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Monday, January 01, 2018

Sub Zero

Set a personal record today. A record I'd just set yesterday. Prior to that, in February of 2011 I rode to work when it was 2ºF, that was a record that stood for almost seven years.

So New Year's Eve, in my neighborhood, there is an unfortunate tradition of shooting guns in the air starting about 11:00 p.m. and going into the wee hours. It's asinine and dangerous and enough idiots do it the cops really can't do anything about it. So while Corinna and I were stoked at the prospect of setting a new record for a cold bike ride, we weren't going to try a midnight ride on New Year's Eve. A roof will do a lot more to stop a bullet than a bicycle helmet.

So we figured we'd try a short ride about 8:00. It was in the low single digits as we got dressed to go get ice cream from Tropicana. Here's the thing: people on Facebook and whatnot have been asking me if I'm insane to ride in such weather, and the answer is no. Not if you dress for it.

The Hawaiian shirt is mainly for aesthetics, it doesn't provide a whole lot of warmth, but everything else I put on serves a purpose. Wool socks, then think layers: bike shorts under light thermal underwear under heavy thermal underwear under pants; long sleeve cotton t-shirt under cycling jacket (mainly a windbreak) under a heavy virgin wool sweater under the Aloha shirt. Heavy balaclava, extra face guard, ATV goggles (ski goggles would work but they have tint, and winter riding tends to be riding in the dark). Mittens (I have some Carhart mittens that get downright sweaty even in single digit cold, a pair of black mittens almost as warm, and some army surplus sniper mittens from the Korea/Vietnam era that pair a heavy wool inner mitten with a leather and canvas outer mitten.

We rode up towards Tropicana and when we got to a bank that shows the temperature it was reading 0ºF. We took the obligatory selfies, congratulated each other on a new record (Corinna isn't 100% sure it was a new record for her, she thinks she may have seen -1ºF once a long time ago), then set off to find ice cream.

Yes ice cream. I know it's cold, but think about it, cold weather makes you crave fat and calories in general, ice cream is fat and sugar.

Anyway the ice cream shop was closed when we got there even though their Sunday hours said they were open until 10:00. So we rode home and I toasted my chilly toes by a space heater. The thing about riding in the cold, if something's uncomfortable you figure out an improvement to your setup for the next time. Chemical toe warmers would have been nice, we were only out for about an hour, but I made a note of that, I have a station of them, I just hadn't thought of them. And in the army mittens, I found my thumbs got a little cold too.

So when I woke up New Year's morning and the temperature had dropped to -6ºF, I was excited to set a new record. Not excited enough that I didn't hit snooze a few times and stay in my nice warm bed, but we got up and moving way earlier than we would have if there wasn't a new record to set. So it had warmed up when we got by the bank at 7th and Minnesota. -5ºF. I had my toe warmers in, and my hands were actually sweating up the Carhart mittens.

We delivered a bit of holiday cheer to a friend of ours in Strawberry Hill, and I thought that would be about it for me. But I was comfortable enough I went ahead and rode with Corinna to her office over in the Crossroads district. Hung out there for a bit, drank a hot tea and three coffees (I rarely drink coffee, or hot beverages in general, but somehow they hit the spot today).

Riding home I spotted a few more cyclists out, but mostly I noticed the handful of car drivers giving double-takes that anyone was out riding in such weather.

It was tiring but truly fun. It's challenging, mainly figuring out the wardrobe. But as I've pointed out to people who can't believe someone would ride in such weather, you wouldn't cancel your ski trip because it was cold in Colorado. You'd just harden the hell up and dress for the wether.

Truly, the hardest part is keeping your phone from dying. Those chemical warmers are pretty good for that too, I figured that out today. Two toe warmers on the phone case, then put the phone in a pocket of my cycling jacket shell so it was under a couple of layers and relatively close to my body. Cuz without Strava, it's like your ride didn't happen.

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