Heck with the cold, I'm going riding

The cold and a little bit of snow have arrived in Maine, but that by no means signals the end of cycling; just a change in style — fashion-wise and bike-wise. Basically, more layers of clothing and wider tires.

I don't care what I look like ... I'm warm.

Jon and I managed a couple of rides last weekend. The thermostat registered in the low 30s, but the "feels like" reading was in the 20s, with a strong northerly breeze. Straight out of Siberia, I believe! On one trip we cruised by a dude standing in his dooryard in Gardiner who said, "You guys are brave." Actually, I was thinking the word "crazy" seemed more accurate. Needless to say, we didn't come across any other cyclists. What a surprise!

Over the years, Jon and I have this little chant that we blurt out in unison while riding down a road whenever we think we're doing something outlandish. Or more to the point, something manly. Keeping in mind we are a couple of old duffers, this could involve just climbing up and conquering a very steep hill or cycling in not-so-pleasant weather conditions, like pouring rain, snow, etc. So last weekend, in the bitter cold, the rhythmic phrase was uttered loud and clear. It goes like this: "Men, men, men, men, men ..." Just as well we were alone in our craziness.

Anyway, winter is indeed on our doorstep and I'm ready to take it head-on. Earlier this week, with Alan's help at the Farmingdale bike shop, my Specialized fat bike was outfitted with studded tires for the first time. I went with a pair of 45NRTH Dillinger 5 beasts. Each tire contains 258 aluminum carbide studs, so hopefully I'll stay upright and out of harm's way. Alan claims they make a big difference when riding.

I've also bought a store's worth of keep-warm clothing: gloves, long-sleeve jersey, thermal cycling cap with earflaps, balaclava, neck gaiters, and more. This all occurred with my wife, Vicky, offering a running commentary of just four words, "Aren't you done yet?"

As is my custom, if I come across a product that I believe enhances one's cycling experience, such as red flashing rear lights for safety, then I will offer my opinion. Two articles of clothing that "saved my bacon" on those cold rides with Jon — and future rides, I'm sure — are worth mentioning. They are the Velocis S2 Softshell Bib Tights and the Velocis Subzero Softshell Cycling Jacket, sold through Bontrager, the accessory line from Trek Bikes. I readily admit the two garments are pricey, but if you're serious about cycling in cold conditions it's well worth it. I also plan on wearing them for snowshoeing.

The one bummer about riding in the cold, at least for me, is that it takes forever to put all those clothes on and likewise to take them off. But it's a minor complaint I can certainly live with, especially with the end result being on the bike. Be safe out there ... and warm!

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