Being outside when it’s cold is to experience the harsh nakedness of the world. You are hoping you have enough layers on, or that the wind isn’t blowing too hard, or that it won’t snow or even rain or sleet on you. You are hedging your bets: but even if you lose, you still wind up winning. Cold weather riding yields benefits beyond the ride itself.
You talk with your friends about your bike ride in 20 degree weather. “Oh!” they exclaim. “I could never do that. You’re crazy!” You smile, knowing that you ride to avoid being crazy, to calm the doubts in your head.
Encountering other humans on a trail is an exercise in gender determination. Bundled up, they approach like rumbling Michelin men, the only possible indication of who they are being a muffled “hello” through scarves in response to your “good morning”.
You share a knowing nod, a hearty wave: these are your people, the ones for whom the thermometer means very little other than “wear warm clothing” and “move quickly”.
We may not be moving very quickly or very gracefully but We Are Out There, a quarter mile – a half mile – a mile at a time.
You share the trail only with the aforementioned Michelin men or with others who are part of the society of movement at all costs. Extremities – and extremes – be damned, we are getting out there. We are clearing the cobwebs from our brains and the sluggishness from our bones. And when we wind up back at home – with a hot shower, a set of clean clothes, and maybe a hot cup of tea – our muscles are happy and sore, and our minds are refreshed with crisp images from a bike ride: deer galloping down a field; cardinals flashing red across our path; houses with smoke curling upwards from fireplaces within; dogs straining on leashes, thrilled to be outside for the first time in days.
We may not be moving very quickly or very gracefully but We Are Out There, a quarter mile – a half mile – a mile at a time. We are learning about ourselves; we are learning about our world; we are learning about each other.