The Winter riding season is upon us. The short sleeved jerseys are packed away. The shorts will likely not see the light of day until sometime in April. For many, this is a time for hibernation. But, your club is not only Five Boroughs - it's also Four Seasons. So...why ride when there is an Arctic chill in the air? For me, the answer is obvious - I am a cyclist. It is something that I enjoy doing during the other seasons, and if dressed properly, enjoy it during the Winter. There is a little of the "man versus elements" thing going on inside my brain. But, for the most part it really is fun. The rides are shorter, the groups are smaller, and the sarcasm is still contagious.
The first thing to consider is proper clothing. Summer is easy, grab a pair of shorts, a jersey and hop on the bike. Winter does require some planning. The basic skill is layering. A good silk or lightweight base layer above and below, heavy long sleeved jersey, heavier sweat pants, vest and a windproof jacket normally works for me. Of course a riding cap or balaclava that covers the ears. [Ed Pino has a helmet with built in ear flaps for colder days.] Feet and hands are essential to keep warm. For my feet, I normally wear a pair of silk socks and a pair of heavier wool or athletic socks. My bike has dual pedals, so in the colder days I eschew the clip-ins and wear regular hiking type boots. Their insulation works far better on cold days than my clips that are designed to circulate air. Some take the over boot route, these fit over your bike shoes and are available both on line and in many local bike shops. Hands are also essential to keep warm. Unfortunately, mittens are out. Last year I rode in $8.00 skiing gloves that I got from Modells. This year I am thinking in investing in some lobster gloves. Finally, I am a big proponent of the sleeve. It keeps my neck warm, and I often pull it up over my chin. Lightweight layers will both keep you warm, and prevent you from looking like the Michelin Man.
Winter rides will usually find me with a thermos on my bike with a hot beverage. Warmth from the inside out does a lot to restore the spirit on a cold cold day. A nice cup of hot coffee, tea or apple cider during a short compression stop always seems to revive me. And of course, you do sweat during the winter so along with the thermos it is necessary to take regular water as well. Yep, dehydration can happen in the cold too. Winter food stops, with hearty warming food, are a club tradition. Last year's 17 degree "Deli Good Ride" featuring matzoh ball soup. Hot borscht on a cold day at Cafe Glechick. Last year we were in the Polish Slavic Center having their standard hearty food. When we looked out the window, it appeared that we missed the start of a snow storm. The ride back was one of my favorite rides of the year, as we all began to sing "Biking in the Winter Wonderland." It was like biking inside a snow globe - beautiful.
For many years, Ed DeFraites has been our "Dean" of winter riding. His "Frostbite Series" is a club staple, usually leaving City Hall Sundays at 10:00. [His secret is flannel lined jeans]. Other leaders also are now stepping forward and listing rides as well. This winter I will be doing Poe and Pho, The Good, The Bad and the Gaudy, and bringing back the Brooklyn Donut Massacre. And I am sure that Bill Mastro has some cold weather tricks up his sleeve. I hope that other leaders will also step up and continue to lead throughout the Winter. Remember, as sometimes weather conditions make it unsafe to ride, Winter rides are indeed cancelled somewhat more frequently. So, if the weather looks iffy, make sure to check the web and Facebook pages for notifications.
Hopefully, the Weather Gods will smile down upon us this winter and there will be no need to keep the bike on the hook. Winter riding can be fun. Join us and see for yourself.