Friday Group Ride #250

Friday Group Ride #250

I have not wanted to write about the weather. You can spend too much on a thing like that without inspiring yourself or anyone else to ride. Neither complaint nor tale of derring do is particularly moving. The former is boring, and the latter is too much like bragging.

But this winter.

I have done more memorable rides this winter than in any I can remember. The extremes have been both of cold and of precipitant. A -4F air temperature with a steady wind taking it to -19F wind chill lowered my personal mark for pure cold commuting. As an aside, my friends in Minnesota are chuckling right now, as if their everyday could somehow be my all-time-record.

And then there was the ride through an active snow that left more than a foot of the white stuff on the ground. Following the plow was only a marginal improvement over riding the virgin powder. It was falling that fast. My riding companion and I stayed close, sometimes charting a course right down the center of the road, and most of our energy was spent just trying to stay upright, our rear wheels slipping and slithering, our handlebars jerking left-to-right. I felt proud not to have fallen, and disappointed that I had to walk the last two blocks home. The plow hadn’t yet been through, and the snow was knee deep.

Meanwhile, Padraig is spinning his way around Palm Springs, where it’s 85F today.

What I want to make clear is that I enjoyed each of these rides, the test of them, the adventure. While I’m not sure I would ever choose these conditions, presented with them, I have been game to try. It can be hard to find adventure in our everyday riding. When adventure comes to us, we usually benefit from accepting.

This week’s Group Ride asks the question, what was your last real cycling adventure? What was it made of? Geography? Weather? Terrain? Did you find a hidden road or trail or ramp or pump track right under your own nose, right in the midst of your regular stomping grounds? Or did you ride L’Eroica? In Italy.

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  1. Zach

    Three weeks ago. First ride on my Surly Ice Cream Truck in negative temperatures and 6 inches of fresh snow. No one else on the trail and it was magnificent, especially finishing the ride as the sun was setting.

  2. Jim P.

    A lot of local cyclists would nod knowingly that my twice weekly 6pm ride home through the UCDavis campus is a harrowing adventure. I like to think of it as bike handling and defensive riding practice. Imagine riding a criterium where every participant has his and her own idea of where the course is.
    Not my last real cycling adventure, but the one with the most lasting memories was Paris Brest Paris, 2007. My first time abroad, first time riding 1200km (pretty much all in the rain no less), first time getting sick from caffeine pills, puking on football field, but recovering over the next 100 miles (which is in and of itself a nutty concept). And at 35 years of age, having grown up in and done a fair bit of traveling in this country, the first time I laid eyes on the Atlantic ocean, it was L’océan Atlantique.

  3. gregorio

    Speaking as one who lives in Northern Minnesota, it’s been a while. I’ve heard the siren call of fat bikes…but then I think about taking that money and upgrading my road bike. My wife is a bit wary of the this-is-what-I-woulda-spent-if-I-had-bought line of logic, but it got me a new Felt AR1 aero frame. But I digress. My last outdoor adventure was in early November – coming back into wind gusting to 30 mph. I rode in the drops out of pure survival, and was hammered down to 8 mph of forward momentum. It was one of those rides where you swear you’re gonna get a new hobby. It was SO bloody awful that I did one more ride a few days later to end on a better note.

    My indoor adventure finished last week. 9 straight days of trainer rides in the mythic Tour of Sufferlandria.

  4. Pat O'Brien

    Four years ago we tried to ride some abandoned remnants of Route 66 by Williams, Arizona. One short stretch disappeared into weeds and brush, and we had to jump the fence and finish the ride on I-40. But we rode the dirt section, that turns into old pavement, that runs between Williams and Flagstaff and had a ball. Plus there are hundreds of miles of FS road and single track in that area that keeps calling us back.

  5. Andrew

    Last summer, riding the Gavia from bormio. Woke to rain and 3-4c. Not too bad through the first half, but it got wetter and wetter, and colder and colder. By the time we hit the snow line, I was shivering uncontrollably, so bad I could steer the bike. Had to pull into the first Refugio to warm up enough to make the refugio at the pass. There were maybe 5 cyclists, all looking like we were pulled out an arctic shipwreck. That was definitely an adventure. The Stelvio and the other passed paled in comparison even if the hills were bigger.

  6. John Kopp

    This time of year, you folks up north should be cross country skiing, or snowshoeing if more traditional. But, Robot, and especially Gregorio, if you must get around, dog sled would be my choice. May be the best means in Massachusetts this winter!

  7. Pat N.

    You’re right about the weather, of course. What I do daily in Chicago in winter is nothing compared to our cycling brethren in the Great White North. That said, winter cycle commuting is always an adventure in the urban environs.

    A week-and-half ago, I was riding home at night in a heavy snowstorm, traveling ever so gingerly over what is, in nice weather, a clearly marked, designated bike lane along a main artery that was now covered in snow, when, suddenly, a flatbed tow truck veered across my path, making a left-hand turn onto a side street. Now, I’m lit up like a Christmas tree — a 600w light on my handlebars set to blinking, a 300w light atop my helmet on solid, four blinkers attached to my backpack and my bike — there was no way the tow truck driver didn’t see me.

    He cut me off on purpose. I had to apply my brakes or I risked sliding under the wheels of the flatbed. Down I went. Hard.

