Friday, January 20, 2006

Real headwind

Date: Jan. 19
Mileage: 15.6
January mileage: 274.3
Temperature upon departure: 12

No picture today. Geoff's computer is currently in 179.5 pieces, and the browser on my archaic laptop (connected by 28.8 dial-up) won't let me upload anything. Oh well. You can't win 'em all.

I left for my two-hour ride today at about 5:30. The thermometer read 12 degrees, but a stiff wind and swift circulation of floating ice particles made it feel much colder. I can't really account for the "feels like" temperature, but tonight's was definitely the chilliest ride I have done to date. So I tried a piece of gear today that I hadn't tried before, my neoprene face mask. Onward I churned up the first hill as twilight slipped below the jagged treeline, sucking down the moist backflow of my own breath. As I crested the hill, my vision suddenly darkened several notches, and everything else felt airy and light. I squinted and swallowed, for the first time noticing the subtle noose gripping my neck. The combination of the neoprene mask and my helmet strap were somehow blocking my airflow. I tugged at it for a while to no avail. Finally I tore the whole thing off. I'll mess with the logistics tomorrow. But the temporary oxygen shortage gave me a nice rush to start off the ride.

The first two or three miles are always the hardest. No matter how much you "warm up" before the ride, your legs turn to licorice the minute you step outside. As you work to get your heart rate up, streaks of wind find their way through any imperfection in your layers. Nostrils and eyelashes freeze shut, and cold air tears at your throat. You begin to wonder what traumatic childhood experience drove you to such unmitigated masochism. But then ... your legs begin to warm up. Your body settles in. You pry your eyelashes open, and the stark beauty of the frozen landscape opens up before you. You move freely with winter and there's nothing about it that can stop you, and you come to the calm realization that you will, in fact, survive, and you feel entirely alive.


  1. 12 degrees *PLUS* the wind chill?

    Somebody would have to force me at gunpoint to ride when it was that cold out.

    Good stuff:-)

  2. We've been incredibly blessed down here in MN (I can't believe I just said DOWN in MN). I don't think we've dropped below 20 degrees all of December and January.

    Of course, I'm waiting for the other foot to drop. I've got a feeling that we'll be getting snow well into May this year as punishment. :)

  3. I'm incredibly jealous of all the cold and the snow, myself. It's been extraordinarily mild here (Edmonton, Alberta) this year. We're in the middle of a mini cold snap, and that means the temperature is -15C (5f). Normally this time of year, I have to make morning decisions whether or not to ride, since my personal cutoff temp is -25C (-13f).

    That neoprene mask is a lifesaver. I put it on when the temperature goes down below -10C (14f), but it DOES cut down on airflow. It sounds like you maybe had it on under your straps, which definitely doesn't work very well. All of my straps are a few mm looser in the winter so things fit and so I can breathe.

  4. i like reading your posts, they are really intresting. i was born in Alaska and then moved to Oregon when i was 7 years old. i went up there this summer to vist family and it made me miss it even more than i already did.

  5. Mask and goggles are pretty darn essential when it gets so cold, it can be quite dangerous otherwise. Frostbite really should be a valid concern with every winter cyclist who dares to brave the extreme lows of the mercury. As for the legs, with enough base layers I have gotten through some pretty damn cold (sub 0 F) temps, the key is layers.

  6. Dude,
    I woke up this morning, heard it vomiting rain outside here in Portland, and decided to drive to work instead of ride my bike.
    You're so hard-core.


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