Sub-zero riding

It’s a white cloud windless day out there and the temperature has risen above freezing. I confess, I’m a bit disappointed.  I’m going for a ride later but there’s no way it can be as good as yesterday’s ride.

Yesterday was clear blue sunny skies and minus three all day long with a dramatically flaming sunset for a finale.

Sunshine always gets me out, so in spite of being a big wuss about snow and ice and spending rather too much time on the turbo-trainer recently, I had to get out. I figured that the roads would have been well salted and any residual ice would have gone so there were no excuses…  and anyway I at last had that precious commodity *time.*

Course, the bike was still well covered with sand and accompanying salt from the Swansea ride, so unless I wanted to wreck my chain and cassette, it had to be cleaned.  I’m totally ashamed to admit that was done in three minutes flat by throwing buckets of water at it (the hose etc was frozen solid) scrubbing it briefly, giving it a cursory drying and squirting liberally with WD40.

Getting togged up to ride took much longer.  I was drawer-scrabbling for ages before deciding what to wear.  I was tragically under-dressed for Swansea in the grip of winter and determined not to make that mistake again. Being that uncomfortable on a bike was a not-to-be-repeated first.

So I togged up thoroughly.  Forget all that bike website stuff about riding in the winter and wearing all the expensive technical clothing. It’s all cobblers designed to make you spend more money.  Capt Sensible spent £50 on a pair of gloves but they still leave his fingers feeling cold.

I already have a good, windproof bike jacket for everything but warm or hot days so it was just a question of layering.  Shorts, Ron Hills, tights, and two pairs of socks for the bottom half. Silk chemise, botany wool polo neck under the jacket for the top half.  Ear protection was provided by my favourite black velvet evening scarf wrapped around my head and ears, tied under my hair at the back and brought around under the chin – extra protection for my neck. The helmet fitted nicely on top of that lot.  Gloves? Black leather with silk linings kept my fingers pretty toasty warm.  Black cotton socks plus the longer red Virgin socks from the airline were all I could fit into my too-well vented trainers.  I should probably try silk socks and proper cycling shoes, some day.

Idiot that I am, I completely failed to take into account that the customary trails leading to the inevitably dual-carriageways might still be icy…  in fact they were icy AND snowy.  So that was a first, negotiating icy, snowy tracks with skinny tyres but fortunately there was no-one to see me if I fell off and double fortunately I didn’t.

As I thought, the main roads were fine and dry but once on the country roads, things got a bit more hairy.  The lanes are already in bad shape and there are plenty of puddles – so all those were still hard-frozen despite a day of sunshine and had to be avoided. There were also patches of snow that had extended out into the road and not been salted or worn by passing traffic.

The familiar ponds were completely iced with ducks standing about on them looking a bit desolate.  The horses were all wearing coats in frosted fields glinting in the bright sunlight.

I only felt it on my face and in my toes but it was *incredibly* cold. Probably the lowest temperature at which I’ve ever cycled.  I was not motivated to blatt.  Going down a hill at 32mph, it felt like my face would probably just crack and fall off in pieces.

But the exhilaration of being out was the thing and walking back into the house was like walking into a sauna. I unwrapped myself and put the kettle on to make some tea, tingling all over.

The second best thing to being out was the long hot shower that followed.

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About janh1

Part-time hedonist.
This entry was posted in Countryside, Cycling and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Sub-zero riding

  1. Pseu says:

    Cyclo’s out there now…..

  2. janh1 says:

    Good man. I’m just going here too! 🙂 Watery sunshine. Not a moment to waste!!

  3. janh1 says:

    Back. It’s six degrees now and my bike (sob) is the muddiest (sob) it’s ever been!! Waaaah. Hose still frozen so many buckets of water later, still not clean.

  4. IsobelandCat says:

    I’m impressed. And worried. Cyclist neighbour was desperate for a ride last year, all fine until hit a patch of ice. She now has a plate in her arm. Take care out there!
    Do you have your own turbo trainer? Seriously?
    And did little leather gloves really keep you warm? I’ve been using thermal liners inside cheap ski gloves. Still cold fingers!!

  5. janh1 says:

    Thanks Isobel, I was v careful, riding in the lanes where the cars have been, hoping it might be slightly salted!

    Yes, turbo trainer is in the dining room. Son #2’s old racing bike is on it so I can hop on and do 30-45 minutes watched with interest by Leo from the basket chair in the corner! Yes the gloves really did. More effective than any cycling gloves I’ve ever had. Leather + silk is the way to go 🙂
    How’s the weather in Ireland? Sub-tropical? I think Scotland and N Ireland have the milder weather at the mo!

  6. Steve says:

    Nicely done. I’m heading out into the sun which is unfortunately paired with freezing temps and 30mph gusts of wind. Your post has provided the requisite motivation for me!

  7. Darrel Kirby says:

    I’ve had similar problems out on a motorbike the past 2 Saturdays – the first in the snow: hair raising on an unfamiliar bike; then yesterday no snow but possibly even colder. I’d forgotten how much fingers could hurt! Positively balmy today by comparison.

    • janh1 says:

      Hi Darrel, yes, coldest day of the winter yesterday, I think. Frozen fingers probably don’t hurt as much just as they are about to drop off! 🙂

      Take care on the Honda monster. Son #1 had one for a while and we went for a hairy-scary spin. A bit like my tandem experience – distinct lack of control when you’re on the back!

    • janh1 says:

      🙂 the heart-in-mouth bit was the weaving between stationary cars. You need way more room than on a bicycle. No probs with sheer, straight-line speed though!

  8. valzone says:

    I’ve just come back from my bike ride, gosh it was exhillirating, I got those pedals moving like a good un. The M25 was a bit scary, but hey, I’m used to it…………
    That got you going didn’t it? Yes, I’m telling porkies…..gosh, I wish I could ride a bike 🙂
    Super blog Jan, as usual.

  9. janh1 says:

    Hi Val – yeah well the M25 rather gave the game away… 😀

    I bet you could, given the right bike and the right circumstances. I regularly see a woman in chelters who rides a tricycle and trailer. Properly eccentric! I don’t think I’m quite nuts enough for one of those but give us a couple of years…

  10. valzone says:

    Oh dear, don’t mention tricycles, my mother had one, and if anyone could cause a traffic hold up, she could. She once blocked the automatic door opening at a Safeway supermarket, because she parked her trike near them. Nobody could get out.

  11. janh1 says:

    Laughing here – bloody excellent Val. I likes the sound of your mum. 😀

    You see? A tricycle = power!! No white van is going to cut you up when you’re riding a trike – you’re already possessing nearly all of your lane and if the lady in Chelters is anything to go by, proceeding in a steady and stately fashion. She also has a Union Jack flag sticking out of the offside back corner of the trailer. It strikes me as a symbolic Agincourt gesture to pushy, impatient drivers
    🙂

  12. valzone says:

    I suppose you have to admire the woman, she has style. My son rides a bike everywhere, he just never got round to teaching me.

  13. janh1 says:

    He still could. A nice level Forestry Commission trail on a quiet day and you’d be away into a leafy paradise with tea and a bun at the end. 😀

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