Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Motivation to Keep Going - Festive 500

Shortly after we finished our ride on Saturday, the sky was filled with white particles - small at first, but they grew larger after a while. It was actually very pretty. The larger ones had a lace-like quality, with patterned edges and they floated down slowly. I searched deep into my memory. I knew I'd experienced this before. I almost suffered a mini panic attack as I feared the sky was indeed falling - that whole Mayan thing is still lurking in my sub-conscious. What if they were right, but had miscalculated? Could this be the end?

Reception on the Cat TV (TM) was snowy too.

But after a few google searches, I discovered and then actually remembered that this phenomena is called snow!  It's been a couple of years since we've seen a proper snowfall, and my brain has been so filled with raptures, ends of the world and fiscal cliffs, that the memory of snow falling had almost been completely erased. As it began to pile up on the deck behind our house, I started to recall other activities associated with this substance, like shoveling. Ah finally a chance to get some upper-body workout! I also fondly remembered this activity that we call cross-country skiing. I made my way down to the basement, and after moving a few bikes aside found both snow shovels and cross country skis, sitting in a corner, looking lonely!

But we have two more days of Festive 500. And even though I'd already surpassed the 500km goal, Fear Rothar had a few more km to go, and I had advertised all these rides from Ride Studio Cafe. I checked the news. All reports were that this was indeed snow, that it would end overnight, but the world would not. It seemed reasonable that roads would be in good shape by mid-morning, and we would be able to ride.

Relying on the un-snoozable kitten alarm, we did not set another.

Even frothed milk fails to snooze the kitten alarm!

We arose to find 6 to 8 inches of snow piled up in our driveway. After an awesome breakfast of eggs made by frothing them with the steam tip on our espresso machine, we pulled out the snow shovels and made a path wide enough to get our bikes out. By this point we were running late, but in chatting with Patria at RSC found out that just one rider was planning to join us and she was quite happy to linger over coffee while we made our way over. Mary had ridden with us on Christmas Day and was so impressed with how well the fenders kept road crud off our backsides that she had ordered a set for her own bike, and today would be their initiation - and a good day for them it was.

We pulled out our winter bikes, having again failed to make any progress getting fenders on the new (well 6 month old) tandem, and headed out. The first obstacle was the Pointy Bridge. We live on the south side of the Charles River and RSC is a few miles away, north of it. We have a couple of choices to getting across the river, one of which involves navigating our way through a crazy 8 way intersection in the center of town, while another passes over a small pedestrian (and bike) bridge, that goes up at a constant angle, before pitching down - hence the pointy bridge moniker. Plowing it was not a high priority this morning, so it was still covered in semi-packed snow. I know my limitations and decided to walk.

Wind-whipped snow on the Pointy Bridge

Some of the roads still had piles of slush, but we were able to ride through everything, and as we got on bigger streets, all was clear. We arrived at RSC to find Mary and her be-fendered machine ready, but in no way impatient. Neil had ridden over on trails on his mountain bike with studs, but decided that was enough. It would be the three of us then. We decided to opt for a slightly shorter ride than the 100km route that was on the schedule. Given our late start, I suggested a direct route out to Nashoba Brook Bakery, where we could get soup and hot cocoa and cupcakes. Mary's eyes lit up at the prospect of cupcakes, so we were off!

Pamela forgot to mention to Mary that there was at least one honking big hill between RSC and cup cakes...
...but she was still smiling!

It was still quite blustery, but we at least had selected a direction that should make the return journey easier. The lunch was well received and I do believe Mary and I are kindred spirits as we both love our rides with a nice lunch stop in the middle.

Bike parking by Nashoba Brook

The return journey was actually aided a bit by the wind, but we also got a few mini snow-squalls in our faces as the wind whipped the snow from trees. Then the sun came out, making for beautiful light conditions in the afternoon.

Angel of the highway!

I believe my legs are now twisted just like this tree!

Another lovely day to ride a bike, Fear Rothar now has surpassed the 500km mark. But we do have one more day to go, so I'll head back over to RSC again in the morning for the final ride of 2012! Then it's time to get a massage and then go for an x-c ski!


  1. You... walked your bike? Those must have been some conditions!

    The scenery looks wonderful; I am seriously missing out. Were you riding with studded tires?

    Thanks for the lovely cat pictures by the way : )

  2. No studded tyres yesterday, no. The roads were in pretty decent shape, but we hedged our bets and went with Conti Top Contact Winter tyres (http://www.conti-online.com/generator/www/de/en/continental/bicycle/themes/city/winter/TopContactWinter/topContactWinter_en.html). They have terrific grip and are far less of a drag than studs. The nominal 37mm wide version barely measures 31mm, though!

    We're always happy to supply cat pictures! 8<#

    1. Super job you guys! I am, as always, so impressed. I spent the past week being fairly slothful, in Colorado :)

      Now that I am home, it is time to get onto the bike. With two feet of snow and really high snowbanks it will be indoors for a bit. However, I am really intrigued by these tires. While we live in serious Lake Effect Snow country, I will be able to get outside on occasion. These could help?

  3. Thanks Margaret! I'm sure your version of slothful is very different from most other people's!

    Regarding the tyres, how much they might help depends on your typical road conditions and what is the worst case you want to account for. They are much nicer to ride on than studded tyres, being faster, smoother and quieter. The soft rubber and tread design have combined to cope well on packed snow and smooth icy sections - the difference in grip between the winter tyre on front and a regular tyre on the back is very noticeable. I haven't done a back-to-back comparison with studs, but I would expect them to be better yet on the smooth icy stuff. My worse case conditions are icy ruts and there is no substitute then for super MTB handling skills like yours.

    To summarise, for the average winter ride around here, I am happy to lose some ice-riding ability relative to studs in return for greater riding pleasure.