The Frigid South

After a cold ride that failed on multiple levels on Friday, I reluctantly headed back out on Saturday to attempt some sort of redemption. Redemption was had, but just barely.

After encasing myself in so many layers of way too tight base layers and winter gear that it made breathing hard, I headed south of town to my dirt road ride launching pad near the mighty Chipp.

The temps would be higher Saturday–in the high 20s/low 30s rather than the high teens of Friday–but there would be no sun and a steady wind blowing from the south to numb my giblets.


Against my better judgment, I immediately headed south into the wind and up a series of hills.

In the midst of huffing, puffing, and feeling the waistband of my Craft winter pants digging so far into my gut that I think it scarred by pancreas, I saw a group of local riders descending the coming hill. Waves and hollers of mutual admiration were exchanged as we passed each other and soon it was just me, my heaving gut, gasps for breath, and the howl of the wind as I continued south.1


Once off of the hills and onto the flats I started to feel a bit better. I stopped for a few photo ops, warming up a bit, and settling in.

Turning right and heading west things got even better. I was able to pull down the mask of my balaclava and breathe easier without the cold wind numbing my face. I knew the ride wasn’t going to be that great, but I was sure that I could at very least top the effort (or lack thereof) I put out on Friday.


I love, and already miss, the warm sunny days of summer and fall. But I also admit that I enjoy taking photos way more on the drab dreary days. Perhaps if I was a bit more energetic and got out on the roads before the sun got too high, thus getting some better lighting, I wouldn’t think so, but I enjoy sleep just a bit too much. Beyond the light, the cold dreary days just seem to offer a bit more to the snapshots I take during my rides. I just wish I didn’t have to wear so many damn layers of clothing!

I met my goals for the ride: I got out, I rode more than 15 stupid miles (still only about 23) and I took a bunch of photos. This was not the greatest week of riding, but it’ll do. For me, so much of cold weather riding is just getting out. It would probably be easier, more time efficient, more comfortable if I just went for a long hike in the woods. Nothing against hiking, I dig it now and then, but the 20+ year routine habit of cycling is a hard one to break. This has been the first week of genuine cold weather cycling. In a month or two the 15 minutes of pre-ride layering, the numb fingers, and cold toes will become routine. Not enjoyed by any stretch of the imagination, but routine.


A friend once asked why I would choose to ride out in the cold. My answer was pretty simple: “I live in the middle of Michigan, it’s cold here 8 months a year. If I didn’t learn to ride in the cold I would hardly ever ride, and that won’t do.”



  1. Side note: Just a week or so ago I rode these same hills in regular cycling gear on the Boone and was feeling pretty smug about my fitness as I easily cruised up them. Adding extra layers, winter cycling boots, the gearing of the PrOcal, and a cold headwind had me feeling like I had never ridden a bike before and was doing so now whilst carrying a pregnant sow on my back.

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