It was 13F at ride time this morning. Small flakes darted around on the wind. As the morning progressed, they got fatter, drifting and chasing each other into small cottony piles. We rode, and it was nice. We like pushing ourselves through the falling snow, and there are usually fewer cars on the road.
It’s hard not to think of warmer days too, though.
Here’s a photo from FOS (Friend of Seven) Mike Bybee who was kind of us to put us in his new Sights of the Southwest 2018 calendar. Mike is an ardent explorer, bikepacker, and photographer. We built him this Sola SL 29er adventure rig a few years ago, and so he’s taken us on some incredible adventures.
Here’s how we do it:
1) Studded Tires – Today, you can get studded tires from 30mm to 4.8in wide to fit mountain bikes at all wheel sizes, and any disc brake road bike (and Seven’s RedSky series, too, if you like rim brakes). Nothing provides the confidence to take on winter riding quite like a pair of studded tires.
2) Bar Mitts and Boots – Hands and feet bear the brunt of the cold when you’re riding, so we like Bar Mitts to keep our hands warm, and a pair of serious winter cycling boots like these or these. You will be surprised how much easier it is to get out the door once you’ve solved the problem of cold hands and feet.
3) Layers – One of the great things about riding is that it raises your body temperature, so you won’t be cold long. That means that your best strategy for regulating comfort will be layering your clothing. We like full zip jerseys and jackets that we can open when we’re warming and close when we’re cooling off.
4) Friends – We all like a solo ride for clearing our minds and simplifying things, but in winter we prefer to travel in packs. We’re more likely to show up for a ride if friends will be there.
5) Adventures – All the places we go during the year are different in winter. Sometimes the thrill of a cold weather ride is just in seeing old sights through new eyes. They say it’s the journey, not the destination, but in wintertime, we make sure the destination is part of the motivation.
In New England, where we live and work and ride, the winter can seem unkind to cyclists. Snow falls, the roadways shrink, and the melt-freeze cycle makes ice a constant hazard on paved roads and dirt trails alike. Oh, and it’s cold.
Having said all that, there are few things we look forward to more than pedaling through the first snow, or cresting frozen climbs in our local woods, the air perfectly still in among the trees, everything quiet. Winter gives you those peaceful moments in ways the other seasons never quite manage.
It’s funny the way, in summer, we can find ourselves out riding at all hours. Late sunsets help, early sunrises. Winter compresses the active part of the day. We get home after work, and the day feels over, just because it’s dark. For us, that makes it all the more important for our health (and sanity) to get out on the bike as much as possible. It’s the endorphins, but also the inspiration that riding provides.
Naturally, we take it a bit easier this time of year. We cut back on the distance, tone down the effort. Our bodies need time to recover. Winter gives us permission to do that. In many ways, it’s easier to appreciate riding in this mindset, because we’re unplugged from goals. We’re not trying to be fast. We’re not trying to go far. We’re just pedaling.
And for those who want to continue to test their mettle, the cold offers ample opportunity. Temperatures here the last week of the year were most in the single digits, but day-after-day the Seven crew came rolling through the door, some with ice in their beards, but all with a smile on their face.
This is Mike’s Evergreen SL, out in the Rockies. We built him this bike as a collaboration with our good friends at Bike Doctor, Waldorf in Maryland. Bead blasted decals keep this one low-profile. We think it came out great.
Thank you Seven Cycles! My new Evergreen has been nothing short of perfect. Colorado just might be its natural habitat.
You get the sense that Washington State alone contains a lifetime of riding. Road. Trail. Everything in between. Thousands and thousands of miles of it. Here, Seven Ambassador Jeremy Kampp shares another little slice of his home state with us:
Seven months and over forty inches of rain might have been a dream as I awake to a spectacular 5:20am sunrise in May. A weather window with the temperature in the 70’s leaves me thinking about an adventure combining riding and fishing rather than riding and layering against the dampness.
Have I told you about the enormous brown trout that I hooked but got away? Oh yeah, that fishing story has been told before. This story involves my Mudhoney SL bike and tenkara fly rod to explore along the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River and the fishing holes yet unseen.
Scattered white cumulus clouds sail above the snowy peaks. Deciduous trees reach for space between the towering evergreens with their apical buds of light green yielding little. At the trailhead I can hear the river rapids running over the cobbles before I can see the green flow. Water, food and rod on my back I accelerate up the road on my bike, ecstatic to be riding in the sun. The thrill of riding is timeless and the freedom to roam is cherished.
Through the forest on a trail and over a suspension bridge reveals a swollen snowmelt river. Sandbars to fish from won’t be available for two more months. I fish eddies on the main river, make a note of holes that will be prime for trout in 1-2 months, and then seek smaller tributary creeks to fish.
Riding a winding singletrack trail with blue butterflies flitting near the drying mud I cross several streams along the way. Rock hopping is easy. Wading is cold and sometimes necessary. In the end the fish swim free, I am energized by the day of exploration and the dream of the next trip forms as I ride down the long tree shaded road towards home.