Em­brace the out­doors

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - By James “Cranky” Ram­say

An old-school ap­proach to win­ter rid­ing

An­other cal­en­dar year has passed. It’s the hol­i­day sea­son again. We all know what that means. First, it means that your favourite cy­cling colum­nist is slightly balder, a lit­tle more hard of hear­ing, and an­other year closer to death. Sec­ond, it means that most of us aban­don out­door rid­ing for a few months. This is the time of year when we re­treat to se­cret un­der­ground train­ing bunkers where we build strength, power and men­tal for­ti­tude so that we can emerge in spring – balder, deafer, older and faster on our bikes.

But what if there’s an­other way? Well of course there is, I hear you say – the way of the sloth. You can spend the win­ter rest­ing (though not nec­es­sar­ily up­side down from a tree branch in Costa Rica). A win­ter of to­tal rest is one op­tion. I’ve tried it a few times. I can say with con­fi­dence that you’ll come out of win­ter with truly fresh legs, as the say­ing goes, but they won’t be much use to you when you fi­nally swing one over a bike.

No, the other way I’m ad­vo­cat­ing is to swear off in­door train­ing en­tirely. Choose to em­brace win­ter rid­ing in all its glory. There are a num­ber of com­pelling rea­sons to take this ap­proach.

First, you’ll suf­fer more out­doors than you will in­doors – or at least you’ll suf­fer in more var­ied and won­der­ful ways. I’m sure you’ll agree that the abil­ity to with­stand dis­com­fort and pain is the chief at­tribute of a win­ning cy­clist. While it’s true that in­door train­ing brings its own brand of suf­fer­ing to the sport, it doesn’t come close to match­ing the bru­tal­ity of a wet three-hour ride in sub­zero tem­per­a­tures. It’s a full-body ex­pe­ri­ence, en­com­pass­ing frozen fin­ger­tips, hoar­frost-en­crusted eye­brows, chapped lips, painful knee joints and numb feet. It’s bad enough alone, but if you ride be­hind a friend, you also get a face full of filthy spray from your part­ner’s back wheel. There’s lit­tle ques­tion that this builds char­ac­ter.

Sec­ond, you’ll shorten the life of your bike (or at least of its com­po­nent parts). Rid­ing on icy, slushy roads means that you’re ac­tu­ally rid­ing through a mix­ture of wa­ter, dirt and un­known ice-melt­ing com­pounds, the most be­nign of which is road salt, with doubt­less many more cor­ro­sive and dan­ger­ous chem­i­cals in the mix. Be­cause it’s mi­nus -20 C, the odds of you wash­ing your bike prop­erly (or at all) af­ter such a ride are slim to none, so your poor steed will be left to drip dry in the base­ment while the toxic cock­tail eats away at your ce­ramic de­railleur pul­ley bear­ings and os­trich-leather han­dle­bar tape.

But wait – how is mur­der­ing your bike with dirt and salt wa­ter a good thing? Stay with me here. Clearly it’s not, which means you have one of two so­lu­tions avail­able: you can ei­ther buy a new, pur­pose-built win­ter bike or you can re­pur­pose your cur­rent “good bike” to be­come a win­ter bike, thereby en­sur­ing that you need to buy a new “good bike.” Ei­ther way, you have an iron­clad ar­gu­ment that will al­low you to ex­er­cise the “n + 1” clause within your house­hold. (You’ll re­call that “n” equals the num­ber of bikes you cur­rently own. The equa­tion helps you to achieve the proper num­ber of bikes in your sta­ble.)

Third, who among us doesn’t en­joy a jus­ti­fied shop­ping spree? If you’re go­ing to brave a Cana­dian win­ter on the bike, you’ll need much more than a ded­i­cated bike to ride. You’ll have to buy a bunch of new win­ter gear and ac­ces­sories. In­su­lated bot­tles? A rider has to drink. Wind­proof bib tights? Can’t do with­out them. And the list goes on, from wa­ter­proof shoe cov­ers (in­dus­try se­cret: these are not ac­tu­ally wa­ter­proof) to usb-recharge­able heated mit­tens, to merino wool un­der­wear hand-knit­ted by Mario Cipollini’s grand­mother. (It fits a bit loose in the thighs, but she’s an old lady and I don’t have the heart to send it back.)

So there you have it: a new ap­proach to get­ting through the win­ter, the old-fash­ioned way. Now get out there and ride, up­hill both ways into the wind. It won’t make you any younger, but it will make you stronger. And who knows – all that fresh, cold air whistling through your hel­met might stim­u­late a lit­tle hair growth on the top of your head.

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