Friday Group Ride #102

January is a funny time of year for cyclists. Where July is all the same in the Northern Hemisphere—that is, warm and filled with rides in short sleeves and bibs, January can mean almost anything. Here in the South Bay we’ve got brilliant sun, temperatures in the 70s and sunsets the Internet dating sites wish they could sell.

I swear, June isn’t this nice.

But January is supposed to be a time of cold, snow and ice. At minimum it should be the exact opposite of what makes you yearn to ride. It is to the romance of a bike ride what grocery shopping with your sweetie is to falling in love. Some places are suffering real winters complete with frozen slushy stuff, while other places are at least reasonable if not downright mild.

And for those who are riding, this ought to be a time of base miles, at least, in theory. Again, the left coast gets this wrong as well. I’ve got friends who are drilling three-hour rides. Base? If they ever did it, those miles were finished before Christmas. After all, the racing has already begun here.

So what’s it like where you are? Double if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere. Are you getting to ride? If so, what sort of miles are you doing? Is it fun or is it a chore? You don’t have to explain why. We know the why. Life without cycling wouldn’t be life.

Image courtesy Ray Assante

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  1. ben

    My problem w/ riding outside right now is darkness more than weather. In Denver we’ve had a pretty mild winter so far with only 1 block of time that lasted more than a couple-of-days where icy roads kept me from commuting/riding.

    Usually, in the dark months, I prefer to use the trainer, run in darkness, and get some good outside miles in on the weekends…base miles for just a touch longer (no races ’til April in CO).

    The trainer time is made tolerable by watching netflix, music, and/or finding decent bike races to watch online. It ain’t fun, but it’s not slave-labor or anything either.

    I can’t wait for saturday though…road miles. That reminds me, i’d better prep the bike tonight! Cheers!

  2. Helicomatic

    Winter here in upper middle America is warmer than usual, but still cold enough to serve its purpose. It requires resolve and grinta to bundle up and hit the road most days. Some dark nights are spent on the trainer. What is winter for? To build character and confirm love for the sport. Whatever weather comes the rest of the year, It will be a small inconvenience. The first day I can wear bibs and a short sleeves will see me grinning like a maniac and knowing exactly why I love to ride.

  3. Brian

    January has suddenly turned cold enough to be chorish, which also makes it all the more enjoyable because it builds Belgian-style character. Here, in the biggest city in the middle west, we’ve had plenty of our famed wind, which this winter has had the magic property of turning into a headwind no matter which way one is riding. It’s also made Wind Stopper everything a must. I’m just consoling myself that it’s helping me build power for the warmer weather to come. I must confess, the alternating flurries and freezing fog have had me riding the rollers more than I would like to admit, fantasizing about bibs and short sleeves. Or even just knee warmers and long sleeves.

  4. kosh

    Just joined a quick 50km beachside bunch spin down Beach Road, Melbourne, Australia with sunny blue skies and light tailwinds. Temperature? A balmy 23 degrees celsius.

    Tomorrow I’m riding the Alpine Classic – a 200km sportive with four big climbs.

    You should all move here for the summer season and get some great riding in. It doesn’t get any better.

  5. Cptcrnch

    Here in the Mid-Atlantic states the weather has been flip-flopping like a politician in an election year. Two weeks ago saw me riding in temps barely hitting 30 with wind chills that made it feel like the teens. Today saw nearly 55 and sunny.

    I’ve been running a lot more this year then in years past. My Light and Motion headlamp went bad at the beginning of the winter and I don’t have the extra money for another light so it’s mainly 4 miles of running each night between M-F and around 60 to 100 miles on Saturday and Sunday. All the running makes me appreciate the riding on the weekend.

    @Kosh -find me a job, a place to live, and pay my way down to Oz and I’ll gladly take you up on your offer. 😉

  6. Doug Page

    Here on the Left coast it has been dry and sunny, perfect for this bike guy who gave up snow skiing years ago in favor of “dirt skiing” on my mountain bike. I just wait a couple of days after the rain, (no trail damage, please!)and I’m good to go! The slower speed in relation to power output keeps me warm, and the dirt is moist and tacky, perfect for railin’! Come Summer, I’m back on the road bike, where the higher speeds keep me cooler. My ‘tithing’ 15% of my gross income to my LBS didn’t leave a lot of $ for skiing anyway.

