It’s the end of February and time to turn my back, officially, on winter.
The cycling this month has been made all the more pleasant by the lighter mornings and arrival of lambs in the fields surrounding our house. More than once I’ve nearly hit a pothole because I’ve been too distracted by their innocent and feeble bleating (so cute!). This time of year you start to see changes on a weekly basis, such as the patches of snowdrops that you didn’t notice before, new grazing spots for the wintering geese, green buds on hedgerows.
We’ve also got the start of the Belgian Spring Classics to motivate us to dig out the padded shorts on chilly mornings (they feel extra cold if you’ve applied cream to the chamois before you pull them up 😯). I don’t know of any cobbled routes round here but the surfaces of some of the farm tracks have been so chewed up by mud, wind and water that I might fancy my chances at Paris-Roubaix…
How am I doing, miles-wise?
In spite of injuries, ice, snow, storms and bitter temperatures I managed to drive less than 200 miles this month – only 58% of my monthly car emissions budget of 339 miles. We haven’t yet had to fill the car’s fuel tank up this year and I wonder how long we can spin it out for.
What have been the challenges?
Cycling in the freezing cold is not my favourite sport. I have this unshakeable indecisiveness about how many layers to wear and I’ve often found myself either soaking with sweat from all the weatherproof layers I’ve added, or else unable to use my hands for any basic function for half an hour after entering work because they have totally frozen. Hubs recently attended an online cycling conference hosted by a Scandinavian country, and they pedalled out reams of footage of cyclists commuting in deep snow and temperatures in the minus-double-figures, all with smiles on their faces, which were exposed to the air, and I’m just like – HOW?
Although I smugly overcame the treacherously icy surfaces in my neck of the woods by purchasing a pair of snow tyres, I didn’t have the confidence to commute to work on them on the very worst days, and even they couldn’t compensate for weather so cold that my brakes and gears froze! De-icing a car has to be one of my most hated jobs in the world, however, so cycling in sub-zero temperatures often seemed preferable…
We’ve churned through quite a lot of bike parts too! Salt on the roads can cling to every nook and cranny of a bike’s mechanisms and cause rusting. Getting salt stuck between your wheel rims and brakes can wear your wheel rims out pretty quick. If you’re looking to invest in a bike to ride through the worst of the winter weather, a hub gear system is hardier and easier to maintain, and disc brakes negate the wheel rims wear problem.
What have I had to sacrifice?
Not much, actually! We’ve embraced cycling and walking round our local area some more and discovered an old hill fort which is often patrolled by a prowling fox, and a scenic old core path that smuggles us through a hitherto undiscovered valley nestled not far out of view of our house. I’ve elected to visit the more local open-water spots for my cold swimming jaunts so I don’t need to drive to them. What I lose in variety of scenery I make up for in getting watch a familiar landscape change day-by-day. Packing a wetsuit, towel, dry robe and flask of tea pretty much fills two large paniers so you have to be a bit mindful about how you pack!
What have I learned from the challenge so far?
1. No matter how well you think you know your local area, there may well be lots more to discover out of your front door
2. The value of revisiting haunts you know well: so much changes with the seasons, and even more so with the explosion of nature encouraged by the lockdown
3. Cycling in the ice is… not for me
28 February, 2021