Winter cycling is, for me, still very much an experimental and completely optional pursuit. I am not required to travel from point A to point B out of necessity five days a week. I don’t have to train regularly or grit my way through miserable weather due to some unavoidable obligation. Basically I can do it when and if I chose. The problem is if I only chose the finest and fairest days I could end up going weeks without riding. Part of experimenting is going out in less than ideal conditions. Doing so allows me to learn, first hand, what is and is not a limitation for me. I draw the line at ice. Unless I purchase studded tires there is no sense messing about with poor traction. I also avoid heavy rain though it is possible to remain dry for modest distances with modest energy output. I also avoid strong wind. In winter wind not only makes it hard to hear approaching cars, the chill factor can be very difficult to dress for and/or tolerate.
Yesterday I decided I would be my own guinea pig and try cycling to Guysborough against a significant headwind. My strategy: overdress. I was determined not to be cold. Yes, people seeing me wobble along the side of the road would assume I was freezing but I didn’t think that would have to be the case. It wasn’t. I wore cycling shorts, polyester tights and thin nylon pants on my lower body, a short, fleece sweater, fleece vest and down jacket on top. On my feet regular winter boots, and on my head a beanie cotton balaclava beneath my helmet, mitts for the hands.
I was never cold. Being too hot was definitely more of a concern. It’s very difficult to get it right. By unzipping layers I could increase air flow to cool off but some parts remained warm while others became uncomfortably exposed to gusts. I had other outerwear with me but didn’t bother changing.
The distance from my home to the golf course is twelve to thirteen kilometers but because of the headwind it felt like much more. I decided I would park the bike and go for a walk to see if there were any geese in the neighborhood.
As I approached a hollow I could hear the agitation as an awareness of my presence spread through the grouping of geese hunkered down on a distant fairway. Some of them began to move away but before I could get anywhere near the signal was given and all the birds burst skyward into a big honking mass. The noise of three hundred geese directing their annoyance toward one little human is quite daunting. They gained altitude, circled and then landed in the harbour.
I walked around the deserted course a little longer then returned to my bike. I rode back through town then decided to vary my route by going along the edge of the harbour on the shore trail.
The remaining ride back home benefited from a tailwind and light traffic. The sun was setting as I climbed the long hill near my house. Today’s experiment went well. I now know I can handle a significant windchill which, in turn, will serve to reduce my avoidance of windy conditions.