. Luckily I had the Garmin to tell me just how ponderously slow I was going, oy, only checked that once.
Got to my turnaround point and started to head home. “Hmm, lookit that, clouding up a bit. Not so much sun.” Pedal faster means stay warmer, I said. Half hour from home and things have cooled down considerably. Sun setting. Hands we kinda cold. “Nice one ditching the extra gloves,” I chided myself. Well, at least I’d managed to keep my feet warm and dry. 10 minutes later and the front wheel washes out on the snowmobile track, the bike goes down, I eject and end up running off trail into the thigh deep snow. In my sneakers. AND shorts. Yeah, shorts, it was MILD out remember? So much for the dry warm feet.
Back on the bike, grumbling. Cold. Muttering about what a dumbass I was. “Lucky you’re only 20 minutes from home or you’d be losing fingers and toes out here tonight. Some freaking polar explorer you are…” But then I realized, I WAS really only 20 minutes from home. I wasn’t blazing an unmarked trail across an uncharted section of continent looking for someplace to camp for the night. Spirits brightened, even if the weather didn’t.
Then I had another realization. The reality is, 99% of the time we’re only a cell phone call away from a pickup. I didn’t feel as dumb as I was initially accusing myself of being. I’d made a few mistakes, but nothing that was a big deal and nothing, I decided, that should spoil the great time I was having. I wasn’t one of my YouTube heroes trekking across and Andalusian pass with nothing but what was attached to him and the bike for survival. At most I was a 20 minute WALK from an Ultramar.
So yeah, I could have made some better choices heading out – I should have known better, but I shouldn’t let my mistakes this time keep me from going out next time. I’m glad I got out. And super glad I didn’t end up having to call the Mrs. for a pickup, cause that stings a lot worse than the cold.