After weeks and weeks of ridiculously warm winter weather, it’s finally gotten cold around here, so I’ve had the chance to go riding in below-freezing weather. This is the first year I’ve ridden regularly throughout the winter, and I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in for a January. I owe my ability to ride in freezing weather to L.L. Bean’s Wicked Good Toe Warmers, inserts you can place between your sock and the shoe, made of all-natural something or other, and let me tell you — they are wicked good. For some reason I simply can’t keep my toes warm without them. I can wear layer upon layer of socks and layer upon layer of shoe covers and my toes still get numb and painful after about 30 minutes. The Hobgoblin has this problem with his hands, but my hands are fine, and his toes are fine. I don’t get why this is.
The first time I used the toe warmers was on a 3-hour-long ride, and they felt heavenly; simply keeping my toes warm kept me happy the whole time. Now that my toes are warm, I don’t have much trouble riding in temperatures as low as 20 degrees. Below 20 degrees, it would be hard to keep the rest of my body warm — at that point, I feel like I’m working just as hard to stay warm as I am to ride my bike; my mind turns inward, and I have trouble paying attention to the road because I’m busy monitoring how cold I am.
Besides the temperature, the main problems with winter riding are snow and wind. Snow hasn’t a problem so far this year, but even when we get some, the roads tend to clear out and dry up pretty quickly, so even a big storm will only keep my off the bike a few days. I think the wind is more of a problem — partly because of the wind chill and partly because I don’t want to get knocked over, especially not into oncoming traffic.
So far I’ve managed to ride four or five times a week, and I’ve only ridden indoors on the trainer once, and that was because of the wind. It was actually a beautiful day out, sunny and clear, but there were gusts of 50 mph according to the weather reports, and I did not one of those to hit me sideways.
One other problem with winter riding — if it’s below freezing, it’s only a matter of time before my water bottles freeze. The Hobgoblin and I rode for 2 1/2 hours last Sunday, and I couldn’t drink for the last hour because my bottle got clogged with ice. This wasn’t too much of a problem because I don’t sweat much when it’s so cold and so don’t get dehydrated quite as easily, but still, it’s not a particularly good thing.
So, so far my experiment with winter riding has gone quite well, but as this isn’t exactly a normal winter, I don’t really know what it’s like. Would I ride this regularly if temperatures were closer to average and we had more snow? I don’t know, but I hope I would.