Every year, it seems to take a few rides to get used to riding in the cold weather. Not so much the being out in it, but the dressing properly. After a few rides, usually your gear is sorted, and you can adjust up and down, to be fairly spot on with the varying temperatures, all being cold.
This past Saturday, I took an hour and a half, to start to process. It was -23C when I left my house, and from what I remembered, I had my best selection of gear to ride in the cold, be as mobile as possible, and not overheat. For folks who don't ride in extreme cold conditions, it's far easier and more common to over-dress, and over heat than it is to under-dress. Of course once you over heat, and start sweating, then the cold can get dangerous.
With two base layers of good wool, a thin polar-fleece jacket and a wind breaker, my torso was perfect. For the legs, a thing pair of tights worn under my favorite manpris did the job. For my head, I tried something new. A thin balaclava, with my skiing helmet and goggles. Worked great. For it's intended purpose, my ski helmet would offer sufficient protection in a wipe out, and without tons of air vents and a fleece liner with earflaps, it's warm! My hands were another story. They were feeling pretty cold after 1 1/2 hrs outside, but when I stepped into our warm house, freak! I just wanted to cut them off they hurt so bad. Felt like a baby, but it was painful. Just the day before I had a pair of pogies in my hand an opted not to buy them. Now I'm wondering if they might help out.
The fact that I stop and take pictures doesn't help the hands out much either. It was my right hand, the shutter-triggering hand, that felt the coldest while out riding.
I think that once I can figure out something to keep the hands warm and toasty, I should be good to go. Winter cycling is my favorite type of cycling and I'm not sure why. I don't even like cold weather much. But there's something about the quite stillness and isolation that seems to be magnified in the cold of winter. Rides seam more epic, even though I go less distance. Somehow, 6 miles from home feels like exploring some far reaches of an uninhabited land. It's invigorating.
I'm trying to find places that I've ridden by before, but never really noticed. Exploring more deeply my own backyard you could say.
One great revelation of this exploring is the canal system, and the long culverts that are now dry and trekkable. These are really cool to walk through. This one is right under highway #1. Semis, cars and trucks were passing over-head. I couldn't hear them, they didn't know I was there. It made for a great place for a little break. Next time, I'm bringing a small stove with me and I'm going to make a cup of coffee. Micro-touring, and my good man Chris has coined it.
It's so great to get away, slow down, and enjoy what nobody else notices or can even see. Little things can have such a profound effect on life. Even in the cold.
P.S.- As a side; I write affectionately of the cold weather from here, a room overlooking the thirteenth hole of a beautiful golf course in Phoenix Arizona. Maybe the memory of the pain of cold has quickly faded. :)