Winter Riding: Welcome to the Suck

by M

This is the time of year that separates the men from the boys, the sheep from the wolves, and the lazy from the uh… whatever. My newsfeed is full of exhortations to buy a turbo trainer or a megawatt of LED lighting so I’ve acquired the former and put it under the bed for safekeeping. It’s like the shit follow car they use as a threat in a Top Gear challenge only I’m under no obligation to use it, regardless of how little I ride my bike outside because it’s too cold and I resent the feeling of intrusion I get when my genitals retreat inside my torso in a futile bid for warmth.

Rapha would have us believe that cycling in the winter is a Herculean struggle pitting man against the elements which of course is true but rly guise?:

Rapha Winter

Outside was hard: winter is hard like the truth is hard. But the only place in winter where a bike rider can find warmth isn’t under the sheets with their head turned to deny the day, it is in the moment that you walk back through the front door with the harshness of winter defeated behind you. Only there you will find your warmth; only there you will find your comfort.

Actually I find quite a lot of comfort by staying under the old 13 tog.

There’s a problem with winter riding – it sucks. No matter how perfectly judged your attire, you’re on a constant knife edge when it comes to controlling your body temperature. Two base layers, a jersey and an insulated jacket are great when you’re cruising on the flat but should you choose to climb a hill, cue overheating, getting covered in sweat, and then freezing on the descent. For a delicate flower like me, no amount of ‘technical clothing’ or forward planning seems able to overcome the fundamental incompatibility with Mother Nature.

So what’s the solution? What I do on a bike couldn’t accurately be described as “training” but like most roadies I’d like to suck less. I’ve also been stupid enough to enter a ‘cross race in January and I’d like my humiliation to be of the ‘whimsical anecdote material’ variety rather than the ‘bringing eternal shame to the family name and being forced to woodchipper my bike and ritually eat the fragments’ kind.

Giant TCX

I’ll remove the Ass Saver and Strava my ride first, naturally.

All of this is just an excuse to post a picture of my ‘cross bike really. That’s 9 speed Tiagra baby, no expense spared. Will it rekindle the joy I may or may not have once felt about riding in the winter? We shall see. It would perfectly valid to question why I do any of this, and question it I do. The best justification I can come up with is that just occasionally, in spite of the frozen fingers, constricting layers and crushing sense of futility, it’s just fucking fantastic.

Winter ride.