We’ve finally reached the point in the year when the dust has more or less settled after the busy season at my job (late fall), the holidays (you know, December), and the busy season at Alia’s job (January), and though the lack of commute into downtown Boston means that I still don’t ride my bike as often as I’d like (i.e., twice a day during the week plus weekend rambles), I am a) very lucky to have a job, especially one that has been so excellent in handling the pandemic and b) still riding, still able to ride. This is a good thing, for my physical health, my mental health, and, you know, fun.
That said, I’ve been riding the bike trainer way too fucking much this year.
I bought the thing off eBay from a guy in Wisconsin (this is relevant, bear with me) early on in the pandemic when all the bike shops were sold out of them (save the $1000+ ones), and I considered it a present to myself for having finished my MFA thesis. These were the ugly, heady early days of the pandemic and it wasn’t clear if going outside was going to be OK or not, so I figured, “hey, why not try Zwift?”
It’s been good and fun and though it means that some days when I maybe could go outside and ride, I ride indoors instead (looking at you, cold gusty rain days), it’s been especially nice in the winter, as I don’t trust the drivers so much out where I like to ride once it gets dark, and this being New England, it gets dark at like… 4:30 (this is thankfully now changing). But the point is I’ve been riding indoors a fair amount. Enough so that I can do it for longer than the mere 20 minutes that I’d originally been able to tolerate. It’s still not “fun,” per se, but having the “smart” trainer helps, as does Futurama.
But anyway, I’ve been making it a point to get outside more, even when this means rides where after I take off my fall gloves to eat a snack halfway through a ride I have to stop and put on my winter gloves a few miles down the road because it got too goddamn cold. I’ve also started wearing produce bags inside my shoes (thanks Wiso, for the tip).
I like long rides and I like my “road” bike , and that’s what I ride the vast majority of the time. But you see, I used to live in Wisconsin…
(See? It was relevant.)
In Wisconsin I rode fat bikes in the winter because that’s what there was to do, and that’s how I made all my (twice-as-old and also retired) friends. It was genuinely awesome. I rented a bike from the finest folks at Bay City Cycles and then bought myself my first new bike, a Surly Wednesday, and rode the crap out of it until we moved to Boston.
In Boston, there was less a “need” for the fat bike. I would commute on it certain days in winter. I eventually discovered the relatively excellent trail system about a mile from where we live, and I would “mountain bike” on rare occasion with some buddies. I am ideologically opposed to driving-to-ride-a-bike if I can help it (D2R2 being the exception – apparently I did not do a write up for 2019?), and so until I found the trails I didn’t ride it much. After storing it wet after a snowy commute I didn’t touch it, and then the squealing was such that I had to replace the pads and rotors… and then I bought a different handlebar… and then decided I was done spending money on it, after buying the parts to make it a single speed, of course.
And so eventually I made it a single speed, rode it more, remembered how fucking fun it is to ride, and so I ride it a little more, but mostly when it snows, because that’s the most fun. And there’s been snow on the ground (a little snow, very cold snow, so great for bike riding). And so yesterday I went out to ride before the deluge of what promises to be shitty wet snow falls down upon us today and tomorrow (also, I have to, you know, work for money).
The ride was fun, and I even stopped at my favorite bench to drink some (by then) lukewarm tea out of my thermos.
I think single speed is the way to go for this. Yeah, it makes deep snow harder, but tbh deep snow is always hard. I don’t have to think much except “pedal.” I did just a little more than 11 miles and it was perfect. I do think I want yet another, different handlebar (the one I was too cheap to buy the first time), and I think I’ll also swap the saddle with an old C15 I have soon to be lying around, and I think also maybe I want a more set-back seatpost. But in time.
For now, it was just fun to ride. And though I’ll be on the trainer again tonight (see: deluge of snow), I’ll be thinking about the woods, about the nice, crackly sounding snow, about the adventures I’ve been missing from Wisconsin, and also, you know, probably whatever’s happening on Futurama.