  7. Nikolai

    It’s always warm and humid in January here in Brisbane (Australia). Been heavily raining the last week or so. Although I quite enjoy riding in the rain when it’s warm, a lot of riders here switch to indoor training when it’s raining. I don’t get it.

  8. Paul

    Here in NJ it’s been up and down. The year started with wonderful weather, I did three longish rides in the first week of January, including one metric century. Then the weather went into a funk – cold, snow, rain, we had it all. But it’s turning again, and I’ll be out on the bike tomorrow and probably again on Sunday.

  9. armybikerider

    The weather at Fort Campbell KY/TN has been really mild this year compared to recent winters, with high temps trending in the 40’s and 50’s. Compared to last year when I rode my 700X23c’s over snow crusted roads far more than was comfortable. I’ll take this weather in January over that any day!

    It’s the early sunsets that also keep me off my bike during the week, confining me to weekends on the road and indoors watching Steephill.TV on the trainer during the week.

    I ride for fun. All miles for me are “base miles.” I haven’t pinned on a race number in decades with no plans to reverse that trend. For me, when there’s no “program” or plan but just to get out and ride, I have loads more fun and enjoy the experience more than if I were doing intervals or hill repeats or any specific “work out” depending on the day. Doesn’t mean I don’t push myself, or ride hard, just that I don’t follow a program.

    This weekend promises to be in the high 40’s with gusty winds for my twin 50 milers. I’ll pull on the leg warmers, wool socks under shoe covers and multi layers on top and gloves to keep the chill at bay. It’s the skull cap under the helmet that I’m really not fond of.

    But you’re spot-on Robot…….life without cycling wouldn’t be life!

  10. william

    In Boulder we are all restless and afraid of losing the “hone.” Come hell or high water or old man winter, the wheels keep spinning here. Like another local (Denver) reported, so far, winter has been gentle. Thus, every Sunday I ride for three to three and a half hours, my base rides. Actually, my first race of the season is the Frostbite Time trial, a brief, guttural affair, just south of Wyoming, it’s cold, and it’s on March 3rd. An easy spin at Eleven miles. We have had very high winds, in excess of 80 miles per hour. Last weekend, I almost ate crow on highway 36 heading south, what with the west wind unfurling and my bladed spokes, might as well have had a spinnaker on each wheel.The canyons are gritty and cold, doesn’t stop some folks from heading to the higher altitudes, via the canyon routes. I took a trip up Left Hand Canyon, to avoid the heinous gusting winds on Highway 36 last Sunday. The plan was simple head up the canyon, and then over Old Stage Road, placing me back in the relative safety of North Boulder. Just got chilly though, and the winds swirled in the canyon like taffy on a mixing hook. I ended up colder than a mink stole in a Manhattan fur vault in August, no fooling. It’s the light I’m seeking, the natural light, any thing to kick start my pineal gland, that’s what gets me out, even on the relatively cold days. I’m a desk jockey, and this cold, dark season, it’s like living in a reel of “Das Boot,” the movie. Finally, I’m hooked on the exercise induced dopamine, I stop riding, I’m sunk. I’ve tried using chocolate and carbohydrate rich food to turn on the dopamine making machine in my brain, it’s not the same as exercise, cycling’s my vice.

  11. Bo L

    Here in central TX, winter is variable. It is the wet time of year compared to our drought-plagued summers. Appropriately, we had 5.5 inches of rain and flash flooding earlier this week. Usually we get a lot of sun with intermittent heavy storms. Temperatures can swing violently (read: mid-ride) and such swings are accompanied with powerful winds. I like the spontaneity, like an exciting relationship.

    The first big race of the year is tomorrow. Tentative forecast: 60, sunny, calm. Actual forecast: spontaneous.

  12. Hurricane Shawn

    Here in Texas, we’ve had a VERY mild winter. I haven’t touched the trainer once this off-season. Racing has already started, so base was done before the new year. Riding has been fantastic, with many days in the 60s.

