It’s been a long cold winter so far. In fact it’s been so cold that I’ve missed more cycling days this winter than the last three winters combined. Having a cold in early January when it was still warm enough out to ride didn’t help either. Normally I go for a bike ride five days a week. In the winter I may miss a day or two here or there because of a snow storm but I usually get back to things pretty quickly. I might average only four days of biking in the winter but I don’t imagine it’s much less than that. But in the last 62 days of this winter I’ve only managed to get out and ride 23 times! That’s about two and a half times a week. That’s nuts. That’s more time off than on. That’s what an extra cold winter and a cold will do to you.

Let me put in perspective what an extra cold winter is. I’ll go cycling if it’s above 20ºF outside. That’s pretty cold in itself but I can still get a ride in. My face mask has to stay pulled up the whole time so I can’t wear my safety glasses and my fingertips will get cold but I can get a ride done even at 20ºF on a cloudy day. But anything below that and the price starts to get too high. I’ve gone out on 17ºF mornings on occasions where I juts can’t wait anymore and want to go for a ride and it’s a tough haul. Once it gets below that 20 degree mark my legs don’t want to work like they normally do. It’s better to wait for a warmer day.

I like to cycle in the mornings too. That means it’s going to be colder out than in the afternoon but in a normal winter that usually means it’ll be above 20ºF by nine AM when I like to ride. Not this winter. This winter there have been plenty of days when the temperature didn’t make it above 20ºF all day. The Siberian Express they call it. The last couple of weeks I got a few rides in but even then I had to go in the afternoon. Rides are tougher in the afternoon as I’ve been working all day and am more tired plus there is more traffic on the roads in the afternoon. I don’t like tougher. I can remember in years past watching the thermometer in the morning and hoping the temperature would get about freezing by the time my ride came around. Like 20ºF is a dividing line so is 32ºF. Above freezing is a different and a little bit easier ride then below freezing. But this year freezing is a distant and often unreachable goal.

It wasn’t even until the 24th of January that we got our first real snow of the winter. We got a good eight inches that day. That’s on the high end of a normal snow storm for these parts. Normally over the winter we get some snow and then some melting and then snow again. That’s the pattern. This year we got snow, then a deep freeze, more snow, and then more deep freeze. We’re lucky that a blizzard just missed us here in Southern NY. We only got four inches of snow that day while a lot of Long Island and New England got feet of the stuff. But Our total snowfall has been around twenty inches with not much melting in between storms. I haven’t seen the grass since before that January 25th snow. That’s not usual.

And let me tell you about the winds. Some days they’ve been fierce. With normal snowfall and melting the snow gets heavy and doesn’t blow around much if it’s been there for days. Not this year. This year had been so cold and windy that, at times, it has looked like a sand storm outside my house. I’ve had to clear my front walk days after a snow storm because the wind blew snow all over the place. Wind like that make a bike ride untenable. Even in warm weather. I went riding in a lot of wind one summer day and nearly got blown over half a dozen times. If it’s gusting up to thirty miles an hour I say don’t go for a bike ride.

My bike needs some work too. The gearing isn’t right. It’s clicking and slipping on me a little bit. I don’t change gears often as I cycle but it won’t always stay comfortably in one gear these days. As I pedal I can feel the bike wanting to change gears on its own. It usually doesn’t but it sure feels like it wants to. It goes click-click-click and I have to shift up, down, and back into the gear I want. Since my bike is covered at the moment in road grime, sand, and general winter filth I can see why it doesn’t want to work at top efficiency. But I gotta tell you the very idea of working on my bike in 20ºF weather makes my hands cold. I’m gonna have to put up with it for a while.

One more winter related thing that has nothing to do with biking. Across the street from my window is a parking lot with a few trees lining it. Fifteen feet or so up in one of the trees, stuck in a branch, is one to those thin yellow plastic shopping bags. Y’know, “Paper or plastic?” and you pick plastic. That’s the one. It’s been there since early December. All this writing I’ve been doing about wind, cold, and snow and that plastic bag has been through all of it and is somehow still up in that tree. I’m not sure how. We’ve had multiple storms with sustained thirty mile an hour winds that make you think the world is going to end but that bag made it through them. Its a little scary. No wonder people want them outlawed. They don’t go away easily.