AXC - The bike

AXC - The bike

Friday, January 31, 2014

A cold ride in. (aka: crazy is as crazy does)

A cold ride in.
aka: Crazy is as crazy does.

In the time I’ve been doing triathlon, marathon, century bike rides, mud runs, etc, one constant through it all was always people calling me ‘crazy’ for my endeavors.
Lately, I feel like I’ve been earning that descriptor a little more than usual.
In order to train for my upcoming cross country trip, I’ve been riding in to work. 20 miles each way, in the dark, in the cold (no, not uphill both ways, although it does feel like it sometimes.)

Every week I watch the weather forecast closely for a day that I can ride in, because I can’t ride if it’s too cold. When it’s below about 25 or 30 degrees I can’t keep my hands and feet warm.

Today (Friday, January 31, 2014) was the first day in a couple weeks where the temp was over 20 (let alone, out of the single digits!) And although the starting temp of 25 is lower than I prefer, I was eager enough to get my ride on that I decided to brave it.

Normally I’m very fortunate because I live exactly one mile from the Schuylkill River Trail. I can just coast downhill to the trail and ride that all the way to the Philly Art Museum (about 17 miles), mostly traffic free on the trail. Unfortunately, there’s a bit of the trail under reconstruction, so now I have to take a detour. This was my first time doing this detour, so I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find the path. It turned out not to be too hard, but I did have to walk over some dirt, around a tree, and squeeze through a barricade. But I’m committed to my endeavor!
However, despite all my planning, it didn’t occur to me that the trail would still be snowed over from last week’s blizzard. I got about 500 feet down the trail and decided this wasn’t tenable, I was slipping and sliding all over, and going <10 mph. At that rate it would take me all morning. So turned around to come back to the road, at which point the bike slipped and I fell over – still clipped in to my pedals. I went down in the snow, but still pretty hard on my left knee.

At this point I was seriously contemplating just turning around, going home and driving in. But as my friend Spring H once pointed out to me, I’m really not one to give up when the going gets tough, so I went back out to the road and just kept pedaling. I stuck to side roads and didn’t get on the trail at all. It was a little nerve wracking, but I know the back roads a little and was able to keep mostly to lightly traveled streets.

One slight drawback (besides the traffic) is that while the SR Trail is completely flat, the surface roads are hilly as hell through Conshohocken, roxbourough and manayunk! And on a 31 lb bike plus saddle bags, it was the definition of a ‘schlep’! Still, I just kept telling myself, ‘it’s good hill training’, knowing the actual bike ride cross country is going to make this ride seem flat, and I’ll be doing it with +40 lbs of gear! (On the up side though, it will be warm and there won’t be ice on the ground!)

Once I got through Manayunk, I was on the Kelly Drive path and it was a bit easier. I opted to take the West River side path because I wanted to get some cool pictures of the frozen river and Boat House Row.  You can tell me if the pictures are any good. I was glad to do it, but taking the lesser traveled side of the path meant there was more snow and ice on the path and it was a little more treacherous.

Finally, just shy of 2 hours later, I pulled into the parking garage at work and locked up my bike. Mysteriously, there were only 3 other bikes on the rack (and one of them looked abandoned). I wonder why more people didn’t ride in today?
Oh, right, because they’re not crazy.

In all, it was a good ride in. Every time I do this I learn something new. This time it was about ice on the path. Last time it was to wear warmer gloves. And even despite the cold and difficulty, I do enjoy the ride, the physical effort, and just the learning experience of what it takes to ride this new bike with new gear. Every ride gets me more prepared for the trip, which in turn gets me more excited. 


  1. 1) Sounds like a very good ride to build character. You get life points for going when the going gets tough....or frozen...or whatever! 2) The pics are cool, too. 3) you need to invent a bike that either has skis or a heater or, preferably, both!

  2. Your pictures were great, Aaron! You are a crazy lunatic for biking to work in the snow & ice, of course, but that's why we love you. And will keep reading to see where the road leads you next.