  13. WV Cycling

    30’s – 40’s (Fahrenheit) and I have ridden more this month than I did last year at this same time. We’ve been blessed with lovely (wet) weather, as compared to two feet of snow of 2011. I’ve slogged through so many mud and dirt road rides that I’m tempted to come out of the closet and admit that I don’t really like mountain biking, other than to keep me fit for road season.

    Oh lord, did I say that out loud?

    How can I live in WEST VIRGINIA (Canaan, Big Bear, Rail-Trails galore, State Parks every 20 miles, etc) and not enjoy mountain biking?

    I’m honest when I say that I am not sure if I would be fully accepted in many cycling-communities if I said that out loud. :

    Back on topic. January miles: 2011 – 48. 2012 – 185. (neither including trainer miles) Looks like being in grad school will help me keep more miles in my legs!

  14. A Stray Velo

    I’m in northwestern europe and we’ve had a mild winter. By mild I mean it snowed once and it didn’t stick.

    This year I invested in a light to go along with my hub dynamo so I’ve been riding quite a bit after work in the dark during the week. I never would have thought of this setup if it weren’t for the locals here. It works really well.

    I’ve never kept track of how many kilometers I’ve done or want to do. I’ve always ridden by time and I don’t even keep track of that. During the week I’ve mixed a 30 minute strength training program with a hour of riding 3-4 times a week. Then on the weekends rain permitting I’ve been doing 2-3 hour rides also with the strength training.

    So actually I’ve been pretty lucky when it comes to winter riding. Although I’ve gotten caught in the rain at night a few times it hasn’t been too bad. It’s been pretty fun riding at night on my racing bike. The thought of riding in the dark, the cold, the wind and sometimes the rain can be depressing but once I’m out there it’s a blast. Now that it’s staying lighter longer I’m really looking forward to riding this spring.

  15. Peter Lütken

    Trondheim, Norway is all about cross country skiing this time of year.
    Temps ranging from 30’s all the way down into the teens are OK, however patches of ice and the occasional bunch of leaves left over from fall make the roads way too sketchy to do any kind of road riding. Someone turns the light off at around 3-4 PM too.
    I still manage to do my 3.5mi commute on a ratty old MTB with studded tires and a huge dynamo powered headlight.
    The woods just southwest of town is criss crossed with XC skiing trails and with a headlamp you can put in a lot of miles this way. And you know what? That is quite alright in my book. Makes me appreciate those first glimpses of spring around easter time. Makes that summer time love affair with my road bike that much more intense.
    Makes working in a bike/ski shop that much more enjoyable – getting a break from all those greasy, dirty bikes for a few months to work on skis. Then later I get a break from skis, all messed up with klister, pine needles, dog hairs, to work on bikes, Man’s greatest invention, over the summer.
    Life is pretty sweet, no?

  16. cormw

    Well on the west coast of Florida, the winter has been very pleasant, with the exception of a few cool morning rides in the 40’s!

  17. michael

    On the indoor trainer twice per week since mid-November. X-c skiing four times per week since mid December. Snowshoe running 2-3 times per week since mid December. 7.5 feet of fresh powder in the last 3 weeks = lots of backcountry fun. This ain’t no cycling hot bed at this time of year. Google Map/Google Earth search for Port-Cartier, Quebec, Canada. Sitting right on the 50th parallel. I won`t be riding outdoors until mid to late April with the outstanding winter we’ve been having!

    I am one happy winter-loving freak this year after 6 years out on the West Coast in perpetually rainy Vancouver.

    I may not be riding much, but with all the skiiing and snowshoeing I am doing I have a gut feeling this will be my strongest year on the bike in quite a few years!

  18. Jason

    Upstate NY has had a relatively mild winter so far. Typically we have a few big snow dumps by now but this year just a few inches so far. Two weeks ago I did a road ride in 14F (that was dumb), today it’s 40 and I’ll be out there as soon as I shake this hangover.

  19. DavidA

    Living just south of Portland Oregon….rain and cold. 30s to 40s mostly. Fenders and rainjackets just like in Flanders. Today it was misty and 22 to 28f this morning, warming up with sun late afternoon…did a couple hrs at 30 to 34kph. It will rain for the next 2 weeks. Its a mental thing to just push through it and grind out the hours like a true Flahaute…

  20. David

    William, I can’t believe you rode in that wind! It was hard enough to stand upright, much less ride.

