Hot it’s not. Hotter than hell would be swell right about now. Because here in Central Texas the Valentine’s / Presidents Day cold front is a weeklong blast that has 2 million people statewide without electricity. Like much of the US, we’ve suffering through an Arctic weather pattern that is so cold (how cold IS it?) that temperatures are below what it normally is in Anchorage, Alaska. It was forecast to be 5 degrees F tonight, and we got our first ever Wind Chill Warning, meaning it could feel like under 0. This was the third heaviest snowfall ever and the most since 1949. Over 6 feet fell at the main weather station, though where I stay was not as much, but it was plenty. Except for my year in New England, this is the most snow I’ve ever seen. The roads are not safe, and most everything is shut down for several days. But today the sun came out, and I’m still A Dude Abikes, so I went out on a wobbly, wandering walk, and later a short, slushy, and slow bike ride.
The storm had gone, the sun was out, and only a light breeze blew. Snow is a novelty here, but we had some in January, too. So I was less excited bit still interested, though more concerned about hypothermia and frostbite. I put on so many layers that I was soon sweating; it was about 25 items. Lots of students from the University of Texas were out (in far less clothing) having fun. Neighbors were out walking their dogs or playing with their kids. Fun.
More people than I expected were risking driving somewhere but very slowly. Mostly 4-wheel dries and Jeeps but plenty of regular cars. Some enterprising (or possibly drunk) frat boys were even dragging an inflatable mattress behind their truck — with two people on it. An eerie silence was punctuated by the occasional spinning tires or shouting or laughing young people. It reminded me how noisy the city is normally, especially the highway traffic. My boots crunched in the white stuff, and I made sure to not slip on the icy and melted slushy parts.
Once back from my walk I was sweating so I had to remove some clothes. Since I was all suited up, I debated whether I would try to bike. It was beautiful but treacherous. I figured I’d try out Sonnie the GT with her flat pedals, 21 gears, and wider, slightly grippier tires. If it was too dangerous, I could just come back and try to fix the flat on Sophie the Fairdale and use my trainer. So that’s what I did. And boy, was snow biking it tricky! I guess my bike handling skills are pretty good. On the more solid powdery snow, I was fine. On the slushier or remelted and icier patches, the back tire was slipping around a lot. I had to put a foot down a number of times and walk to a safer spot to restart, but I managed to avoid any falls.
After five miles I’d had enough and was not enjoying myself at all. Okay, a little. I actually burned a good number of calories just gripping the handlebars so hard and staying upright. The brakes were so wet they were barely working, and the snow had seeped into various bike parts and refrozen so the tires were about to lock up.
If I want that kind of excitement again, I should wait for everything to thaw and get a gravel bike. But I’m glad I ventured out, keeping my streak of biking every day for 16 months going. Tomorrow, I’ll take a walk, but for the next few days, I’ll do my bike ride on the trainer, inside with the heat on. It’s boring as heck, but I can put on music, maybe watch a video or even read. And I can git ‘er done much faster.
I guess the takeaway for any aspiring bicyclists out there is that if you are very dedicated, prepare well, know your limitations, and are a little bit adventurous, you can still get outside an move your body in challenging weather. Of course, for the folks who regularly ride in the cold, you know all about this. I’m sure it must be amusing, but you have snowplows and we don’t, so we’re just not used to this. Come on down when it’s 110 degrees and we’ll show you around! Thanks for reading about my snowy walk and bike ride.
Have you done any bike rides you’ve in very challenging weather conditions?
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