    I was so angry, I had no idea if I was hurt; that’s how much adrenaline I had coursing through my body. A guy standing on the corner waiting for the bus said to me, “That asshole was laughing,” meaning the tow truck driver. I broke out every curse word I knew. A woman in a mini-van who was struck in traffic rolled down her window and asked, “Are you all right?” I unleashed a torrent of curse words about the tow truck driver, and she quickly rolled up her window and stared straight ahead.

    I was tempted to chase the guy down, but the snow on the side street was just too deep. Besides, what would I do? As I have gotten older (and, hopefully, a bit smarter and more mature), I have, for the most part, given up getting angry at drivers. This guy was an exception, but retribution was impossible given the conditions.

    I got back on my bike and rode home. When the adrenaline had flushed, I found I had a banged elbow, a badly bruised hip, a sore shoulder and a strained neck. Ah, well, what the hell.

    I got up the next morning and did it all over again. Such is the obsession with the bike.

  8. Merlin Cycles

    MTB. My last adventure ride was a local one. Piecing together disparate strands of sheeptrack and not-really-there-track during gale force winds that had me battling to stay upright. It was worth it in the end though; found a couple of real crackers!

  9. Don Jagoe

    It has been so awful and unrelenting here–with slush, icy patches and salt, that I have completely given myself over to Sufferlandrian citizenship. With occasional cross-border excursions into TrainerRoad. The legs are benefitting, but the soul is shrieking for sun and fresh air.

    In honor of this thread, when we in coastal New England finally do get a patch of “good” weather, I’ll do something noteworthy.

  10. DaSy

    My experience has been that the worse the ride feels at the time, and the more you wish you were “anywhere else but here!” the better it is to look back on.

    My most memorable was climbing Mt.Ventoux in early April one year, having driven 14 hours to get to it, and having one day there before I had to head home. Once I reached Chalet Reynard I found the col was closed for the last 6 km due to snow. I ducked under the barrier and continued alone. As I climbed, the snow that lined the banks started creeping onto the road, and within another 1 km I was in a total whiteout of howling winds and blizzard conditions with no idea where the road actually was. I was so focused on getting to the top that I ploughed on and made it to the observatory, at which point I realised I didn’t know how I was going to get down, and how stupid I’d been. I had to slide on haunches and the cleats of my shoes, dragging my bike for the first few hundred metres, and then straddled the top tube and scooted for the next 2 km before it was even possible to mount the bike properly. I also managed to forget the col barrier was down, so once I did get going after 3 or 4 km, I nearly flew straight into it!
    At the top I wished I was anywhere but there, but once into the descent I didn’t want to be anywhere else…

    A similar thing happened on top of the Col de Bonnette, which I climbed in the sunshine, but once on top a snow storm moved very rapidly in and I descended it in rivers of slushy snow, so cold that my shivering was disturbing the front wheel….

    Those two moments were the most scary on a bike, but also the ones I look back on with the most affection.

  11. Phaedrus

    Two weeks ago, I was doing my daily commute from Illinois to Missouri. When I arrived at the bridge to cross the Mississippi, there were flashing lights everywhere. It was still dark and I was flashing just as much as the emergency vehicles, so I thought I fit in well. I approached a police officer directing traffic away from the bridge.

    I asked if I could still cross on the pedestrian trail. He said, “NO. The bridge is closed.” I responded with something that suggested the bridge was my only way across the river. He followed up with, “I don’t care if you swim, but the bridge is closed.” The cop didn’t think my flashing lights fit in as much as I did.

    The end of that little conversation left me miffed in a way I hadn’t felt in quite a while, but I thankfully I noticed another cop that seemed less agitated with life and the morning air. I approached with caution and explained that the bridge was my only way to work and that swimming wasn’t appropriate on such a cold morning. He laughed and said to stay on the pedestrian section because there was automobile accident clean up taking place on the main bridge deck.

    So I was on my way. I passed some news crews doing live shots at the foot of the bridge and proceeded to Missouri. After crossing, I rode across the top of the levee headed south to St Louis and the sun rising over the river to my left. It was quite nice with the north tail wind. I still had my lights turned on and I noticed a truck backed in and tucked behind the flood wall up ahead. I was going to have to squeeze between the truck and the wall if I wanted to stay on pavement. As I got closer, I noticed movement inside the truck. There are sometimes trucks that make their way up and down a different section of trail, but I’d never seen a truck in this area.

    I couldn’t tell what was going on, but the movement in the truck was vigorous to the point I thought a rowing competition might have been taking place. While squeezing inside the two feet of space I had between the truck and flood wall, I turned my head (with 600 lumen light affixed) towards the truck and my light filled the cab with LED brightness that freezes every deer in its tracks. The obviousness of what was happening couldn’t be missed. It sure wasn’t something I expected to see at 6:20 am. I thought it might have been a little early for that, but then I figured it might have been late for them. I remember a time, long ago, when the sunrise might come as a rude mid-party surprise.

    That could have been the end of the story, but the guy part of the duo looked at me with a face of confidence and shrugged his shoulders in a way that said, “Well, I hope you’re having a good morning too.” He then turned his attention back to his business and I rolled towards the Arch.

  12. Michael Schlitzer

    My last real adventure was a century ride back in 2013. One of my best cycling friends was robbed of his ability to ride by early-onset Parkinson’s Disease (the same thing that Davis Phinney has).

    I rode over 100 miles with memories of riding with him – every climb, every long drag into the wind.

    I finished with a huge smile. It was the second best ride I’ve ever had on those roads.

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