Saturday, March 4th was the first CRCA club race of the 2017 season. In the days preceding the race, the temperatures in the New York City area had climbed into the 60s, but nature reversed its course and turned the thermostat back down to “Are you sure you want to ride a bike today? I mean, are you really sure?” The starting temperature for the Saturday’s race was 25 degrees, which is really not a great temperature for racing bikes because of the built-in 25 mph wind chill, which, according to my calculations, created a “real feel” temperature of “everything below your waist is numb and will not function”.
But this brings up the conundrum of modern bike riding—we have really good clothes now—incredibly good really. I am old enough to remember back when bike people had to resort to wearing warm clothing from other sports to stay warm on winter rides. Ski masks and gloves, snow pants and those waffle-ly thermal undershirts were all recruited to attempt to make a winter ride tolerable, and for the most parts these articles of clothing didn’t work for cycling and this was fantastic because it allowed the lazy rider to rightfully claim that it was too cold to ride outside.
But this is no longer the case. Cycling clothing companies have conspired to take away this treasured excuse for not riding. You can purchase cycling-specific clothing that will allow you to ride in almost any temperature range. Want to cross the Arctic on a fixed-gear fat bike with four tires? You can do that now due to the advances made in the clothes for bikes. The only thing stopping you from riding in any conditions is the limits of your own mania. Is this a good thing? Probably not, but this is the way of bike racers. If we see or hear about any other bike racers riding in cold temperatures, we must do something immediately to counteract any advantage gained by our rivals. It’s brinksmanship in Lycra.
So for Saturday morning’s race I was outfitted in the following: balaclava, cold weather cap, thermal buff, Craft base layer with Windstopper front panel (a piece of cycling equipment so essential that I am putting it in my will to be distributed to only the worthiest recipient), Castelli winter jacket, thermal tights with chamois, DeFeet Wool-e-ator socks (I go thin on my sock base layer), top AND bottom chemical warmers on both toes (taped directly to the socks, because I’m not some sort of uncouth animal), a set of Gore Bike Wear Windstopper shoe covers (which will also be bequeathed in my will), and finally a set of $19 Campmor ski mittens. There are many who question whether mittens are a wise cycling choice, as they feel that they reduce dexterity, but I am here to say that I wear them all the time and I am A) not dead and B) my hands were sweaty during Saturday’s race, I repeat—sweaty.
But enough about my sweaty palms, there was a race on Saturday morning. Team Rockstar had a near maximum team turnout for the A race and there were many other teams who had a lot of riders represented. After a warm-up consisting of socializing in the men’s room and shivering on the starting line, we rolled away. We were scheduled for six laps, but that was eventually cut to a more reasonable five laps due to spending too much time shivering on the starting line. The early race was active, with two riders Ross B from Lupus and (I think) Constantine from Veselka getting away together. Teammate Greg H was able to get across to the front of the race and the break became a quintet (I think). This settled things down for us in the pack, and we watched for any dangerous activities.
Once things settled down, I felt the need to take a drink from my water bottle. I gave it a squeeze and found that the cap was frozen, which prevented passage from the fluid contained within. In cold weather, I race with insulated bottles. As the insulation not only keeps water cold in the summer, it also keeps water warm in the winter, but the weak point of any water bottle is the nipple, which freezes first and serves as a dam that holds back the rest of the water held within. On Saturday morning my nipple froze solid. (Let’s take a pause here while I giggle like a fifth grader.) And I sought to remedy the situation by putting the bottle’s nipple in my mouth and un-freezing it with my breath. After a good bit of painting on my nipple (and another giggle pause here), it seemed like my trick had worked, as I could squeeze my bottle and see Lemonade Accelerade come out. I then put the bottle to my face and squeezed very hard to get past any leftover nipple ice. I was then treated to an Accelerade eye wash, as the nipple was still frozen and the content of my water bottle were escaping from the cap of my bottle instead of the nipple, perhaps due to an improper threading of the cap or due to the fact that God hates bike racing in temperatures below 30 degrees. I cursed loudly and heartily and removed my Acelerade-covered glasses. I wasn’t aware of the source of the escaping fluid and in my desperate thirst, I tried squeezing my bottle AGAIN. This squeeze had the same result as the first, except that the Accelerade went all over my eyes and face instead of covering my glasses. This didn’t deter my quest for fluids though, and I gave my self one last sports drink ice facial for good measure.
I rolled through the rest of the race with a slight face glazing (which honestly wasn’t that bad) and an unquenched thirst. Teammate Greg managed to nearly stay in the break until the end, getting caught just before the line in the most spiteful way. I did a premature leadout at an ineffectual stage of the race, and Teammate Victor placed somewhere in the sprint. I went home and spent a good half hour in the shower bringing my nipples back to temperature.