Ride time temp 24˚ F. Light wind. The snow from last week’s blizzard has mostly melted out, but where the sun eats away at the remaining piles you will find slick, black ice creeping across the pavement.
This is the thick of it.
Fleece-lined knickers with tights over top. High wool socks. Baselayer and midlayer and windproof outer. I wear two pairs of gloves, one thin but warm, and one windproof, because I prefer to have the use of all of my fingers, even in the bitterest.
When the sun shines and the wind is light like this, the cold is just the cold. It’s ambient, only really amplified by your own speed. Descents hurt, but the flats, where you can build some heat in your core, are more than tolerable.
The river is frozen in great, sweeping, Nazca lines of blue gray ice, the wind-swept ripples of its final moments of fluidity preserved there like fossil. Ducks dabble at its edges, tuck their heads under their wings, nap.
At these temperatures, of course, if the wind picks up, you’re hosed. A ten knot westerly will turn the evening commute into a survival race, extremities smarting with the struggle to keep blood in fingers and toes. You duck your head to keep your face out of the line of fire and focus on turning the pedals over.
South of 20˚, you run into mucoidal problems. A mentholated something pops up in the back of your nose. Your snot is freezing. Uncomfortable. Disconcerting. Even in a balaclava, the bridge of your nose stings. Your cheeks turn red and maybe start to itch. I call this “face cold.” One probably ought not be riding when it’s face cold, but one does, because that is just how it is.
But today it’s not face cold. It’s just regular cold, and we will be lucky if it stays that way. Brief periods of warmth only serve to melt what ice is there. When the mercury dives again, it leaves the roads all slick and dangerous.
No. Better just to stay cold. And dry.
Photo copyright Matt Person©