Monday, December 6, 2010

Frozen leaves

For a few years now, it has surprised me a little how psyched I get about mountain biking in the winter. As thin-skinned humans with limited body hair to keep us warm, we typically think of cycling as a summer pursuit; but since moving back to Virginia, I've come to be way more excited about winter rallies. So I came up with a top 10.

1) We never get enough snow to really prevent a rally. Except when we get 2 feet of snow in one storm. Twice in one year. Completely shutting the city down and bringing life as we know it to a grinding halt.

and even then, there is someone loony enough to line it up and race.

don't kid yourself, this is fun.

There's a lot of bad noise this year about a recurrence of the dreaded Winter of Ought-9. Apparently, the farmers almanac has made some pretty grave predictions about another heavy snow year, cold temps, the end of mankind, etc.

Hogwash, I say. I happen to subscribe to a different almanac - the law of averages. And the law of averages says that we can't possibly have a repeat of last winter. That would be like lightning striking twice in the same place, which never happens. Except when it happens.

2) Temperatures below 100 F, guaranteed. I drank 3 bottles on a 1 hour ride in July this year and still ended up dehydrated. Conversely, I don't even carry a bottle for a 1 hour winter rally. (Notably, this also frees up significant bottle cage space for a whiskey-laden flask of some sort, but that's neither here nor there.)

3) Frozen singletrack. I've been saying for years that paved singletrack is the future. Until that time, there is sub 30 degree dirt. Try it out, lean into a typically loose corner, and stick to it like glue. You'll never be the same.

4) No bugs. Those of you who have seen my bug-bite riddled legs around August know what I mean.

5) Night rides - with no better options and no excuses, riding at night is a freeing experience. You now have 24 hours of the day to choose from to get your rally on. The rat race not only seems far away at 3 AM at the top of Simmons gap, it IS far away. Take a jacket though.

6) New Gear. Santa seems to make most of his deliveries in the darkest, coldest hour of our year. This is no coincidence, and neither is his triple chin or his jolly, fat ass. When a fat, old guy falls from the sky and brings you a frame/fork/chain/silver thomson seatpost/whatever, it's not just because the elves made it and he had to get rid of it. He is trying to tell you something. If you ignore that until Spring, you are missing the point.

7)Baddass: Winter races.

Font size SnotCycle Check Spelling
Darden Towe Cross

Marco Pantani International Cycling Classico.

8) trail building. soft dirt, plenty of water to work with.

9) Destination riding. Take a plane, pack your shit, go to some place warm.

10) Alright, I'll say it. Cross training. But I'll also give you some wisdom inparted to me by a wise, old man: "Show me someone who is injured, and I'll show you someone who runs."

Running. Awful stuff. At your own risk.

I'm surprised by how easy it was for me to dig up pictures of snowy, wintertime rallies. In case the pictures don't properly convey the emotion, people are having a lot of fun therein. There is something to that: something about how mountain biking, the act of riding in the dirt, is in itself a sort of sloppy, disorderly, imperfect pursuit, and getting your ride on in the winter is an appropriate representation of why we do it in the first place.

Like dreidels, we keep spinning. Happy Hanukkah, folks.


  1. Oooh, you're dredging up some repressed memories, there, Dave.

  2. Old man! If i could catch you, i'd put you over my knee! But seriously, running is miserable.