Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mid-Life Crisis on My Bike

Who in their right mind would choose to go biking in Minnesota during January with a windchill of -1º F? Me. We've had some rain over the past couple days. Luckily, the temperature rose above freezing during the daytime, and my fair city of Roseville managed to apply a hotbed of chemicals, salt and sand. Most of the ice and snow has evaporated from the city streets.

After driving my daughter to musical rehearsal, I ascertained that the roads were fairly safe. The car's temperature sensor indicated 16º F. I knew it was likely to be a cold ride, but hey, that's why I own thermal clothing. I put on a pair of compression leggings and a fitted long sleeve mock. Then, I added some fleece sweatpants, wool socks, a knit cap, tech gloves, padded bike gloves and tennis shoes. Finally, I slipped on a fleece lined bike jacket and a waterproof bike shell on my way to the garage.

Once I'd unlocked my bike and checked tire pressure, I donned my helmet. I always, always, ALWAYS wear my helmet. Coasting down the drive and hitting the street, the brutal arctic wind rabidly bit at my exposed cheeks. I tucked my chin into my jacket trying to find some relief. Taking a ragged breath, the icy air burned my nostrils and barely filled my lungs. I honestly considered turning around and parking my bike for the rest of the winter, but in the end I reasoned that the first mile would soon be behind me. The warm, wet sweat of exertion was to be my most welcome companion.

I cycled around Lake Owasso. There is an unobstructed view of the lake along its north side. Gaining velocity over the frictionless frozen sheet, a brutal blast pierced my thermal armor as deftly as knight's sword. No copse of trees shielded me from its onslaught. Dozens of ice fishing shelters in all shapes, sizes and colors dotted the lake's tundra-like terrain. Heavy 4x4 trucks and sedans cautiously headed toward or sat alongside their houses on ice. As I began climbing a hill, tears escaped from my eyes. While some streamed down my cheeks others froze to my lashes. Sundrops fell upon my eye-cicles stymieing my vision. I pedaled on.

After 45 minutes, I was nearing the end of my planned route. I detoured from the city streets joining a shared bike and walk way. Roseville maintains most of its trails and sidewalks during the winter, and the trail appeared clear.

 I spotted the problem midway, but I had already fully committed to the route. Snow melt had flowed over the trail in the low lying areas creating large sheets of ice. My strategy was simple. Don't make any sudden moves. Coast over the areas of ice. Prepare to fall.

Having traversed a majority of it, I slowed to maneuver around two men walking in opposite directions on a mini ice rink. Suddenly, my rear tire started sliding left causing the rest of my bike to kiss the ground on the right. Boom! (Boy, am I glad I was wearing my helmet.) My elbow and wrist absorbed most of the shock.

One of the men wisely advised I not try biking at night. My reply, "Yes, sir. I won't try riding this particular trail in the dark. I usually run on it (which is true). Thanks for the advice." Why didn't I just stick to the clear streets? Never fear, my friends! All is only slightly bruised - wrist, elbow and ego.

I really must be having some kind of mid-life crisis! A 41 year-old woman wiping out on a bike in the middle of a Minnesota winter. Most people store their bikes when the temperatures freeze. Not me, not this year... But, guess what? I actually enjoy winter cycling (except when I go boom) so I'll be back in the saddle again, soon.

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