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On Biking: Riding in a winter snow storm

Posted by Your Town  February 8, 2013 07:07 PM

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When I headed out for a bike ride this morning, a little after ten, the snow was light and the wind had not yet picked up. The visibility was good, and it was hours before vehicles (I’m assuming the Governor meant cars and bikes) would be banned from the roads.

And even though I was riding in a snowstorm, I felt safe pedaling along the Paul Dudley White Bicycle Path that runs along the Charles River. I was close to the city and yet smack dab in the middle of nature. If I squinted hard enough, it looked like I was in the woods of Maine.

This, I thought to myself, is pure biking bliss. And it was. Right up until my mid-section got soaked by a wave of salty, sandy, slushy water, kicked up by a car driving past as I waited to cross Bridge Street.

The good news: I was only about 45 minutes from home. The bad news: I am no Ernest Shackleton. Meaning, I was starting to get cold and I feared that I might get frostbite of the belly. What had started off as an epic adventure was now just a race to the finish line.

Up until I was swamped by that Tsunami of snow, I was doing great. I had worn enough layers and Windbloc to stay warm without overheating. I had brought two bottles of bug-juice to keep from dehydrating, as well as a tasty (well, it was tasty when I was hungry) freeze dried energy bar. My oversized mittens kept my fingers warm, and my lightly tinted glasses kept the wind and the snow that was blowing sideways out of my eyes. Meaning I could see the trail and most of the bumps in the road.

For most cyclists, snow means riding on an indoor trainer. Which, I have come to believe, is a form of torture that should be banned by the Geneva Convention.

But riding through the woods, over hard packed snow, that is a pleasure, one of nature’s gifts to cycle-philes like me. Sure, pedaling through the woods will not make me faster. And the hard ground makes my bike feel like a boneshaker. But a ride through the woods puts my mind at ease. On my bike, pedaling along, the snow falling around me, the Charles River beside me, I felt a deep sense of calm. It was like outdoor yoga on two wheels.

So that Tsunami of slush? Had I been walking, I would have been annoyed. But with all of those feel-good chemicals coursing through my brain, I saw things differently. And so, I decided to laugh. I decided that somewhere, buried deep inside me, was an inner Ernest Shackleton just waiting to come out.

Enjoy the ride, I told myself. It’s just a little wet stuff. No big deal.

And so I did. I smiled, I laughed, and I thought about the long hot shower and the warm cup of tea that awaited me.

As I crossed the B.U. Bridge, I decided to take a detour and visit my friend Mark, the manager of my local bike shop. I was a sight, and I wanted to be seen. I also wanted to laugh and compare notes with someone who knew that a ride like this was epic, not crazy. Someone who could appreciate the beauty and joy I felt from expressing my Shackleton.

But when I rolled up to my local bike shop, I saw a sign announcing that they were closed. I guess that made sense. After all, who goes to a bike shop in the middle of a snowstorm?

I just hope that Mark, and all of my friends, at all of the bike shops all around town, were able to enjoy their own epic adventure, on or off of the bike.

Jonathan Simmons is a psychologist and an avid cyclist. His book, “Here For The Ride: A Tale of Obsession on Two Wheels,” is published by Climbing Ivy Press.

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