Yesterday, as I threw shovelsful of snow up and over my head, the wind swirling most of it back into my face and onto the driveway, I thought, “I should write a book called The Cyclist’s Guide to Bombogenesis.” Then I spent the next hour composing this tome in the back of my head as the storm churned and swirled around me.
Chapter One: This Isn’t Going to be Fun, Not Even Afterward
The thing to know about riding your bike during a bomb cyclone is that it isn’t much like riding a bike. It’s more like competing in a ballroom dancing competition after you’ve been hit unexpectedly with a tranquilizer dart. You can’t see much of anything, and your balance gets compromised in multiple ways. If you can manage to stay upright in the wind, which blows from every direction, the ice and snow under your tires, even studded tires, will push your front wheel left and right without warning. The cold goes right through you, but it doesn’t bother you that much, because you’re spending all of your energy trying to stay on the bike and continue forward. You think to yourself, “This is what it was like for the Donner Party. I get it now.”
Chapter Two: Neither Here, Nor There
It is a funny part of the cyclist’s psychology that prevents him or her from returning to a point of departure, even when the external conditions suggest that retreat is the wisest course of action. The type of person who would think of riding during bombogenesis is particularly afflicted with this potentially fatal stubbornness. The thing is, once you have departed, once you have begun to come to terms with the very unreasonable terms of this sort of storm, hurrying is not possible, so you are not able to end the journey until you have pedaled every stroke of the distance, some of them twice. This leads to the very real problem of being neither here (where you started) or there (where you are safe).
Chapter Three: When Even No Traffic Is Too Much Traffic
During a storm of this ferocity, most sensible citizens stay home. This is good, because it means that you will encounter almost no one in a big, heavy, metal box careening down the roadways. However, the one vehicle you can be sure to see during this dark night of your soul is the snow plow, and the snow plow stops for no man (or woman). When the plow comes, you’d better get out of the way, which often means bailing from your tenuously held line into the nearest, safest snow pile. The last thing you want do during a ride like this is stop, but stop you must. You may also need to drop and roll, as circumstance demands.
Chapter Four: Getting Home
If you’re lucky, like me, you have people at home who love you and are concerned for your safety. For some period of time you’ve subjected yourself to an elemental barrage such as most humans will never experience. Now, finally, you’ve arrived. You feel fleeting moments of relief and triumph. You’ve been through something real. There are emotions. Your loved ones cannot empathize with you. They think you’re an idiot. They don’t care that your hands are a disconcerting hue of blue. They don’t want to hear about your close call with the rusty, bouncing blade of the plow. They want you to be quiet. There’s something moderately interesting on the television.
We cyclists love the obscure and ephemeral, so maybe I’ll finish this book one day. Watch out for the Kickstarter.
This week’s Group Ride asks, not whether you want a how-to on dying in a snow drift, but what you do look for in a cycling book? Do you even read cycling books? Do you prefer the rose-tinted biographies of old racers, or the adventure logs of ordinary riders in extraordinary places? Do you ever actually read how-tos? What is the worst cycling book you’ve read?