All Bundled Up, Now What? – Find happiness on a bike!

Welcome back to the second edition of the “All Bundled Up, Now What?” series where we are exploring the equipment that enables you to get up.  If you been following along, you’ll see we are progressing ever so carefully so that your comfort level of being out in the cold and your quiver of gear can grow slowly as you progress.   In our last session, “All bundled up, now what? – Snowshoeing is a good place to start!” we talked about starting with everyday activities you already do in warmer weather and trying them in the winter.  This allows you to focus your budget on infilling and tweaking the clothing you need while minimizing upfront the investment in hardgoods.   At this session, we will explore riding a bike in the winter.

While this may seem like a sidestep from traditional alpine activities like skiing and snowboarding, it’s not as far off as you might initially think.  Keep in mind, we are considering progression in all aspects.  A bike is a natural step past snowshoeing as it will enable you to further your comfort level of being out in the cold, it raises your cardio fitness level, it familiarizes you with slippery conditions thereby increasing your balance, and last, but certainly not least, its FUN!

1795177_10203924315721024_2063875640209594188_oIn my lifetime, there 3 skills in my life that brought the biggest grin to my face.  These are walking, riding a bike, and skiing.  While I don’t have any memory of the first, I know from watching my family grow up its the first moment of sheer joy on anyone’s face.  Riding the bike, especially the first time breaking away your parent running behind you is clearly the second in my mind.  As lastly, the early experience skiing which we will get too soon enough.

Photo by Luis Angel

Honestly, the joy of bikes was something that sometime after my youth and my adult life I had set aside.  I don’t know why perhaps the convenience of driving effected me.  I always had a bike, but it just hung from the ceiling in our garage.  About the time I turned 30, I heard about a bike club called the Denver Cruisers that went rode between bars, and I was single at the time so why not?  So I got my bike down, figured out the necessary fixes that needed to happen, and I joined up.   I entirely went on the ride expecting the bar time to be the fun part, but after the first jaunt between the start location to the first stop and the second, I was hooked on my bike again.  It was like I was 8 riding with the neighbor kids down the street all over again.  Just us, our bikes, and the wind in our face.

My cruiser with fat tires on back

I was totally hooked and all summer I rode weekly making new friends and having the time of my life!  I soon “upgraded” from my mountain bike with relatively skinny tires to a more playful bike with a 3-inch wide tire in the back.  At the end of the fall, as the days got shorter and the weather got colder, most of the group quit riding.  However, there was this diehard group that kept going all winter long.  Like this hardy group, the weekly bike ride was quickly becoming this activity that, regardless of the conditions outside, I was going to keep doing.

Despite what the tourism office might tell you, Denver has pretty forgiving weather.  Most of the time, we are well above freezing, and there is little to no snow on the roads.  Eventually, there would be a snowstorm that landed on my bike ride night and my commitment to see everyone made me go.  So that night, I got on my bike, and I rode.  Much to my surprise, with my fatter bike tires I didn’t immediately slip and fall with the first ice patch.  As long as kept a slower pace and my weight balanced, my bike just rolled along without any concern.   When turning, however, there would be some sliding involved but I quickly learn how to control this slide and eventually I’d even play with the slide intentionally…. the otherwise adverse conditions brought even more joy in my life!

Photo by Luis Angel

Does this sound fun to you?  If so, here are the basics you need to consider.  First, you need a bike with at least 2-inch tires with decent traction, an upright stance, and large platform pedals.  Definitely, do NOT use a bike with poor traction, an aggressive stance, and clipless pedals.  Your road bike with slicks and SPD clipless would definitely NOT qualify.  The reason these won’t work is they will put too much pressure on a small surface area and will break through or worst fall out from underneath you.  The large platform pedals allow you to wear boots instead of normal shoes.  If you don’t have a bike or only one with skinny tires, the bike-sharing programs such as b-cycle that have popped up in recent years usually have sufficient traction.   In Denver, the b-cycle program runs year round with no service disruption in service.  Otherwise, check your local bike shop to see if they rent bikes that meet this essential criterion.  Depending on the store, you may get fitted with what they call a “fat bike.”  These bikes are a mountain bike with 4 to 6 inch wide tires that can be run on low tire pressure.  These are absolutely the best option to use as they are designed for the adverse condition.  Look around, even Walmart carries them for sale nowadays.

Fat bike on the right… Photo by Luis Angel

The second factor to consider is staying warm, but you already know how to handle that based on reading Stay Warm series.   If you missed that series, you might find a good place to start is Stay Warm! – Base Layering and follow through to accessories.  Once you are covered with good snow gear on, other items you’ll want to use are the boots that you got after you read snowshoeing and now you’ll want to purchase a good pair of liner gloves.  Another item you can consider is a backpack large enough carry layers that you might shed as you warm up from the ride.  This is optional softgoods though but will be something we will discuss as we progress further into the series.

Photo by Truc Nguyen

The final factor is a reason to go.  This is much easier provided you meet a group of diehards at your side like I did.  However, if you don’t have a local bike club or know a group that would consider a winter ride.  You might need to come up with an event yourself that falls earlier in the winter.  For example, suppose inviting your friends that you met during snowshoeing or know would be interested in a doing a wine ride.  When you invite them, tell them to be fancy and/or creative with a wine-related costume.  We have been hosting this event for about 4 years and its always a huge success regardless of the weather.  Everyone loves an excuse to dress up and its just before people get sucked into their mad holiday rush.  We select a flight (3) of wine bars that are close to each other and schedule it for the third Thursday or weekend in November to celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau.  Beaujolais Neveaux is the new wine and is traditionally used to celebrate new beginnings and often the corresponding wine is drunk at Thanksgiving and other joyous holiday gatherings.   For the second stop, plan a dinner, so people are not getting carried away with their drinking.  Be responsible and, when in doubt, tell people to lock up and take a taxi home!

If you and your friends are not into drinking, another great idea is the Santa Ride. Similar to the wine ride, you select 2 locations for collecting and delivering gifts for kids.     We’ve set it up that first stop has a place like a pool table or even a booth to collect items and the second stop is the charity to which the gifts get delivered too.  If you really want to make it fun, get everyone to dress up as Santa.  It’s probably the best ride of the year for the Denver Cruisers even when its super cold out.  It brings that smile to your face we mentioned above!

I’m sure you can find other ideas that follow the same progression theme.  Just like we have been doing on this blog, its all about steps forward towards a goal and having fun along the way.  We will finally make our way up the mountain next session to some mountain Snowga!  Yes, you guessed right, we are talking about yoga in the snow.  So be sure to check that out next time.

Until then, Pray for Snow and Celebrate with Ullr Provides!

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