We’ve been having quite a cold snap over the past week, with morning temperatures down in the teens on the American Freedom Degrees™ scale:
While some might turn to Zwift in these conditions, I continue to ride undaunted. Please note that I am under no illusions that I do so because I am possessed of an uncommon level of fortitude. Rather, it’s a simple matter of innate physical attributes. See, I happen to run hot, so I’ll take 30 degrees
Farenheit Fahrenhite American over 30 degrees Celsius any day–unless it’s raining or something like that, which obviously changes the calculus. This is both a blessing and a curse. While the miscalibration of my internal thermostat does allow me to ride on cold days, it also means I sweat through vital components:
And can render even a “stainless” bicycle frame as rusty as a Jersey Shore beach cruiser:
But just because I run hot doesn’t mean I also run stupid, and I wouldn’t subject myself to prolonged stretches of open road in these conditions. Fortunately my residence in upstate New York City makes it relatively easy for me to seek shelter from the wind amongst the trees, and on Saturday I undertook a rather enjoyable suburban ramble:
My mushy plus-sized tires paired perfectly with the thin layer of frozen snow, and the crunchy sound as they rolled over it provided a sublime soundtrack. At the turnaround point, I even threw in a little token singletrack:
And the frozen stillness meant that all but the hardiest runners and dogwalkers remained indoors, allowing me to pretend I was much further from civilization than I actually was:
Besides the Jones, which is the perfect bike for when the landscape is frozen over, I also owe a special debt of gratitude to my Lake winter cycling boots, which I reviewed for a mainstream Internet publication some time ago:
While I’ve come around to the utility of flat pedals for most riding, I still appreciate foot retention for activities such as mountain biking and fixed-gear riding, both of which I skew towards during winter. These keep my feet warm and dry on frigid days even with lightweight socks, and as a bonus they happen to be quite walkable. Yes, the sole is still quite fairly stiff, so I wouldn’t choose them for a charity walk-a-thon, but the soles are rubbery and grippy, and there’s none of that grinding of the cleat into pavement you get with some recessed-cleat shoes. (At least with the cleats I use, anyway.)
Oh, and yes, I’m still doing much of my riding in the Osloh Lane jeans (use discount code BSNYCFANCYPANTS for $5 off your purchase!), though in this case I paired them with some long underwear. At this point the Oslohs have seen considerable mileage, so in the not-too-distant future I’ll update you on how they’re holding up, whether you want me to or not.
On Sunday, I headed out early, stuck closer to home, and frolicked among the deer on the not-technically-legal trails:
A little later, my son joined me on his “Eye of the Tiger” bike:
He too was undaunted by the low temperature. I don’t know if that’s because he inherited my dodgy thermostat, or because he’s a kid and kids don’t really feel the cold, but most likely it’s some combination of the two.
As we were headed back home on a raised path that affords you a sweeping view of Van Cortlandt Lake, we spied a lone figure ice-skating upon its frozen surface. Skating on frozen bodies of water was not a part of my childhood, nor had I ever seen anyone skating on Van Cortlandt Lake, so watching him glide blithely along seemed almost magical, along the lines of a rare bird sighting. We made our way to the water’s edge to continue our gawking and struck up a conversation with the skater. In addition to being as affable as he was graceful, it turned out he was a skating instructor, and if a staking instructor says the ice is safe then that’s good enough for me. So we shuffled out onto the ice ourselves:
Turning back, I glanced at our bikes on the distant shore and wondered briefly if it was the last thing we’d see before plunging into the chilly depths below, though the presence of both an ice ladder and an NYPD cruiser offered some reassurance:
As did the knowledge that back in the day Van Cortlandt Lake was a popular skating destination:
Also, check out these curling Freds:
If your first reaction to that curling photo was, “That’s exactly the sort of sport that seems ripe for an ironic comeback in Brooklyn,” rest assured it’s already happened:
Once horses come back then things will truly have come full circle:
It’s only a matter of time before you can’t find a free bike rack in Brooklyn because of all the faux-questrians hitching their horses to them.
Speaking of winter sports in Van Cortlandt Park, while I knew about the old-timey ice skating and stuff, I had no idea that back in the 1960s there was downhill skiing in the park, complete with rope tows, artificial snow, and an express subway train:
It’s no surprise the skiing is long gone given all the equipment and maintenance involved. As far as the ice-dependent sports, one would assume their demise is the result of both rising temperatures and lowered societal risk tolerance. However, for all I know maybe the lake only froze relatively rarely even then, and the shift away from skating on the lake to skating on commercial rinks is more a function of changing tastes in outdoor pursuits coupled with the pernicious influence of Big Ice than it is some harbinger of doom. Regardless, between the skater carving his crescents upon the lake and my son and I riding the empty trails, there were at least three people in the park yesterday taking great pleasure in the frigid park, even if we weren’t “supposed” to be doing any of it.
I should probably buy some ice skates now, but as soon as I do the lake will never, ever freeze again. That’s just how these things work.