I refuse to ride inside. Spinning away on a trainer while watching TV? Please. When I ride a bike I do it outside, when I watch TV I do it on the couch with a beer.
If you're going to do something, do it right.
Of course, this being February in New York, conditions can often be more conducive to watching TV on the couch than to riding outside, so when I see a decent weather window I jump right through it like I just dropped LSD and I'm convinced I can fly:
Sure, 28 degrees American might not be ideal riding weather, but when the forecast calls for snow, wind, and temperatures in the teens for the next week I know this is as good as it's going to get for awhile. So I drop whatever it is I'm doing (watching TV usually), grab my winter bike, and head out for a quick spin.
By the way, this is where Captain Beardcicle in Minneapolis comes in to say, "You call that winter? I don't even bother to put on pants for zero degrees!"
Yeah, but life in general is more difficult in New York City, which means it feels much colder. With the hardship factor 28 degrees here is like 30 below in whatever hick town you rubes call home.
So shut the door, you're letting cold air in.
And while living in New York City may be a giant pain in the ass, the advantage of living uncomfortably close to 8.5 million other schmucks is that the roads are almost always clear, so you're very rarely snowed in for more than a few days. All you need is a winter bike at the ready. You know, one you don't mind sacrificing to the road salt:
Hold that for me, would you?
Above all else, the number one consideration for "curating" an appropriate winter bike (besides generally not giving a crap about it) is a set of full fenders. Also, while you may be tempted to go with the fattest tires you can fit, skinny ones sometimes do a better job of slicing through the slush and making contact with the road:
Furthermore, I strongly advise dispensing with roadie vanity and carrying a large saddle bag stuffed with a full complement of tubes, patches, spare links and tools:
(Ask for the "old man in the steam room" size at your LBS.)
It's one thing to get stranded for want of some crucial accessory on a lovely summer day when you can just say "Screw it" and park yourself in the nearest bar for a few hours; it's quite another when it's freezing cold, the sun is going down, and you're sobbing in the road shoulder with a giant snot bubble in your nose because you don't have any tire levers and can't force the bead off the rim with your rapidly numbing fingers.
(Pro tip: in a pinch, you can use that mucus to help get the tire off the rim, and it even works as a sealant.)
You may have also noticed this bike is not equipped with a Brooks saddle
. This is a cunning tactic on my part to ensure I don't ride for too long. See, if I had a Brooks on my winter beater the superior comfort might seduce me to ride for far too long, and then I run the risk of dying from exposure. This way, the cold plastic reminds my crotch it's time to head back home and thaw.
Plus, speaking of exposure, you don't want to ride around for too long looking like this:
I generally do my best not to catch a glimpse of myself on my way out for a ride, but sometimes I can't help it.
Anyway, it's at about this point in the winter when many people in New York simply abandon their cars until spring:
(Sad, forlorn midlife crisismobile.)
Once you're plowed in and the snow freezes there's no way you're getting to that thing without a jackhammer.
The best thing about living near the city limits is that the back streets of my neighborhoods are narrow and twisty, and while this is technically a continuation of the Manhattan street grid they're more like country lanes:
The road surface is also in abysmal condition, which helps slow down the motorists and sharpen up your bike-handling.
Most importantly, the neighborhood sits atop a ridge overlooking the Hudson, so there are plenty of short, steep streets you can use to warm yourself up:
Here's a glimpse of the mighty Hudson in the distance at the bottom of a steep street:
And here's another snowed-in car:
Though it is a Peugeot, and I'm not sure if you can say a car is "snowed in" if it's been in the same spot since the early 1990s.
Another characteristic of living where I do is that when you leave New York City things get more
urban thanks to the fact that the fourth largest city in the state borders us to the north:
(It hasn't been Chemical Bank since 1996.)
The Yonkers waterfront is a heady mix of ominous-looking industrial facilities and historic architecture, and the artisanal crowd would probably be all over it if only "Yonkers" wasn't kind of a silly-sounding name:
You say "Brooklyn" from the diaphragm, but you say "Yonkers" from the sinus cavity
As I stopped to take the photo above, this unaccompanied dog crossed the street in front of me:
He seemed to know where he was going so I didn't worry about him, and if I'd stuck around I probably would have seen him returning from the deli with a beer and a bag of Alpo.
Here is downtown Yonkers in all its adequacy:
Onomatopoetic name notwithstanding, they've been trying to force-gentrify downtown Yonkers for quite some time, and to this end they've been following the standard recipe for urban renewal. There are upscale waterfront establishments:
(Why's the flag at half-mast? Pick a reason. Not sure why we ever bother hosting it all the way up to be honest.)
Shiny new cafés:
Residential warehouse conversions for rent at exorbitant prices:
And, most importantly, whimsical bike racks, this one shaped like a fish:
Yet despite the ichthyological cycling facilities and the amenities for desperate single people pushing 30, downtown Yonkers has somehow failed to join the pantheon of other beacons of gentrification such as Brooklyn and Portland.
And, to be honest, it's probably better off for it.
Once you pass through the downtown the pretense disappears and the city's true character reveals itself. Here are the Magi proffering gifts of gold, frankincense, myrrh:
And Saab keys:
And here's another unaccompanied dog:
As you continue north, the widening Hudson begins to reveal itself:
Yonkers rapidly thins out:
And then it's behind you altogether:
Once you've dispensed with both New York City and
Yonkers you're really
out of the city, and the real estate prices adjust accordingly. The New York Times famously attempted to dub Hastings-on-Hudson as "Hipsturbia" not too long ago
, but if this is hip I'll eat my frankincense chamois cream:
Rolling into town I felt like a lone cowboy looking for a duel:
Even the storefronts felt midwestern:
Then again, they do have a "POEMobile," so maybe the sobriquet is warranted:
I realize "POEMobile" is a portmanteau of "poem" and "automobile," though it would be pretty awesome if the "Poe" referred to Edgar Allan and the truck was full of horror and melancholy:
Over the last couple of years I've been taking an inventory of short steep climbs along the lower Hudson within an hour's ride from my home, and I keep them in my jersey pocket, metaphorically speaking:
Short steep climbs are the key to getting through winter, since you get hot going up but you don't descend for long enough to get cold again, you stay out of the wind, and the roads are knotty enough around here that I can string various ones together in different configurations. Since I don't ride with a Garmin or any kind of electronic monitoring device I couldn't give you the stats on any these climbs, but around these parts real estate prices are a more useful metric. Figure you start at about half a million in town and then climb straight up to about 1.5 million in less than a mile:
I figure if I can develop an app that works on this algorithm I'll have Strava beat in no time. I'll even incorporate an open house finder.
Roll out in the morning for a ride, come back with a mortgage.
Then, after a few real estate repeats I returned home, where I turned my attention back to TV and beer:
Here's to beardcicles.