    Like Ben, I am constrained more by light than weather this year in Denver- it’s dark when I go to work, dark when I come home, and boring on the trainer- but at least I’m on the bike. To make matters worse, we have had the worst ski season in decades. I guess I’m no Belgian hardman- I’ll brave the cold and wind skiing and mountaineering any time, but I just find it to be a style of suffering on the bike I don’t tolerate well. I’ve managed to take advantage of some of our unseasonably mild Sundays this winter, but I really miss those spring, summer and fall quick one hour rides after work that I look forward to all day.

  21. spiff

    Here in Washington,DC there is a pattern of rain and a day of warm dry then wind to bring back the cold. But there is that window. And at the end of the work day you can get some laps in at a park on the river and watch the sunset.
    It beats the rollers and watching the old DVDs, I like to save those for when I really need them, when it snows.

  22. Jody Prummer

    Here in NE Oregon snow and wind are the normal winters. This winter has had less snow but the wind has not let up. Eight out of ten days the wind will blow over 20 mph. The wind is a real battle day after day. On a good note I have only spent a dozen or so days on the studded tires.

    I had heard Eddy Merckx was a good climber because he road in all those Belgium head winds. I am not sure if that is the reason he was strong in the mountains but it hasn’t worked for me.

    There is not much that will drive me inside to the trainer. In fact I hate the trainer and will always ride outside no matter what the conditions are. I am lucky enough to have a lot of gravel back roads with little traffic so I am not concerned for my safety. If it gets bad enough I have a loop that allows me to be home in twenty minutes.

    My best friend owns the local bike shop so I am able to afford all the winter tools and gear to allow us to ride in any conditions. We do a lot of 0530 rides with lights all over the bike and get comments from people that they could see us for miles. A little light tip is purchase a set of flasher lights that screw onto your vale stem. You will need a presta valve adaptor.

    So far since mid-November I have ridden a bit over 2000 miles (base miles). Race season starts March 4th with a least one race all month.

  23. Bob T.

    Well up here in the northern part of NJ, we are all pretty much riding the daylights out of our bikes! Our recovery or base mile rides has been nothing but a hammer-fest! We pretty much have smiles from ear to ear, enjoying every minute of our rides. And for myself the weather has co-operated nicely for my 100k and 200k brevets. We are basically having our cake and eating it too, total opposite from last year’s winter!

  24. Nelson

    Southwest Michigan…Lake effect…The bike gets cleaned and put away for the winter. I transition from cyclist to trail runner.

  25. Paul

    Got out twice this weekend, did 92 miles total, taking me over 200 miles for the month. Last January I did one 30 mile ride, fell hard, and didn’t get back on the bike until late February. What a difference a year makes 🙂

  26. Christopher

    Calgary, AB, Canada
    Commuting 37 km (there and back) 2-3/week in anything from -15 C to 8 C. I tried to ride in -33 C (-45 with windchill) 2 weeks ago but turned around after 3kms as it was really just too cold to be outside. Battling wind, snow, ice and traffic, like most others, just with a lower temp than most. Good gear makes for good riding but my limit is -15 C.
    I just have to ride.

  27. steve

    Spent 20 years training in the dark only to show off my fitness in the rain and the hills. Fancied myself a “climber” or man for the “race of truth”…. Yeah, just little too much truth!
    This year has been a revelation… No rain, I still can’t climb, but the riding has been so good that I am beginning to feel guilty (and I don’t believe in guilt!).
    Most of my old racing buddies have given up but I just can’t let go.
    Rode to work on the Solstice-25 degrees, freezing fog by the river- All of my employees thought I was nuts. Guilty as charged.
    Tried it again this am. Still cold. Got the feeling back in my toes before my first client arrived @ 9am!
    Agree with all you- I just have to ride

  28. Jesus from Cancun

    I guess we are spoiled here in Cancun. It just doesn’t get any colder than 65 F in winter, or warmer than 90 in summer.
    Unless there is a tropical storm or hurricane in the area, we don’t have full days of rain.
    If we just had any mountain or at least a small hill closer than 400 miles…

  29. hautacam

    Here in Seattle, January is typically when I have to deviate from the bike lane to avoid giant puddles full of ducks.
    Sunny out today, though.

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