Last winter, I began biking year round. I was determined to conquer the snow and cold and I will admit, it was scary at first. It took time to learn how to deal with riding in freezing weather and my beginning attempt was slightly disastrous. But I got the hang of it and by the end of winter I had successfully ridden in -18F.
By the time this winter rolled around I was raring to go. I couldn’t wait for a chance to ride in even colder temperatures and set a new personal best.
But this winter has been a warm one and subzero temperatures have been a rarity. With half of February already past, I had begun to give up hope of having the opportunity to break last year’s record.
Then this weekend a cold front swooped in with the power of a mighty eagle.
When I got out of work on Saturday afternoon, the temperature had fallen to -15. That got me to thinking. What if the temperature continued to drop overnight like it often does? Sure enough, the forecast for Sunday morning was -21.
I went to sleep with butterflies in my stomach, half from apprehension and half from excitement. When morning came I would get my chance, maybe my only chance of the season, to ride in super cold weather. Oh man, was I really ready for this?
Waking up to a cold apartment felt like a good sign. I checked the weather.
And still dropping.
I dressed more carefully then I have ever dressed in my life.
Once everything was precisely in place I carried my bike down the stairs, locked the door behind me, plunged my hands into my bar mitts and set off down the road.
The first three miles were spent mentally checking and re-checking every part of my body to make sure it was still warm. As faint colors started to appear in the Eastern sky, signaling the beginning of sunrise, I began to relax and enjoy the ride.
I listened to the squeaky sounds of the cold snow under my tires.
I saw comforting puffs of smoke rising from every home.
I smelled the tangy-sweet scent of silage, hay and cows as I passed farms.
I felt the cold air rush in to fill my lungs.
As dawn continued to paint the sky, I began to feel an inexpressible joy come over me. Oh, what a day to be alive! I pedaled on, warm and happy.
Well, mostly warm. Every part of me felt fine, except for my lower back and butt.
They were freezing right off!
I had made a tactical error, one of the layers I was using was too short to provide full coverage and the cold air was seeping right through my jacket. This turn of events was unexpected and slightly amusing. I found that getting out of the saddle to pedal got me feeling warm once more, so I spent the rest of the ride alternating between standing and sitting down.
As I pulled into the parking lot of my church, I felt an overwhelming rush of endorphins and with it complete elation.
In an hour and thirty-five minutes.